The 10 Best Ads of 2016

It’s been an undeniably rough year, but at least we had some brilliant advertising along the way to inspire, amuse and delight us.

Adweek’s picks for the 10 best ads of 2016 are an extremely varied collection, from comedy to drama and everything in between. And they represent many of the year’s cultural touch points. There is the year’s best Super Bowl ad, the best Christmas ad and the best Olympic ad. There are celebrity directors (Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze) and celebrity stars (including Taylor Swift and Michael Phelps, who bookend our selections).

There’s a Nike blockbuster, though it’s not from the U.S. There’s a shocking PSA, though while it’s about school shootings, it’s not about gun control. There are also several masterpieces of craft, from a stunning set piece cleverly designed to air around the presidential debates to the latest incredible brand partnership from OK Go.

Congratulations to all the agencies and brands here for making the year’s best work.


Apple Music, ‘Taylor vs. Treadmill’

Agency: In-house
Director: Anthony Mandler

Getting the world's biggest pop star in your ad is good. Having her sing another pop star's song, and fall flat on her face off a treadmill, is slapstick gold. In a year when Apple made generally good use of celebs, this spot stood out. It didn't hurt that it was shared first with Swift's 94 million Instagram followers.


Old Spice, ‘Rocket Car’

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy
Director: Steve Rogers

Man pushing himself to the limits. It's a hoary cliché of masculine advertising that's parodied mercilessly, and hilariously, in this Old Spice ad about a man who builds a rocket car and roars through the desert—with disastrous consequences. The meta snark is perfect, and proof this P&G brand can still bring the funny. 


Morton Salt, ‘OK Go: The One Moment’

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather
Director: Damian Kulash

OK Go has worked with many brands on music videos, but few as brilliant as this. The band filmed 4.2 seconds of colorful stuff exploding—paint buckets, water balloons, even guitars—and slowed it down to a four-minute video, cleverly integrating Morton Salt and its "Walk Her Walk" charity initiative along the way. 


Kenzo, ‘My Mutant Brain’

Agency: Framework
Director: Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze returned to adland in wonderfully weird style with this four-minute perfume ad, featuring Margaret Qualley spasming to the beat of her mutant brain, and shooting laserbeams out of her fingers. Echoing Jonze's own "Weapon of Choice" video for Fatboy Slim, it was nonetheless a bizarre and captivating sight all its own. 


Jeep, ‘Portraits’

Agency: iris New York
Editor: Brian Sanford

The best ad on Super Bowl 50 was also its most stripped down. This quiet 60-second Jeep spot featured portraits of Jeep drivers—famous and not—with a simple, evocative voiceover celebrating the brand's 75th anniversary. Remarkably, it was a vertical video—which was perfect for mobile, and framed the photos beautifully on TV, too. 


H&M, ‘Come Together’

Agency: adam&eveDDB
Director: Wes Anderson

Leave it to Wes Anderson to make the year's most delightful Christmas ad. A train is delayed in bad weather at the holidays, but the conductor (Adrien Brody) hatches an improbable plan to celebrate on board. The four-minute spot is a mini masterpiece of craft, with H&M fashions woven throughout and a surprisingly emotional ending. 


Sandy Hook Promise, ‘Evan’

Agency: BBDO New York
Director: Henry-Alex Rubin

A simple, breezy love story, set inside a high school, had a breathtaking twist no one saw coming in this brilliant bit of misdirected storytelling from BBDO. No other ad this year left viewers quite so stunned. The spot didn't just tell you to look for warning signs before a tragedy—it made you miss them without even realizing it. 


Nike, ‘Da Da Ding’

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Delhi
Director: François Rousselet

Girls in India are told sport is a waste of time, and to focus on school and marital eligibility. This three-minute Nike spot—starring the ultimate squad of Indian women athletes (and other celebs)—was a freewheeling, joyous rebuke to that thinking. Marvelously conceived and shot, it was a stunning debut on the brand from W+K's Delhi office. 


Audi, ‘Duel’

Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
Director: Ringan Ledwidge

Audi made a lot of great ads in 2016, but none as spectacularly staged or gleefully fun as "Duel," in which hotel valets—a man and a woman—did battle, entirely in reverse, for the right to park an RS 7. Great choreography, eye-popping stunts, perfect payoff—and a genius media buy around the three presidential debates. 


Under Armour, ‘Rule Yourself: Michael Phelps’

Agency: Droga5
Director: Martin de Thurah

The brief was simple: Explore the rigors of training through the lens of Michael Phelps ahead of the Olympics in Rio. The finished spot was astonishing, using darkness to paradoxically shed new light on one of the planet's biggest stars—and the physical and psychological cost of dedicating one's life to swimming at the highest level.

Check out our full story about the No. 1 ad of 2016 and our profile on Michael Phelps

Credits for all 10 spots appear below. 

10. Apple
Production company - Black Hand Cinema
Directed by: Anthony Mandler - Black Hand Cinema
Produced by: Kim Bradshaw
Director of Photography: David Devlin
Written by: Taylor Swift, Anthony Mandler & Larry Jackson
Edited by: Sam Gunn - Whitehouse Post
Colorist: Tom Poole - Company 3
Online & VFX - Carbon VFX

9. Old Spice
Client: Old Spice
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Creative Directors: Jason Bagley | Craig Allen
Copywriter: Nick Morrissey
Art Director: Matt Sorrell
Additional creative (on Whale only): Jarrod Higgins
Senior producer: Lindsay Reed
Producer: Monica Ranes
Account team: Liam Doherty | Michael Dalton
Executive creative directors: Mark Fitzloff | Joe Staples
Head of production: Ben Grylewicz
Production company: Biscuit Filmworks/Revolver
Director: Steve Rogers
Managing director: Shawn Lacy
Executive producer: Holly Vega
Producer: Pip Smart
DP: Mandy Walker
Production designer: Leon Morland
Editorial company: Mackenzie Cutler
Editor: Gavin Cutler
Assistant editor: Brendan Hogan
Executive producer: Sasha Hirschfeld
VFX company: The Mill | LA
Executive producer: Enca Kaul
Senior producer: Dan Roberts
Production coordinator: Kris Drenzek
Creative director | Shoot supervisor | 2-D lead artist: Tim Davies
3-D lead artists: Tom Graham
3-D lead artists: Phill Mayer, Hartwell Durfor, Kenzie Chen, Yorie Kumalasari, Brett Angelillis, Mike DiNocco, Katie Yancey, Blake Guest, Jenna Kind, Monique Espinoza, Steven Olson, Milton Ramirez
2-D artists: John Price, Robert Murdock, Don Kim, Dag Ivarsoy, Jeff Langlois, Ashely Forbito, Adam Lambert, Daniel Thuresson, Tim Robbins
Art department: Brett Lopinsky, Laurence Konishi, Kelsey Napier
Head of 3-D: John Leonti
Sound design
Company | Sound designer: Mackenzie Cutler | Sam Shaffer
Company | Sound designer : Barking Owl | Michael Anastasi
Final Mix
Studio: Lime Studios
Engineer: Samuel Casas
Assistant engineer: Mark Nieto
Executive producer: Susie Boyajan
Color transfer:
Company: The Mill | LA
Artist: Adam Scott
Color EP: Thatcher Peterson
Color producer: Antonio Hardy
Color coordinator: Diane Valera

8. Morton Salt
OK Go: Damian Kulash, Timothy Nordwind, Andy Ross, Dan Konopka
Director: Damian Kulash
Producer: Park Pictures
Executive producers: Justin Pollock, Jackie Kelman Bisbee
Producer: Pat Frazier
Director of photography: Shawn Kim
Production designer: Bradley Thordarson
First assistant director: Jonathan Watson
Executive brainstormer: Elan Lee
First assistant camera: Chris Slany
Second assistant camera: Matt Sumney
Phantom tech: Patrick McGraw
Behind the scenes: Ross Harris
Stills: Daniel Goldwasser
Motion control:
Bolt programmer: Simon Wakley
Bolt assistants: Chris Toth, Leo Roberts
Gaffer: David “Blue” Thompson
Best boy: Randy Dye
Electric: Jeff Matthews, Adan Galindo, Shaun Stallard, Louie Manzo
Key grip: Colby Dunford
Best boy: Joseph Messier
Grip: Curtis Brown, Randy Granger, Ray Chase
Art fepartment:
Art director: Steve Christenson
Art coordinator: Katy Shirey
Set decorator: Tally Duke Floyd
Leadman: Lance Rosa
Set dresser: Andre Price, Kevin Quinn, Silvio Scillone, Tony Alvarez
Prop master: Ben Ferene
Prop assistant: Mark White
Lead painter: Jamie McElrath
Painter: Molly Holnick
SPFX supervisor: Kelly Kirby
SPFX foreman: Robert Garrigus, Doug Calli
SPFX tech: Steve Shines
SPFX tech: Bill McGinley
SPFX tech: Rich Jacobs
Set dresser FX: Aaron Ferene
Production supervisor: Ari Chang
Second assistant director: Ricky Weaver
Assistant production supervisor: Amanda Andrews
Script: Kristy Kelly
VTR: Tom Myrick
Craft services: Michael Backlinder
Production assistants: Brian Lierk, David Rada, Robert Lomeli, Oscar Matute, Chris Maltauro, Morgan Pham, Melanie Cycz
Makeup: Kristen Shaw
Wardrobe stylist: Christina Blackaller
Assistant stylist: Laurel Rose
Editor: Cass Vanini
Assistant editor: Ben Foushee
Editorial producer: Sari Resnick
Visual effects:
Company: Artjail
VFX supervisor/creative director : Steve Mottershead
Head of production: John Skeffington
VFX producer: Adriana Wong
Previz: Darren Chang
Titles: Ryan Hawthorne
Colorist: Shawn King
For Ogilvy:
Joe Sciarrotta, Chief Creative Officer
David Hernandez, executive creative director
Amy Gozalka, creative director
Kara Coyle, associate creative director
Gayle McCormick, executive producer
Annie Larimer, senior producer
Philip Puleo, project manager
Paige Robinson, management supervisor
Katie Quinn, assistant account executive
For Morton:
Director of communications & corporate brand strategy: Denise Lauer
Senior communications manager: Paul Jackiewicz
Head of sales and marketing: Shayn Wallace
Senior director, brand marketing: Peter Sashin

7. Kenzo
Client: Kenzo
Agency: Framework/Black Frame, New York
Copywriter / director: Spike Jonze
Producers: Natalie Farrey, Vincent Landay
Executive producers: Humberto Leon, Carol Lim
Co-producer: Amanda Adelson
Director of photography: Hoyte van Hoytema
Production designer: KK Barrett
Editor: Eric Zumbrunnen
Choreographer: Ryan Heffington
Costume designer: Heidi BivensArtistic
Music Company: Squeak E. Clean Productions
Song Title: Mutant Brain
Artist/Composer: Sam Spiegel + Ape Drums ft. Assassin

6. Jeep
Client: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – Jeep
CEO: Sergio Marchionne
CMO: Olivier Francois
Director of FCA U.S. brand advertising: Marissa Hunter
Head of Jeep advertising: Kim House
Jeep advertising manager: Nicole Pesale
Agency: iris New York
Global creative director: Sean Reynolds
Associate creative director & art direction: Marcus Liwag
Executive creative director: Lisa Bright
Copywriter: Winston Noel
Designers: Nicole Monzon, David Penn
Head of planning: Dipti Bramhandkar
Account manager: Allison Benoit
Executive producer: Guy Quinlan
Editor: Brian Sandford (The Cutting Room)
Music: Kristin Dyrud, Jim Cox (Hum Music)
Production credits: The Cutting Room, Light of Day New York, Nice Shoes New York, Hum Music LA, Catch&Release
Editorial: Cutting Room New York
Editor: Brian Sanford
Editor: Merritt Duff
Mix: Walter Bianco
Executive producer, producer: Melissa Lubin
Managing partner, producer: Susan Willis
Postproduction: Light of Day New York
Colin Stackpole: Creative director/Flame
Dan Bowhers: Flame
Mike Wharton: 3-D
Matt Esolda: GFX
Peter DeAndrea: Online
Jacob Robinson: Assistant
Telecine: Nice Shoes New York
Colorist: Lez Rudge
Color grading producer: Ed Rilli
Color grading assistant: Andrew Pandolfino
Music house: Hum Music Los Angeles
Track title: Aerial
Composer: Kristin Dyrud
Performed by: Jim Cox
Creative director: Scott Glenn
Executive producer: Debbi Landon
ECD: Jeff Koz
Creative Research, Clearances, & Licensing services: Catch&Release
VO Casting: House Casting New York
Executive director: Neil Myer
Casting director: Mary Egan-Callaghan
Casting director: Rebecca Yarsin

5. H&M
Client: H&M
Daniel Herrman, head of marketing, H&M
Erik Zetterberg, head of marketing, H&M
Boshra Sadegiani, project manager, H&M
Agency: adam&eveDDB
Chief creative officer: Ben Priest
Executive creative directors: Ben Tollett, Richard Brim
Creative directors: Till Diestel, Tim Vance, Paul Knott
Agency producer: Lucie Georgeson
Managing director: Tammy Einav
Account directors: James Rowe, Olivia Chittenden
Production company: The Directors Bureau, Riff Raff
Executive producers: Lisa Margulis, Matthew Fone
Producer: Julie Sawyer
Director: Wes Anderson
D.O.P.: Bruno Delbonnel
Editing company: Final Cut
Editor: Joe Guest
Postproduction: The Mill London
Post producer: Gemma Humphries
VFX supervisor: Jonathan Westley
Music supervisor (online film): Randall Poster
Music supervisor (broadcast films): Abi Leland
Audio post production: Factory
Mix & additional sound design: Anthony Moore
Audio producer: Lou Allen
Soundtrack name and composer, online film: Katherine Kennicott Davis
Little Drummer Boy, performed by Harry Simeone Choral
John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Happy Xmas (War is Over)
Broadcast films
O Christmas Tree, re-scored by Alex Baranowski

4. Sandy Hook Promise
Client: Sandy Hook Promise
Spot: "Evan"
Agency: BBDO New York
Chief Creative Officer, worldwide: David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer, New York: Greg Hahn
Creative director: Peter Alsante
Copywriter: Bryan Stokely
Art director: Martins Zelcs
Group executive producer: Julian Katz
Account director: Lindsey Cash
Communications planning director: Sean Stogner
Communications planning associate: Michael Schonfeld
Client: Sandy Hook Promise
Founder, managing director: Nicole Hockley
Founder, managing director: Tim Makris
Production company: Smuggler
Director: Henry-Alex Rubin
Partner: Patrick Milling Smith
Partner: Brian Carmody
Executive producer: Drew Santarsiero
Chief operating officer: Andrew Colon
Producer: Leah Allina
Director of photography: Ken Seng
Postproduction: NO6
Editor: Jason Macdonald
Additional editor: Nick Schneider
Executive producer: Corina Dennison
Post producer: Malia Rose
Flame artist: Ed Skupeen
Flame assist: Mark Reyes
Colorist: Jason Macdonald
Audio post: Heard City
Mixer: Stefano Campello
Mixer: Evan Mangiamele
Audio executive producer: Sasha Awn
Music supervision and clearance: Beta Petrol
Song: "Johnny Met June"
Writer, performer: Shelby Lynne
Courtesy Capitol Records Inc. and Kobalt Music Publishing America Inc.

3. Nike
Client: Nike India
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Delhi
Executive creative directors: Kim Papworth, Susan Hoffman
Creative director: Mohamed Rizwan
Writer: Ankita Tobit
Art director: Anyaa Dev
Account director: Aparna Battoo
Account manager: Jayaram Shankar
Agency producer: Deb Drumm
Director of emerging markets: Karrelle Dixon
Managing director: Patrick Cahill
Global planning director: Andy Lindblade
Planner: Michelle Arrazcaeta
Global media planning director: Danny Sheniak
Digital strategist: Amsha Kalra
Production company : Division
Director: François Rousselet
Executive producer: Jules de Chateleux
Editor: Tom Lindsay, Trim Editing
DOP: Matias Boucard
Music: Da Da Ding - Gener8ion, feat. Gizzle (vocals)
Photographer: Aman Makkar

2. Audi
Client: Audi of America
Brand: Audi
Spot name: Duel
Air dates: 9/26/16, 10/9/16, 10/19/16
Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
Founder, chairman: Paul Venables
Partner, executive creative director: Will McGinness
Creative director: Justin Moore
Creative director: Erich Pfeifer
ACD/copywriter: Matt Keats
ACD/art director: Matt Miller
Director of integrated production: Craig Allen
Senior producer: Matt Flaker
Producer: Gabby Gardner
Production company: Rattling Stick
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Director of photography: Greig Fraser
Head of production: Richard McIntosh
Executive producer: Joe Biggins
Executive producer: Jeff Shupe
Line producer: Greg Haggart
Stunt coordinator: Robert Alonzo
Production designer: K.K. Barrett
Editing company: Work Editorial
Editor: Rich Orrick
Assistant editor: Mike Horan
Executive producer: Marlo Baird
Producer: Brandee Probasco
Music company: Woodwork Music
Music composer: Philip Kay
Music coordinator: Andy Oskwarek
Sound design/final Mmx: The Sound Lab at Technicolor
Executive producer: Debbie Gonzalez
Lead sound designer/mix engineer: Scott Gershin
Sound designer: Johannes Hammers
VFX: The Mill
Executive creative director: Phil Crowe
VFX supervisor: John Shirley
CG lead: David Lawson
VFX senior producer: Anastasia von Rahl
VFX associate producer: Karina Slater
Colorist: Greg Reese
Head of brand management: David Corns
Brand director: Chris Bergen
Brand supervisor: Justin Wang
Brand manager: Abu Ngauja
Project managers: Talya Fisher, Leah Murphy

1. Under Armour
Client: Under Armour
Agency: Droga5 NY
Creative chairman: David Droga
Chief creative officer: Ted Royer
Executive creative director: David Droga
Group creative director: Tim Gordon
Creative director: Alexander Nowak, Felix Richter
Senior creative: Laurie Howell
Senior creative: Toby Treyer-Evans
Design director: Cynthia Ratasbouth
Chief creation officer: Sally-Ann Dale
Head of broadcast production: Ben Davies
Executive producer: Adam Perloff
Head of interactive production: Niklas Lindstrom
Head of art production: Cliff Lewis
Senior art producer: Julia Menassa
Senior print producer: Alyssa Dolman:
Retouching studio manager: Michelle Leedy
Retouchers: John Ciambriello, Peter Gibson
Designers: Jennifer Lally, Tessa Modi
Head of communications strategy: Colleen Leddy
Global chief strategy officer: Jonny Bauer
Head of strategy: Chet Gulland
Group strategy director: Harry Roman
Brand strategist: Candice Chen
Senior communications strategist: Hillary Heath
Group account director: Julian Cheevers
Account director: : Brian D'Entremont 
Account manager: Jordan Cappadocia
Associate account manager: Scott Bubis
Project managers: Courtney Kosup, Connor Hall
Client: Under Armour
CEO and founder: Kevin Plank
CMO: Kip Fulks
SVP, global brand marketing: Adrienne Lofton
SVP, global brand creative: Steve Battista
VP, global creative and design: Brian Boring
SVP, global brand strategy: Rick Anguilla
Senior director, global brand marketing: Jasmine Maietta
Director, integrated campaign planning/global operations: Teresa Oles
SVP, global communications: Diane Pelkey
VP, media: Steve Sommers
Production company: Epoch Films
Director: Martin de Thurah
DOP: Kasper Tuxen
Executive producer: Melissa Culligan:
Producer: Michaela Johnson
Editorial: Stitch/Cartel
Editor: Leo Scott
Postproduction: Blacksmith
Design: String and Tins / Q Department
Music: "The Last Goodbye" by The Kills
Mixer/Sound Editing: Chris Afzal
Photographer: Thomas Prior

This story first appeared in the December 12, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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