We’ve made it through the first six months of 2017 more or less intact, so it’s time to look back at some of our favorite advertising produced over that time.
See below for some of the most clever, beautiful, interesting and entertaining TV, video, print, outdoor, digital and social ads from the year so far. And look for our full Best Ads of 2017 package coming in December.
• Outdoor and Print
State Street Global Advisors, “Fearless Girl”
Agency: McCann New York
Far and away the most breakthrough ad of the year, McCann’s statue on Wall Street was an overnight sensation, a potent symbol of female power in business, and a brilliant use of one of the world’s oldest mediums to deliver a message that couldn’t have been fresher.
Heinz, “Pass the Heinz”
Agency: David Miami
Heinz finally approved this ketchup-less ad campaign 50 years after Don Draper first fictionally pitched it on Mad Men (and four years after the episode aired on AMC). A delightful bit of defictionalization, the work ran as print and outdoor ads in New York City.
Delta, “The Dating Wall”
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy New York
In a partnership with Tinder, Delta put scenes from nine exotic destinations on a wall in Brooklyn so New York City singles could take selfies for their dating profiles—looking like attractive jet-setters. The fun, sharable activation was enhanced by great illustrations from Andrew Rae.
Nike, “Breaking 2”
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Nike’s remarkable effort to break the two-hour marathon barrier had echoes of Red Bull Stratos—a marketer applying its carpe-diem message to a real-world challenge that tests the limits of human potential.
Burger King, “Google Home of the Whopper”
Agency: David Miami
It’s been a strong year for Burger King advertising, and this was its most audacious gambit—a TV spot that intentionally got people’s Google Home devices to unexpectedly start yapping about the Whopper. Invasive? Sure. But BK was thrilled with the one-time stunt, which was a major PR coup.
Burger King, “Burning Stores”
Agency: David Miami
BK also produced one of the best print campaigns of the year, with its “Burning Stores” ads showing real photos of actual BK locations on fire. “Flame-grilled since 1954,” said the headline. The Cannes Grand Prix winner in Print was authentic, self-deprecating and flat-out ballsy.
• TV and Video
The New York Times, “The Truth Is Hard to Find”
In a year of mighty political upheaval, the Times used a remarkable series of ads to urge consumers to value, and pay for, the truth that journalism uncovers. The most viscerally compelling were the Darren Aronofsky spots with Times photojournalists narrating harrowing true stories, punctuated by their cameras’ shutter sounds.
The Atlantic, “Am I Typecast?”
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, New York
Another marvel from a journalism brand, this short film, directed by David Shane, featured Michael K. Williams arguing with other versions of himself about whether he’s been typecast in Hollywood. A triumph of writing, acting and theatrical staging.
84 Lumber, “The Journey”
The best ad of this year’s Super Bowl, “The Journey” was a beautiful and provocative take on immigration, with 84 Lumber workers building a door in Trump’s border wall to let in an immigrant family from Mexico. A home run on the biggest stage from a smaller agency and an all-but-unknown marketer.
Agency: Leo Burnett
VR has been notoriously difficult to advertise on regular video, but this playful and inspired spot from Samsung found a way in—via a flightless bird who learns to virtually soar. A wonderful idea brought to life with exquisite CGI.
Coca-Cola, “Pool Boy”
This is the ad that Coke should have run on the Super Bowl—a stylish, saturated story of a visiting pool boy and a brother and sister who both lust after him, only to be upstaged by another family member. Great work from Santo, which also made the brilliant “Parents” ad for the brand a few years back.
Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors
This cinematic spot for the XC60 is one of the most eye-catching automotive ads of 2017 so far, sweeping through a woman’s entire lifetime in three minutes to emphasize the car’s safety features—and the indelible importance of what doesn’t happen in one’s life so that everything else can happen.
Apple, “Earth (Shot on iPhone)”
Apple used narration from the late Carl Sagan, reading from his 1994 book Pale Blue Dot, to deliver this beautiful protest ad shortly after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. It serves as a poetic warning of everything we have to lose, with no viable Plan B.
Nespresso, “Comin’ Home”
Agency: McCann New York
George Clooney shines without saying a word in this entertaining road-trip romp for Nespresso, in which the actor pops up in scenes from classic films like Psycho, Easy Rider, Smokey and the Bandit, the first Muppets movie, Planes, Trains & Automobiles and Seabiscuit.
Hornbach, “Regret Nothing”
Agency: Heimat Berlin
Heimat makes delightfully offbeat ads for Hornbach, the German home improvement store, and this weird and wild ad, violently celebrating the gift of failure, was one of its most remarkable and fun pieces yet.
Jose Cuervo “Last Days”
CP+B and director Ringan Ledwidge employed the coming apocalypse as a metaphor for living in the moment in this charming, eye-catching two-minute spot. Bonus points for using the Elvis Presley ballad “It’s Now or Never,” which was lyrically perfect and set just the right mood.
PlayStation, “Gravity Cat”
One of the year’s craziest ads was also one of the most entertaining, as PlayStation quite literally turned two sisters’ apartment upside down in this wild spot for the video game Gravity Daze 2. Amazing work by the actresses, who not only had to deal with an animal but a fully rotating set as well.
Connect Internet, “Ice Bucket Challenge” and “Harlem Shake”
When you have a slow internet connection, you come late—very late—to online fads. This fun campaign by TBWA\Raad for Connect Internet in Lebanon illustrated this hyperbolic conceit in amusing fashion, by showing people doing the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Harlem Shake long after they were popular.
• Digital and Social
Wendy’s, “#NuggsForCarter” and “Twitter Beef”
Wendy’s showed dexterous social skill with two Twitter replies—one to a teen who wanted a year of free chicken nuggets if he could get enough retweets (Wendy’s challenged him to get 18 million, then went on to make a whole campaign around it); and one to McDonald’s about fresh versus frozen beef. Both campaigns won Lions in Cannes for VML.
MailChimp, “Did You Mean MailChimp?”
This Droga5 campaign, which won a Cyber Grand Prix at Cannes, had fun with the brand’s name across all sorts of online (and offline) stunts and activations, including enjoyable loony films. Whether you call it MaleCrimp, MailShrimp, KaleLimp, FailChips, VeilHymn, SnailPrimp, JailBlimp, WhaleSynth or NailChamp, the result was the same—lots of attention for MailChimp itself.
Denny’s, “Overwhelming Existential Dread”
The diner chain latched on to a popular meme—inviting people to zoom in on a photo, then sending them on a scavenger hunt around the image for more hidden messages—to produce this stellar tweet, of which Nihilist Arby’s would have been proud. Check it out on mobile for the full effect.
Netflix, “A Day in the Life of Frank Underwood”
The fictional and real worlds merged delightfully in this campaign, in which Netflix got Pete Souza, Obama’s photographer, to shoot “candid” pics of House of Cards POTUS Frank Underwood at locations around Washington.
Emerald Nuts, “Yes Good”
Agency: Barton F. Graf
Barton F. Graf found its new tagline for Emerald Nuts in an unlikely place—within the reviews section for the brand on Amazon. And it turned out to be the most absurdly and amusingly simple line imaginable: “Yes good.”
Agency: The Martin Agency
The Martin Agency continued its inspired pre-roll work for Geico with another comical premise—ads that were condensed for your viewing convenience. Meaning they actually got crushed by a giant Geico logo. The digital work was so fun, it even ended up running on broadcast TV.
Ikea, “How to Identify an Original Ikea Frakta Bag”
French fashion house Balenciaga created a fancy leather bag, retailing for $2,145, that looked strikingly like Ikea’s famous 99-cent blue tote. That was too much for Ikea, which playfully responded with social posts and a print ad telling consumers how to tell the difference between them. A great way to join a cultural conversation in a self-deprecating way that was perfectly on brand.