27 Campaigns That Made Other Agencies Green With Envy in 2019

They didn't see Ryan Reynolds and that Peloton parody coming

Yep. Agency people loved that Aviation Gin ad.
Yep. Agency people loved that Aviation Gin ad. Aviation Gin

In 2019, the agency world created a great deal of outstanding work. Soon, we’ll start seeing which creative work stood out among the world’s creative juries.

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In the meantime, and to get a head start on the awards circuit Adweek, like last year, asked the agency community to weigh in on the work created by their peers, that stood out most in 2019. As expected, the cream of the crop came from long-standing agencies, but some came from unexpected places and, in the cases of Aviation Gin and Bud Light and HBO, seemingly out of nowhere.

Below is some of the creative work deemed the best of the best by agency professionals in 2019.

Aviation Gin: Gift Responsibly
Agency: Maximum Effort

A little over a year ago, a Colin Kaepernick tweet flipped culture on its head. This year, the world lost its collective mind again but this time it was a tweet came from Ryan Reynolds which included Aviation Gin’s brilliant clap back to a much-derided Peloton ad.

“It was a great and simple idea. I was undoubtedly impressed with the turnaround time for production,” said Melany Esfeld, vp and director of integrated production at Barkley. “Moving swiftly to track down Monica Ruiz (the actor in the original Peloton ad), plan a shoot and immediately move into edit and post-production—it was perfectly orchestrated. Timing is everything, and Aviation Gin nailed it.”

But this ad was far from a one-trick pony. Throughout the year, Reynolds and his Maximum Effort partner George Dewey created must-see moments including a video squashing a “squabble” with Hugh Jackman and the “Turducken” of ads promoting a film, a Samsung OLED TV and Aviation Gin (of which he is owner)—all in one ad.

“The work is funny, self-deprecating in all the right ways, and shows off Reynolds’ finely-crafted sense of timing,” said Mike Gatti, ecd at GYK Antler. “Not since Orson Welles’ free verse take on Paul Masson has a celebrity endorsement of an alcoholic beverage delivered such entertainment. [It] might be my goofy inner bro speaking here [but], all of a sudden, I’m thinking about buying some gin; juniper taste be damned.”

Halo Top: Ice Cream for Adults
Agency: 72andSunny

In the first national campaign for the brand from 72andSunny, an ice cream truck becomes an unexpected—and hilariously depressing—venue for life lessons. Instead of serving sweet treats, the work’s anti-hero dishes on the harsh realities of the world: mortgages, love, online dating and the rigors of work.

“What do kids do to deserve ice cream? Not a whole lot,” said Rick Utzinger, ecd at Fallon. “Adults, however, we work so hard, pay mortgages and valiantly move forward in life while our youthful good-looks remain in the past.”

“The humor is twisted and dark, but totally relatable, which is fresh and fun for the ice cream category,” added Jordan Chouteau, creative at Forsman & Bodenfors. “I love how they incorporate the innocence of children to push the humor even farther. It reminds me that there are still some clients out there brave enough to be honest about their product, and honest with their consumer—honest enough to make some standout work.”

The ads are not only funny but retain their freshness after several watchings. That’s code for: they never get old.

“The tone is refreshingly real and relatable and stands out for not trying so hard to be funny. It just is,” noted David Olsen, ecd at Mythic. “These almost felt like a throwback of sorts as 30-second commercials, but the comedy is timeless. I almost couldn’t believe they got made in the times we’re living in.”

“I’ve been working my buff ass off all year, and the only reward I got was ice cream,” Justin Morrison, creative at North said, perhaps ironically. “These ads made me cry inside.”

Nike: Dream Crazier and Never Stop Winning
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Any list of top creative work likely includes the venerable, independent Wieden + Kennedy, Adweek’s 2019 U.S. Agency of the Year. And, as a general rule, people tend to pay closer attention when the agency and long-standing client Nike launch work into the world.

2018 was the year of Kaepernick, but W+K and Nike smartly continued to extend the concept. A new ad featuring Serena Williams as narrator that aired on the Oscars leading up to International Women’s Day was classic fare from the agency and brand.

“[It’s] simply and powerfully communicates Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ message in a way that was new and culturally hyper-relevant,” said Stephen Clements, CCO at Y Media Labs. “It perfectly treads the line in a way that isn’t saccharine sweet, or at all condescending or lame unlike Gillette’s ‘The Best A Man Can Be.’ Quite simply, it gives me goosebumps, and only great advertising does that.”

Later in the year, Nike and W+K hit another home run. This time, it celebrated the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s fourth World Cup championship.

The anthemic spot, launched seconds after the World Cup was securely in the U.S. team’s hands, heralded a bright new era.

“The chant [in the ad] gave me chills,” said Irena Milev, cd at B-Reel. “[it was] so moving, real and simple.”

“It completely captured the magnitude of the moment on and off the field,” added Bill Oberlander, co-founder and ECD of Oberland. “It was the perfect purpose-driven message from a brand that has always behaved purposefully, and from agency Wieden + Kennedy, whose partnership with Nike always seems to hit the right note. Nike isn’t selling athletic wear. It is selling hope and the steadfast belief in the human spirit.”

The New York Times: The Truth Is Worth It
Agency: Droga5

Though the campaign debuted in 2018, The New York Times and Droga5 continued to espouse the gravity and importance of investigative journalism in a series of new ads. A darling on the awards circuit, it’s hard to look away from the hard work done by journalists around the world seeking the truth in a world in desperate need of it.

“In an era where the truth has become subjective, this work asserts that the truth is singular, worth pursuing and risking everything for,” said Hart Rusen, CCO at Socialdeviant. “This campaign is much larger than advertising. It’s more than a salvo against cries of fake news. It’s a bold defense for journalism as a whole and the dedication it takes to bring the truth to light.”

What makes this work so compelling is, in large part, how the agency approached the creative. It’s not over the top, and it’s not trying too hard.

“The idea behind the campaign from Droga5 is smart and simple,” said Dan Kelleher, CCO at Deutsch New York. “It was then executed with incredible skill and care.”

“Each piece is a masterclass in advertising that speaks to the soul of a brand,” added Gavin Milner, group creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles. “The writing is deceptively simple, yet so elegant. The craft is always out of this world – every detail is pitch-perfect.”

Argos: The Book of Dreams
Agency: The&Partnership

The British holiday ad is a thing of legend. Between John Lewis & Partners, Harvey Nichols, Sainsbury’s and others, audiences wait with bated breath for each year’s creative haul. Perhaps surprisingly, catalog retailer Argos pipped them all with an ad that Adweek considered an instant classic.

@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.