Consumer packaged goods aren't usually considered a creative canvas for agencies. But these six campaigns proved otherwise—showing that even staid categories can be fertile ground for fascinating creative ideas, and massive viral hits.
• Old Spice
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy
W+K had been revitalizing the P&G brand for a while, but nothing could prepare the world for Isaiah Mustafa in his towel—at once, the ideal man and the ultimate parody of him. With its sharp writing and hyperbolic visuals, this spot defined postmodern masculinity and created a whole, often-imitated style of self-aware advertising.
Agency: Ogilvy Brazil
The Unilever brand's "Campaign for Real Beauty," launched in 2004, reached its apotheosis with "Real Beauty Sketches." As part of a brilliant social experiment, a police sketch artist drew women as they described themselves, and as others described them—illustrating, quite literally, women's issues with self-esteem.
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
This General Mills brand became a somewhat unlikely pioneer for progressive advertising after a quiet, cute spot with a mixed-race family got swamped by racist comments online. The brand seemed taken aback at first, but embraced its sudden role as a leading voice for acceptance by running a follow-up spot on the Super Bowl.
• Honey Maid
Mondelez also took up the cause of inclusive advertising with "This Is Wholesome," a campaign showing the full range of real American families. The launch spot showed gay dads, two mixed-race families (one military) and a single dad—and the lauded campaign has also touched on everything from divorce to disability to immigration.
For years, this Unilever brand was stubbornly troglodytic in its ads, appealing to young men with bluntly sexist portrayals of women. But lately it's been evolving, and this year rolled out a campaign with an impressive, grownup take on manhood. One guy in high heels, another in a wheelchair—this isn't your older brother's Axe.
Tatia Pilieva, who directed the famous "First Kiss" film a few years back, returned with this great branded work for Unilever's soup mixes and condiments brand. It was another social experiment about affection—to see if strangers could fall in love over food. With almost 60 million views, it's one of 2016's most viral ads to date.
This story first appeared in the June 20, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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