The 10 Best Ads of 2015

Plenty of agencies combined beautiful craft and compelling storytelling to create gorgeous, hilarious, fascinating and even unsettling visions for their clients in 2015. And Adweek's picks for the 10 best might be the most varied we've ever chosen.

There's the funniest :30 and most heartwarming :60 of the year. There's an all-pro Nike blockbuster and an all-found-footage Android crowdpleaser. There are stunning and timely PSAs about guns and LGBT rights. We've also got the year's craziest stunt, the best Christmas ad and the most memorable take on another hot topic: gender identity. (Those three campaigns came from France, Spain and Japan, respectively, while all the other work here is American.)

Congratulations to all the agencies and marketers for making the year's best work—a collection of inspiring spots that were each, in their own way, unskippable.

1

Android “Friends Furever”

Agency: Droga5, New York
Editor: Ben Suenaga, Friendshop!

Droga5 prides itself on making some of the most original advertising around. Ironic, then, that its biggest hit in 2015 contained nothing but found footage. Not that the agency minded. This viral Android spot, featuring pairs of animal friends from different species, adorably illustrated the brand statement, "Be together. Not the same." And while David Droga admitted during Advertising Week that it was "a challenge to the way we create things," you can't argue with the staggering reach. With 6.5 million online shares, it's the most viral ad ever, according to Unruly. "We knew we might get some flack from industry folks, but we didn't make it for them. We made it for everyone else," say group creative directors Ray Del Savio and Jerry Hoak. "Great work can come from anywhere. You just have to be open to it." 

2

Nike “Short a Guy”

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Director: Stacy Wall, Imperial Woodpecker

In a year of typically grand Nike productions, this playful spot was a mini masterpiece, gleefully following an ordinary kid through a series of pick-up games with pro athletes (everyone from Anthony Davis to Mike Trout to Mia Hamm) who are all "short a guy." The fun, frenetic visuals and the truly fantastic audio—both the energizing sound design and the infectious soundtrack, "Surfin' Bird"—turn this spot's hot summer day into the essence of cool. Behind it all, say W+K copywriter Derek Szynal and art director Jason Campbell, is an implicit commentary on the specialization of youth sports in America. "The attitude of playing anything and everything that comes their way will make young athletes better athletes," they say. "And it's fun. Which is the whole reason to start playing sports in the first place." 

3

Loterías y Apuestas del Estado “Justino”

Agency: Leo Burnett, Madrid
Director: Against All Odds, Passion Pictures

Britain tends to have the most transcendent Christmas ads, but this Spanish gem beat them all this holiday season. The long-form animated lottery spot, like a little Pixar movie, tells the story of Justino, a lonely overnight security guard at a mannequin factory who delights the daytime staff by setting up the figures in amusing poses. In the end, his colleagues repay his kindness in an unexpected way. Beautifully made and deeply poignant, it's now the envy of most other Christmas marketers. And it was a labor of love for the Burnett creatives, who included "inside jokes, such as the agency team's moms' and dads' names on the lottery list," says creative director Juan Garcia-Escudero. Ludovico Einaudi's gorgeous 2004 piano track "Nuvole Bianche" caps it off perfectly, but almost wasn't used—it was a last-minute addition. 

4

Shiseido “High School Girl?”

Agency: Watts of Tokyo
Director: Show Yanagisawa, The Directors Guild

Leave it to a Japanese cosmetics brand to make the year's most remarkable ad about gender, a topic that hit a cultural flashpoint in 2015. The spot isn't overtly political. Indeed, it's an elaborate product demo. With its artful camera move through what we think is a group of high school girls—and then back through the same group, when a different reality becomes clear—the spot indelibly makes it point: Shiseido can do more than make girls prettier; it can (spoiler alert) make boys look convincingly like girls. Beyond the perfect cultural timing, the ad is also a triumph of craft, from the music to the seamless visuals that required the talent to sit still through a seven-hour shoot to accomplish the effect. "Anyone can be beautiful," says the tagline—an almost too-simple coda for this mesmerizing masterpiece. 

5

States United to Prevent Gun Violence “Gun Store”

Agency: Grey, New York
Director: Andrew Lane, Rival School Pictures

Branded prank videos were largely on the decline in 2015, but this was a powerful exception. Working for a gun control group, Grey opened a real-looking gun store on Manhattan's Lower East Side and invited people to check it out, with hidden cameras rolling. The would-be buyers weren't prepared for the tags on the weapons, though, which sickeningly indicated which models had been used in particular mass shootings, unintentional shootings, homicides and suicides. The pallid looks on their faces said it all. "We wanted to dispel the myth that owning a gun makes you safer," say executive creative directors Stephen Krauss and Ari Halper. "But rather than trying to reach everyone, we spoke directly to the people who needed to hear it most: first-time gun buyers. It turned out to be more of a conversation starter than we ever anticipated, and we champion our brave clients for helping us start it." 

6

Atlantic Group “37 Days”

Agency: Leo Burnett, Paris
Director: Olivier Staub, Quad Productions

In a marvel of art and engineering, Burnett advertised electric heaters in one of the most crazily ambitious ways imaginable—by growing a lush garden in a glass cube 8,000 feet above sea level in frigid British Columbia, where temperatures dip to -30 degrees Celsius. Hibernating life forms, frozen in ice inside the cube, melted into garden beds and grew into vegetation as an Atlantic heater warmed the space. After 37 days, the cube was an oasis of green in an environment otherwise hostile to any plant life. The experience was also "an incredible human adventure," says executive creative director Xavier Beauregard, as he and his team worked for four weeks "in a very beautiful but inhospitable environment." They got out just in time, too, fleeing in a helicopter just as a major storm hit. It was several weeks before a crew could return to remove the installation. 

7

The Ad Council “Love Has No Labels”

Agency: R/GA, New York
Director: Danielle Levitt, Persuade Content

In a landmark year for LGBT rights, The Ad Council found a perfect way to illustrate that, deep down, human are all the same. It set up a giant X-ray screen in Santa Monica, Calif., on Valentine's Day, and had the cameras rolling as real people of different genders, abilities and sexual orientations danced behind it—and then stepped out in front, delighting the curious audience. While the tech was nifty, R/GA chief creative officer Nick Law says the power was in the joyous celebration of diversity that was real, not scripted. "In social, which is where culture is now, the things that work are the things people think are true," he says. "And that's also what makes something emotional. If you feel like these are real people, and your response to them being revealed is real, that will get an emotional response that the vernacular of advertising won't." The response was astonishing indeed—160 million views across all platforms, per Visible Measures, one of the Ad Council's biggest hits ever. 

8

Comcast Xfinity “Emily’s Oz”

Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners, New York
Director: Andreas Nilsson, Biscuit Filmworks

The year's most artful campaign brought imagination to life—literally and beautifully—with an unmatched mix of craft and emotion. GSP asked Emily, a 7-year-old blind girl, what she sees in her mind's eye when she watches The Wizard of Oz. The agency then built her version, using designers and makeup artists—all to promote Comcast's "talking guide" for people with visual disabilities. The craft is nothing short of stunning (from the gorgeous sets and puppets to the evocative Robert Redford voiceover), and Emily herself was a revelation. "It is rare that the fortunes of one of the world's leading media companies might rest, for a week or two, in the hands of a 7-year-old blind girl," says agency co-chair Jeff Goodby. "But Emily wasn't just any 7-year-old. She brought the idea to life. And the Twittersphere fell in love with her." 

9

Snickers “Brady Bunch”

Agency: BBDO New York
Director: Jim Jenkins, O Positive

The flat-out funniest Snickers ad ever made, this BBDO spot had everything going for it—campy equity from a classic sitcom; the most inspired "You're Not You" casting yet, with Danny Trejo as a frustrated Marcia Brady; perfect pacing and comic timing; and a hilarious ending, with Steve Buscemi storming off in a huff as Jan Brady. The most entertaining off-field 30 seconds of Super Bowl XLIX did take a few liberties with the source material—with Marcia's nose in particular. "In the real episode, it was bruised and swollen from the football," say BBDO executive creative directors Peter Kain and Gianfranco Arena. "But we decided that would be too jarring and distracting, so we kept it flawless. Fortunately, the angry mob of Brady Bunch purists never materialized." Their other lesson learned? "It's good to know laugh tracks can still work." 

10

Geico “Unskippable”

Agency: The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.
Directors: Terri Timely, Park Pictures

The No. 1 ad campaign of 2015 was simple, clever, funny and innovative. It used creativity and humor to sidestep a seemingly intractable problem in a heavily used medium—YouTube preroll. Read our new feature story about Geico's "Unskippable" campaign here:

How the Best Ad Campaign of 2015 Hilariously Hacked the Lowly Preroll Ad

 
CREDITS FOR ALL 10 SPOTS

Client: Android, Google
Agency: Droga5
Editor: Ben Suenaga, Friendshop!
Visual Effects Company: The Mill

Client: Nike
Project: North America Gear Up/ "Short a Guy"
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Creative Directors: Chris Groom, Stuart Brown
Copywriter: Derek Szynal
Art Director: Jason Campbell
Producer: Ross Plummer
Executive Agency Producer: Matt Hunnicutt
Strategic Planning: Andy Lindblade, Brandon Thornton, Reid Schilperoort
Media/Comms Planning: Daniel Sheniak, Reme DeBisschop, Brian Goldstein, Emily Graham
Account Team: Karrelle Dixon, Jordan Muse, Corey Woodson, Shinya Kamata
Business Affairs: Dusty Slowik
Executive Creative Directors: Mark Fitzloff / Joe Staples
Production Company: Imperial Woodpecker
Director: Stacy Wall
Executive Producer: Doug Helbert
Line Producer: Matt Wersinger
Director of Photography: Jon Lynch
Editorial Company: Work, LA
Editor: Rich Orrick
Assistant Editor: Clay Doggett
Post Executive Producer: Marlo Baird
VFX Company: Joint Editorial, Portland
VFX Supervisor: Alex Thiesen
Flame Artist: Katrina Salicrup
VFX Producer: Rebekah Korebel
Music+Sound Company: Barking Owl
Sound Designer: Michael Anastasi
Song: Surfin' Bird, The Trashmen
Producer: Whitney Fromholtz
Mix Company: Lime Studios, LA
Mixer: Loren Silber
Producer: Susie Boyajan

Client: Loterías y Apuestas del Estado
Client Execs: Eva Pavo, Federico Fernández, Margarita Moreno
Product: Christmas Lottery
Campaign: "El Mayor Premio Es Compartirlo" / "The Greatest Prize Is Sharing"
Agency: Leo Burnett Iberia (Madrid)
Chief Creative Officer: Juan García-Escudero
Executive Creative Director: Jesús Lada
Digital Creative Director: Iñaki Martí
Creative Supervisors: Ignacio Soria, Arturo Benlloch
Art Directors: Javier López Canle, Sergio García
Client Service Director: Ricardo del Campo
Account Manager: Sara Cubillo
Account: Jesús Álvarez
Head of Digital: Tania Cavada
Account Executive: Sandra Arán
Tech Team: Víctor Moreno, Horacio Panella, Luis Marcano
Producers: Nico Sánchez, Esther García
Production Company: Blur – Passion Pictures
Director: Against All Odds
Executive Producer: Mario Fornies
Producer: Pablo García Acon
Site: www.fabricademaniquies.es
Media: Press, Radio, Outdoor, Cinema, Display, Social Networks

Client: Shiseido
Strategic Communication: Koichiro Senda, Koichi Hanyu, Momoko Kimura, Aya Usui
Creative Director: Masato Kosukegawa
Copywriter: Akira Shima
Web Director: Tomoaki Yamura
Hair & Makeup: Shiseido Beauty Creation Research Center
Chief Makeup Artist: Ai Nieda
Chief Hair Artist: Mikiya Fujioka
Hair & Makeup Artists: Nobuko Yamada, Yoshiyuki Takahashi, Jun Nakamura, Joji Taniguchi, Tomomi Shibusawa, Yuki Nishimori, Sachiko Hayashi
Agency: Watts of Tokyo
Executive Producer: Yoshito Imai
Producer: Masahiro Kijima
Production Manager: Hidenori Tsumoto
Production Manager: Kenji Nishina
Production Assistant: Koun Noh
Production Assistant: Wataru Shimo
Production Company: The Directors Guild
Director: Sho Yanagisawa
Photographer: Jin Ohashi

Client: States United to Prevent Gun Violence
Agency: Grey, New York
Tor Myhren: Worldwide Chief Creative Officer
Per Pedersen: Deputy Worldwide Chief Creative Officer
Andreas Dahlqvist: Chief Creative Officer
Stephen Krauss: Executive Creative Director
Ari Halper: Executive Creative Director
Marco Pupo: Creative Director
Joao Coutinho: Creative Director
Bennett McCarroll: EVP Director Broadcast Production
Floyd Russ: Producer
Elizabeth Gilchrist: VP Account Director
Katie Stirn: Account Supervisor
Emma Tonetti: Project Manager
Christopher Izzo: Digital Production
Jayne Horowitz: VP Art Producer
Production Company: Rival School Pictures
Andrew Lane: Director
James Blom: Executive Producer/Partner
Alihan Karagul: Executive Producer/Partner
Editorial: Visiojn
Editor: Dominic Martimucci
Postproduction: The Mill

Client: Atlantic Group
Agency: Leo Burnett, France
Executive Creative Director: Xavier Beauregard
Art Director: Jerome Gonfond
Copywriter: Hadi Hassan Helou
Conception: Jerome Gonfond, Hadi Hassan Helou, Thomas Czarnecki, Christophe Corsand
TV Producer: Antoine Grujard
Account Director: Regis Perrone
Account Manager: Veronique Khayat
French Production company: Quad
Producer: François Brun
Production Director: Delphine Bellonnet
Canadian Production company: La Cavalerie
Executive Producer: Michel David
Director: Olivier Staub
1st AC: Gary Pachany
Set Designer: Jean-François Campeau
Director of Photography: Olivier Staub
Post Prod company: Fixstudio
Post Prod: Cedric Herbet
Sound Studio: Kouz Production
Sound Producer: Thomas Couzinier

Client: The Ad Council
Campaign Director: Dzu Bui
Assistant Campaign Manager: Madeline Miller
Creative Agency: R/GA
Chief Creative Officer: Nick Law
Executive Creative Directors: Chris Northam & Eric Jannon
Head of TV/Production: Kat Friis
Senior Producer: Diego de la Maza
Digital Producer: Jon Hingston
Group Account Director: Shawn Zupp
Business Affairs: Mister Brumfield
Account Manager: Becky Smith
Production Company: Persuade Content
Director: Danielle Levitt
DOP: Michael Berlucchi
Executive Producers: Jerry Solomon & Edward Grann
Producer: Caleb Omens
Experiential Production Company: Mindride
Editorial & Online: Brewster Parsons

Client: Comcast/Xfnity
Senior Director, Brand Strategy and Communications: Sherri Davis
Campaign: "Emily's Oz"
Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners, New York
Co-Chairmen: Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein
Executive Creative Director: Paul Caiozzo
Creative Director: Nathan Frank
Art Directors: Michael Hagos, Peter Jostrand
Copywriters: Josh Chua, Sam Dolphin
Managing Director: Nancy Reyes
Account Manager: Laura McWhorter
Assistant Account Manager: Nate Baker
Brand and Communication Strategy
Group Brand Strategy Director: Conner Huber
Brand Strategist: Jane Jun
Senior Business Affairs Manager: Judy Ybarra
Director of Broadcast Production: Tod Puckett
Executive Broadcast Producer: James Horner
Broadcast Producer: Tess Kenner
Assistant Broadcast Producer: Charlotte Dugoni
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Andreas Nilsson
Director of Photography: Matty Libatique
Production Designer: KK Barrett
Managing Director: Shawn Lacy
Executive Producer: Colleen O'Donnell
Line Producer: Emily Skinner
Editing, Finishing: Rock Paper Scissors
Editor: Paul Watts
Assistant Editors:  Christian Oreste, Rhys Hecox
Executive Producer:  Eve Kornblum
Producers: Jenny Greenfield, Jen Milano
Visual Effects: A52
Lead Flame Artist: Stefan Gaillot
Computer Graphics Supervisor: Kirk Shintani
2-D Visual Effects Artists: Stefan Gaillot, Matt Sousa, Andy Bate, Enid Dalkoff, Steve Wolf, Tiffany Germann
3-D Artists: Jose Limon, Joe Paniagua, Jon Balcome, Christian Sanchez, Adam Carter, Paulo Mauro, Vivian Su
Producer: Scott Boyajan
Executive Producers: Patrick Nugent, Jennifer Sofio Hall
Telecine: Company 3
Colorists: Tim Masick, Rob Sciarratta
Executive Producer: Angela Lupo
Color Producer: Rochelle Brown
Mix: Heard City
Sound Engineers: Keith Reynaud, Jeremy Siegel
Managing Director: Gloria Pitagorsky
Senior Producer: Sasha Awn
Sound Design: Jafbox Sound
Sound Designer: Joseph Fraioli
End Treatment Graphics: Elevel Post
Animator: Jessica Gibson
Executive Producer: PJ Koll
Producer: Samantha Liss

Client: Snickers
Spot: "Brady Bunch"
Agency: BBDO, New York
Chief Creative Officer, BBDO Worldwide: David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer, BBDO New York: Greg Hahn
Executive Creative Directors: Gianfranco Arena, Peter Kain
Director of Integrated Production: Dave Rolfe
Group Executive Producer: Amy Wertheimer
Executive Music Producer: Melissa Chester
Group Planning Director: Crystal Rix
Planner: Alaina Crystal
Managing Director: Kirsten Flanik
Global Account Director: Susannah Keller
Account Director: Joshua Steinman
Account Manager: Tani Corbacho
Account Executive: Jocelyn Choi
Celebrity Talent, Intellectual Property, Music Rights Acquisition: The Marketing Arm
Entertainment Director: Brad Sheehan
Production Company: O Positive
Director: Jim Jenkins
Executive Producers: Ralph Laucella, Marc Grill
Director of Photography: Trent Opaloch
Editing: Arcade
Producer: Kirsten Thon-Webb
Editor: Geoff Hounsell
Assistant Editor: Healy Snow
Postproduction Company: The Mill
Visual Effects Supervisor: Nick Tanner
Executive Producer: Verity Kneale
Producer: Carl Walters
Senior Compositor: Nathan Kane
Colorist: Fergus McCall
Music House: Q Department
Audio Mix: Tom Jucarone, Sound Lounge
Voiceover Record: Loren Silber, Lime Studios

Client: Geico
Vice President, Marketing: Ted Ward
Manager, Broadcast Production and Agency Relations: Amy Hooks
Marketing Buyers: Katherine Kalec, Brighid Griffin
Marketing Coordinator: Thomas Perlozzo
Agency: The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Alexander
Senior Vice Presidents, Group Creative Directors: Steve Bassett, Wade Alger
Vice President, Associate Creative Director: Neel Williams
Associate Creative Director: Mauricio Mazzariol
Vice President, Executive Producer: Brett Alexander
Broadcast Producer: Liza Miller
Junior Broadcast Producer: Coleman Sweeney
Business Affairs Supervisor: Suzanne Wieringo
Senior Integrated Production Business Manager: Amy Trenz
Financial Manager: Monica Cox
Senior Vice President, Group Account Director: Brad Higdon
Account Supervisor: Josh Lybarger
Account Executive: Allison Hensley
Senior Project Manager: Karen McEwan
Production Company: Park Pictures
Director: Terri Timely
Executive Producers: Justin Pollock, Jackie Kelman Bisbee
Line Producer: David Lambert
Editorial Company: Whitehouse Post
Editor: Caleb Hepler
Executive Producer: Kristin Branstetter
Producer: Jojo Scheerer
Telecine: Co3
Colorist: Tim Mascik
Post Facility: Running With Scissors
Flame Artist: Chris Hagen
Executive Producer: Scott Friske
Senior Producer: Cheryl Lage
Music: APM
Audio Post Company: Rainmaker Studios
Engineer, Mixer: Jeff McManus