Social media analytics company Unmetric has compiled a list called "Awesome Things Brands Did in 2015," which looks at social campaigns throughout the year that performed especially well in terms of engagement.
Looking at the year’s biggest social successes shows “a continued trend for brands embracing content marketing—i.e., content that is meant to tell a story, convey an idea, project a brand's values or simply entertain without any overt sales/product message,” Unmetric CEO and co-founder Lux Narayan told Adweek. He cited Thai Life Insurance’s “Garbage Man” from January (see below) and Android’s “Friends Furever” (one of Adweek’s 10 best ads of 2015) from February as examples.
Unmetric looks at data from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to determine an engagement score of zero to 1,000. The engagement score is a weighted measurement based on the company’s belief that certain metrics have more value for brands than others—a share is more valuable than a like, for instance, a retweet more valuable than a favorite.
The company analyzes brand content using a combination of algorithms for quantitative data, and human insights for qualitative data. Because algorithms can’t always identify a brand campaign or track one across social channels, Unmetric has a team dedicated to tagging and verifying whether something is indeed a campaign.
“Each year, the team uses this data and insights to spotlight several campaigns every month that stood out in terms of audience engagement and overall media buzz,” Narayan said. “This year, we saw a marked increase in brand videos, and marketers should be looking closely at the elements of successful videos as the format continues to rise in popularity."
Unmetric uses a slightly different method for measuring a campaign’s success on YouTube. There is no engagement score. Instead, likes and how quickly a video accumulates them are important factors—if a video ramps up unusually fast, the company’s outlier-detecting algorithm picks that up. For top channels, Unmetric primarily looks at views.
Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of brand posts Unmetric tracked that achieved engagement scores of 1,000 or otherwise met its standards for awesomeness in 2015:
Thai Life Insurance, “Garbage Man”
This spot was the latest in a string of tear-jerkingly poignant ads from Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok. You didn’t have to understand Thai to follow the beautifully visual story of an unlikely hero with unlikely aspirations.
Adidas Football, “There Will Be Haters”
Why do we hate professional athletes (at least those not on our favorite teams)? In part, it's because we wish we could be in their shoes, something this spot for Adidas Football’s new line of soccer shoes made literally evident.
Dunkin' Donuts, #TheDress
This Facebook post from Dunkin' Donuts riffed on the viral photo and debate over whether #TheDress was blue and black, or white and gold.
Groupon, “Banana Bunker”
It's a banana bunker—not a sex toy. With this ostensibly innocent Facebook post, Groupon insisted it was promoting a container that holds a single banana.
GoPro, skateboarding cat
This Instagram post starred the famous Didga, the skateboarding cat from Australia, with a GoPro camera (of course) capturing her latest tricks.
Dove, “Choose Beautiful”
Dove asked women to choose between doorways marked "beautiful" and "average." Part of the "Real Beauty" campaign from Ogilvy & Mather, it was a valiant attempt to redefine beauty, though not everyone saw it that way.
Airbnb, “Never a Stranger”
TBWA L.A.’s first ad for its new client and part of the brand's first international TV campaign, this spot features a single white female who wants to travel the world alone.
Nike Women, “Better for It”
This women-empowering spot by Wieden + Kennedy launched a campaign that Nike said was its biggest initiative to date, spurring women on their athletic quests.
Toms celebrated its birthday with this Instagram post encouraging people to go #withoutshoes and post pictures of their bare feet with the hashtag, promising to donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for each one who did.
Coca-Cola, “Choose to Smile”
“Before you learn anything, you learn to smile,” says the song in this ad from Ogilvy & Mather Amsterdam. It showed some of the most adorable baby smiles and had some of the best baby laughs you’ll ever hear.
British Airways, #RoyalBaby
British Airways was among the brands that nailed it with this tweet hailing the arrival of Princess Charlotte, the younger child and only daughter of Prince William and Kate Middleton, on May 2.
Discovery Family Channel, #MyDogsCrazyAnimalFriends
This simple Facebook promo for an episode of My Dog's Crazy Animal Friends, in which an orangutan becomes a “surrogate to a bunch of tiger cubs,” hearkened back somewhat to Android’s “Friends Furever.”
Chipotle celebrated the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on same-sex marriage with this bilingual pun and a viral hashtag that emerged after the decision.
Ford’s tweet perfectly spoofed a scene from the summer blockbuster, Jurassic World, using its Raptor pickup trucks as stand-ins for the dinosaurs Chris Pratt’s character trains in the movie.
Dove Men+Care, #RealStrength
Dove Men+Care’s endearing Father’s Day ad showed men’s touching reactions the moment they found out they were going to be dads.
Nordstrom promoted its sale with this “really big” Instagram post, which when you click play is revealed to be a really big Instagram post.
Always, “#LikeAGirl – Unstoppable”
Leo Burnett’s hugely successful 2014 spot for Always redefined the phrase “like a girl.” This sequel asked girls if they feel limited in today’s society (spoiler alert: they do) and gave them a way to at least visualize destroying those limitations.
Visa, “Visa Checkout: Party”
Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this ad depicts a heroic mom who, along with Visa Checkout, deftly saves the day when her kid and her husband totally mess things up—and earns herself a vacation in the process.
Burger King, “McWhopper Proposal”
On Peace Day, Burger King proposed a “cease-fire” in the Burger Wars, offering in this spot—and a couple of full-page newspaper ads—to join forces with archrival McDonald’s to create the McWhopper.
AT&T, “DirecTV Now Part of the AT&T Family”
When AT&T acquired DirecTV, it launched this epic ad, a collaboration between ad agencies Grey and BBDO, to convince people the merger was going to be a good thing for everybody.
Wendy’s, “Crack the Masters! A Click-Your-Own-Adventure Game”
This interactive YouTube video for Wendy’s BBQ pulled pork sandwich invited viewers to choose which “barbecue pitmaster’s" secrets they wanted to learn—the sauce master’s, the smoke master’s or the hip master’s.
Beats by Dre, “Serena Williams – Rise”
This rallying cry of a spot, launched just before the U.S. Open when Serena Williams’ bid for the calendar-year grand slam was still alive, intercut footage of the tennis star on court with shots of her on a training run (with her earbuds in, of course), all set to “Rise Up” by Andra Day.
Extra Gum, “The Story of Sarah & Juan”
Telling one of the sweetest love stories of the year, a romance stretching from high school all the way through young adulthood, this spot from Energy BBDO was a fantastic follow-up to the widely popular “Origami.”
Duracell, “Battle for Christmas Morning”
This ad from Anomaly was both Star Wars- and Christmas-themed, a winning combination any time but especially when it launched in late October and anticipation was high.
Squatty Potty, “This Unicorn Changed the Way I Poop”
This bizarrely scatological but eminently viral spot from Harmon Brothers drew a rather disturbing link between pooping, unicorns and soft-serve ice cream. The product itself is actually supposed to help people with their posture on the commode.
Sainsbury's, “Mog's Christmas Calamity”
British grocer Sainsbury’s and agency AMV BBDO brought back the always mischievous Mog the Cat, a long-beloved children’s character in the U.K., for this Christmas ad.
Edeka, “Weihnachtsclip - #heimkommen”
German supermarket chain Edeka went all dark comedy on us and got everyone talking with this controversial Christmas ad about an old man who fakes his own death in order to dupe his children into visiting him.
Samsung, “Turn the Bezel”
R/GA New York’s visually impressive spot for Samsung’s Gear S2 smartwatch featured 150 choreographed performers paying tribute to the device’s shape and various features, including its rotating bezel.
Louis Vuitton, displays of craftsmanship
This tweet tied to Louis Vuitton’s presentation of the exhibition Volez, Voguez, Voyagez at Grand Palais in Paris, didn’t just celebrate French creativity and craftsmanship—it showed it in action.
HTC USA, #HTCOneA9
HTC USA’s holiday-themed tweet promoting its HTC One A9 smartphone made a holiday-themed visual pun based on Android’s Marshmallow mobile operating system.