Here Are the Year’s Most Inventive Marketing, Media and Digital Campaigns, Honored by Project Isaac

Approaching creative challenges with an inventive spirit has never been more important. The worlds of marketing and media are being rapidly reshaped by data and technology, but interactive innovation only takes you to the next step.

True firsts can move sectors, categories, companies and people beyond the tactical and into the realm of transformation. This year's winning work in Adweek's Project Isaac Awards, all of which you can find profiled below, celebrates the push toward that ideal and ignites the imagination and vision to find what lies beyond the proven and predictable.

The Jury

Ed Brojerdi (chair), KBS+

Christine Amirian, Samsung Electronics

Jeffrey Benjamin, Entrepreneur

Sim Blaustein, BDMI

Donald Chesnut, SapientNitro

Scott Cullather, inVNT

Catherine Davis, Leo Burnett

Eric Franchi, Undertone

Tylor Garland, Boombang

Trudy Hardy, BMW of North America

Justin Hendrix, NYC Media Lab

Scott Hess, Spark

Sarah Hofstetter, 360i

Vicki Lins, United Way

Matt Powell, KBS+

Rob Schoorl, Business Insider

Helayne Spivak, VCU Brandcenter

Cindy Stockwell, Trilia/Hill Holliday

Chris Weil, Momentum



Product Development

"Samsung Safety Truck"
Leo Burnett Argentina and Samsung

Read more here about this case study, which also won the Gravity Award, the highest Project Isaac honor.



A Deafening Silence
"Silent Window" for Axe / J. Walter Thompson Manajans

Axe Black, with the help of agency J. Walter Thompson Manajans, wanted to make quiet look cool. So it set up a soundproof studio in the middle of one of the loudest places on Earth: Istanbul. Passersby could only see and not hear as local Turkish groups like Adamlar, Sapan and Biz performed in the "Silent Window." The only way to hear the music was to connect to the Axe Black WiFi, but there was a catch: They could listen to the bands, but they were unplugged from other social media accounts. The Axe Black Silent Window became Turkey's most tweeted outdoor project, with a total reach of 6 million. The Silent Window was also featured in Turkey's Medcezir, an adaptation of the Fox teen drama The O.C. During the show, the protagonist entered Silent Window, started singing during the episode and then continued during the commercial breaks, becoming an extension of the show. During the "Bring the Quiet" campaign, Axe Black was the most sold Axe variant. —Tim Baysinger


Out-of-Home Media

Growing Out of Thin Air
Air Orchard for UTEC / FCB Mayo

In 2013 and 2014, FCB Mayo in Lima, Peru, scored a wave of international media attention (and Isaac Award wins) for its Water Billboard and Air Purifying Billboard projects, created to promote Barranco's University of Technology and Engineering by highlighting staff scientists' groundbreaking work. Yet the innovations had only begun.

This year, the two parties took their partnership a step further by creating the Air Orchard, another billboard on which staffers grew organic, pollution-free lettuce in an urban area that contains some of the industrial world's foulest air. By primarily watering this hydroponics, 100 percent toxin-free lettuce with moisture taken from the atmosphere itself, the agency once again helped UTEC demonstrate its capacity for practical, real-world innovation to prospective students. The larger point, which FCB's work showcased for both applicants and the general public, is that engineering creates solutions to everyday problems. —Patrick Coffee


Sports Marketing

There's a Tiger Hiding in That App
Social Second Screen for Tiger Beer / 
Maxus Malaysia and Metalworks by Maxus

In Malaysia, where advertising alcoholic beverages on TV is prohibited, Maxus and Metalworks, the media company's creative technology division, devised an innovative way for Tiger Beer to tap into the passions of soccer fans who flock to bars to watch live coverage of English Premier League action.

Gameday, a mobile Web app, was designed to serve as a second screen during those telecasts. The app challenged users to predict scores and compete for Tiger-branded prizes in real time. It also encouraged social sharing during the matches.

The result: 43 percent of the targeted audience used Gameday, while 38 percent redeemed points for prizes. "Brands have always used sponsorships as a means to increase brand affiliation with sports," notes Nico Abbruzzese, global director of creative technology at Maxus and head of Metalworks. "The popularity of the Gameday app at a live sporting event proves that they have an option to engage with their customers in a novel way and be an active influencer." —David Gianatasio


Media Buying

Finding a Roof to Sleep Under
Flight Cancellations Into Hotel Reservations for Red Roof Inn / 360i

No one likes flight cancellations, and the last brutal winter saw up to 3 percent of U.S. flights being grounded daily—nearly 500 flights on average per day. As a result, thousands of travelers scrambled to find hotels at the last minute.

Using mobile location targeting and customized messages, Red Roof Inn was able to beat its competitors and quickly reach customers. The custom media buying invention from 360i, New York, got the lodging chain's messaging in front of 75 percent of consumers searching for last-minute reservations.

As a result, Red Roof achieved a 375 percent increase in conversion rates, a 60 percent bookings lift across nonbranded campaigns, a 98 percent increase in clickthrough rates for nonbranded campaigns, a 266 percent boost in nonbranded mobile bookings and a 115 percent increase in nonbranded mobile investment. Plus, the media-buying invention proved so successful that it is being applied to other clients of the agency. —Kristina Monllos


Media Planning

Shall We Play a Game?
Game Changing Planning for PHD / Code Worldwide

Retaining millennials is the problem du jour for many agencies. Armed with the knowledge that the key demographic wants to work in environments that are innovative and collaborative, PHD enlisted London-based Code Worldwide to create a way to engage PHD's global network of 2,500 employees.

The answer: gamify the workplace. Code created Source, a global operating system that encourages collaboration and participation—effectively creating a multiplayer online game—across PHD's 70 markets. As a performance measure, employees (i.e., users) earned "pings" for contributions that are scored and added to an agency-wide, real-time public scoreboard. As users collect pings and accolades, additional tiers are added to their profiles, eventually making them eligible for interoffice transfers and making Source a vital tool in employee retention.

Perhaps the most valuable result from Source is the way it positions PHD employees to work seamlessly on projects with offices on the other side of the world. —Carrie Cummings



Buying Music by the Mood
The Future of Audio / Horizon Media

Everybody's got that one song that can transport them back in time—it can conjure up happy or sad memories, pump you up or wind you down for bedtime. Horizon Media realized that when it comes to buying and selling audio inventory, agencies and audio companies tend to narrow in on demographics. But after researching the audio space and collecting both quantitative and qualitative data, the agency found that in regard to audio, mood is a huge driver for behavior, platform selection and genre choice.

These newfound insights sparked Horizon's journey to revolutionize the way the industry approaches audio advertising planning by using mood as a guide. The agency created a series of mood zones—which include a range of ages, genders, best-suited audio platforms, etc.—that are ultimately designed to deliver more effective engagement rates for brands. —Katie Richards



A Different Kind of Animal Appeal
#LastSelfie for WWF / 4129Grey

Endangered species are disappearing from the face of the planet as quickly as a Snapchat—a message the World Wildlife Fund is trying to get across. When the nonprofit sought to win over millennials, it turned to 4129Grey in Instanbul for a #LastSelfie campaign that sent nine-second Snapchat pics of endangered animals to WWF's followers.

Each photo included a note explaining that it could be the last time the animal might be seen, encouraging recipients to take a screenshot. The results came quickly. Within eight hours, there were 5,000 tweets viewed on 6 million timelines. Within a week, the numbers had risen to 40,000 tweets reaching 120 million users, allowing the campaign to reach more than half of all Twitter users. Along with the massive success in awareness, the campaign also helped the WWF reach its monthly donation target in just three days and led to a number of animal adoptions through WWF's website. —Marty Swant



Product Development

Easing the Pain for Athletes
BSXinsight / BSX Athletics

No one likes having their blood drawn, not even athletes. But when it comes to monitoring their lactate threshold—a crucial part of disciplined training in many sports—athletes have had to be poked and prodded for accurate results.

Enter BSXinsight, a wearable device and app from Austin-based BSX Athletics that allows sports folk to measure lactate threshold without drawing blood. BSXinsight makes lactate training simple for athletes, by automatically determining personalized training zones and sending data back to their phones or tablets. The sensor uses LEDs to "see" into the calf muscle, and as the light passes through the muscle tissue, it is reshaped by chromatophores, or marker characteristics. That then creates a biosignal that is captured and transmitted to the device.

The data is tracked and stored in an app developed by Mutual Mobile so that athletes can create customized workouts and benchmarks. Even better, BSXinsight's results are reportedly just as accurate as blood-testing methods. —Kristina Monllos


Digital Publishing

All the Ballet That's Fit to Print
Grit & Grace for Cole Haan / Giant Spoon

When Giant Spoon wanted to drive awareness for Cole Haan's new ballet-inspired product line, the boutique agency turned to The New York Times' T Brand Studio. The result was Grit & Grace, a feature that profiled three New York City Ballet ballerinas that humanized the women, highlighting their elegance and determination.

Along with the written narrative, the Times' campaign included behind-the-scenes videos, illustrations and full-bleed photography. As the first fashion brand to partner with T Brand Studio, Cole Haan was able to negotiate a deal allowing it to leverage the content across its own channels where the brand story continued, but became more product focused.

Giant Spoon co-founder Alan Cohen says: "We created this campaign because it connected the brand to consumers in a unique way. We loved that we found a super-efficient partner to develop the content, and the result proved that creative media can come from anywhere.” —Carrie Cummings


Web Video

Taking Care of Business
Chilli Paneer 2, DBS Bank / SapientNitro

DBS Bank enjoyed an online hit last September with Chilli Paneer, a digital film that introduced the brand to the Indian market by focusing on the adventures of a young entrepreneur named Ken. For the December follow-up, Chilli Paneer 2, SapientNitro set out to boost engagement by crafting an interactive experience that let viewers make important decisions in Ken's life. Where should he take his girlfriend and business partner Asha on vacation? Should they risk their savings on a second restaurant?

The narrative flowed based on viewers' choices, with DBS products and services deftly woven into the plot. As a kicker, users learned what type of investors they are based on the choices they made for Ken and were encouraged to share their rating (and the film itself) via social media. 

The impact was such that DBS, though a newcomer to the marketplace, has become a favorite of regional entrepreneurs, and the bank has introduced its Spark online platform in India to help young business people connect. —David Gianatasio


App Development

Phone It in From Bed
Power Sleep for Samsung / Cheil Austria

Would you be more likely to do something philanthropic if you could sleep through it? For some Samsung consumers, that's a big yes. The brand tapped Cheil Austria to create Power Sleep, an app that donates smartphones' CPUs and processing power to people who really need it—like scientists calculating data for cancer or Alzheimer's research.

The app works like an alarm clock. By setting an alarm when they go to sleep, consumers agree to donate their phones' power while they're idle. The effort garnered 250,000 downloads and donated over 1 terabyte of data, which totals 20,800 nights of sleep donated. Plus, more than 60 percent of the users who downloaded the app are still donating their CPUs each night.

Two weeks after launching, the app scored the top trending spot on the Google Play Store in Austria, under free apps, and scored a 69 percent five-star user rating. —Kristina Monllos


Ad Tech

Dialed In to Find Mobile Prospects
The Power of Programmatic Search for Samsung / Starcom

Hoping to increase its market share in the U.S., Samsung needed to find an innovative way to target potential customers with ads. Media agency Starcom MediaVest Group crunched Samsung data with third-party data from BlueKai—including household income, what device a person currently owned and the status of that person's current cellphone contract—to identify customers who might be in the market for a new smartphone.

To create the first programmatic search buy ever, SMG tapped into BlueKai's newly created search DMP and Google's Remarketing List for Search Ads and purchased key words including "best smartphone." When a target consumer searched for the desired word or phrase, a Samsung ad popped up on that user's screen. In just three months, click-through rates doubled and nonbranded impressions per market share jumped 20 percent. —Katie Richards


Social Media

Hold Your Breath for Attention
Tweeting Sonar for Steinlager / DDB N.Z.

World record holders in free diving aren't exactly household names. That proved no obstacle to Steinlager Pure beer, which with agency DDB New Zealand publicized the latest attempt at beating a world free dive record by fellow New Zealander William Trubridge—who was shooting for a no-fins depth of 102 meters across the globe in the Bahamas.

Pairing a souped-up sonar fish finder to detect Trubridge's progress with prewritten tweets describing that progress, tweets were sent to digital billboards across the country. Trubridge achieved his goal and so did Steinlager, as the dive became the biggest sporting event in New Zealand in 2014, with a larger TV audience than the World Cup final. —Michael Bürgi



Intergalactic Street View
Destiny Planet View for Activision / 72andSunny

After four years of development, video game publisher Activision wanted its latest sci-fi epic, Destiny, to appeal to a mass audience beyond just the hard-core gamer niche. With the hopes of achieving the biggest new video game franchise launch, an innovative ad effort from 72andSunny connected with something even nongamers crave: adventure.

After securing sci-fi director Joseph Kosinski to make a live-action short film as a trailer, the agency worked with Google Street View to let people explore the various fictional planets that make up Destiny's world. The campaign even highlighted the game's "interplanetary action" with a takeover of Times Square. The end result: Destiny achieved a first-day sales record of $500 million—exactly what Activision was hoping for. —Marty Swant



Checking Out of the Crowds
Avoid Humans / GSD&M

SXSW is great. For the first day or so. Then restlessness and agitation set in. Austin-grown agency GSD&M knows this feeling all too well. After having lived through countless SXSW festivals, it came up with a way to help attendees recharge.

Avoid Humans is a Web-based app that reverse-engineers Foursquare and Instagram check-ins to find places with the fewest people. Accessed through any smartphone, the app was launched with a single tweet, and in less than a week, counted 23,000 uniques. The app was so successful that GSD&M released it to the public. Now, human-wary smartphone users in any city can, with the tap of an app, get away from everyone.

"No one loves SXSW more than we do. As a homegrown Austin agency, it's part of our culture—the creativity, energy, unexpectedness and the pure restlessness of the event," explains Jay Russell, evp and CCO. "But even we can sometimes use a break from the madness that is SXSW as well as other large-scale events, whether it be a quick coffee in an empty shop or a cold beer in a dark, silent bar." —Carrie Cummings




Balancing Board and Boardroom
True Wetsuits for Quiksilver / TBWAHakuhodo

Surfing is one of Japan's most popular sports, but the pressures of professional life lead most wave riders to trade their boards for boardrooms. TBWAHakuhodo of Tokyo wanted to challenge that pattern with the help of client and top global surf brand Quiksilver, so the agency created True Wetsuits, the only suits that work both on the shore and in the office.

These suits are real, 100 percent waterproof and massively popular—the 2015 line sold out within three days of launch. The agency didn't just conceive of the outfits themselves. It also created a Surfer's Market Report linking the day's ocean forecast to that of the local stock market—and masterfully combining business with leisure.

The project was truly a full work-life balance package. By working to create a "lifestyle solution product" rather than a simple ad campaign, TBWAHakuhodo brought a big wave of attention to its client. True Wetsuits earned at least 10 million impressions in Japanese media and 120 million impressions globally, playing a starring role in more than 100 individual news stories. Orders for the 2016 versions of the Wetsuits continue to pour in every day. —Patrick Coffee


Design Product Development

A Slow Reveal
Hidden Graphics for Mountain Dew / Finch, Colenso BBDO

Skateboarding has long been seen as a "sport of rebels and radicals," as The Quarterly Skateboarder editor John Severson wrote in 1965—and the scratches and scuffs apparent on well-worn boards still serve as badges of honor.

Mountain Dew and Colenso BBDO, working in collaboration with production company Finch, pulled a sick 180 on that equation in 2014 by creating a "blank" board that reveals its underlying art over time via damage done by the act of skating. Colenso tapped three engineers who worked over six weeks to determine the best way to design such a board, which was initially created as part of a partnership with top Kiwi skater Chris Wood.

The product's appeal lies at least partly in the fact that its art becomes visible gradually, meaning the most active skaters' boards will also be first to showcase the creativity beneath their blank overcoats. Many skaters are skeptical of brand partnerships, but the project ultimately succeeded in recruiting "10 of New Zealand's hardest skaters" to join the team sponsored by Mountain Dew while creating buzz for the brand within the larger skating community. —Patrick Coffee



Shopping With a Conscience
The Rag Bag for Uniforms for the Dedicated / DDB Sweden

Not every fashion brand fits the notion of self-important and vain. Swedish outfit Uniforms for the Dedicated makes clothing from recycled fibers and allows users to rent rather than purchase clothing.

With the help of DDB Sweden, the brand further cemented its rep as a fashion brand with a heart and conscience by creating The Rag Bag—it's a shopping bag that converts to a clothing donation vehicle in simple steps. Buy something new, but then donate something old.

The pilot project saw 300 bags used to donate old clothes to Stockholm City Mission. And DDB Sweden developed an e-commerce app that opened up the Rag Bag to other retailers who want to offer shopping with a conscience—1.1 million have been ordered. Besides hefty international press coverage, the effort was also a Clio Image Awards finalist. —Michael Bürgi


Brand Performance

Real Estate, the Virtual Way
Island Immersion Room for Palazzo del Sol / SapientNitro

Talk about a room with a view! For Fisher Island Realty Sales in Florida, SapientNitro set up a special high-tech room designed to give prospective condominium buyers a truly immersive experience of the Palazzo del Sol, a tony residential tower off the coast of Miami, with units priced from $6.5 million.

The immersion room featured an elaborate gesture-control system centered on a multi-touch digital table that allowed sales agents to pull up and manipulate Palazzo plans and photography. With the wave of a hand, these images were made to zip from the table onto ultra-high-def video walls. Buyers could get unfettered, sparkling views of the luxurious interiors and lush grounds, even though the actual construction hadn't been completed.

"The table has definitely made it easier to sell," says Fisher sales executive Viktoria Eldridge. Ultimately, Fisher Island sold more than 50 percent of the Palazzo units in just three months, an impressive performance given the lofty price point. —David Gianatasio



A Virtual Protest Against the Banning of Protests
Holograms for Freedom for NoSomosDelito / DDB Spain

Deeply concerned over restrictions passed in Spain's Congress over the right to assemble publicly and protest, known in Spain as "The Gag Law," almost 100 rights organizations banded together to form NoSomosDelito (WeAreNotCrime).

The aim: informing citizens about the meaning of these reforms, which the groups believe restrict fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and assembly in the name of "citizens' security"—and to pressure the Spanish government to ease the reforms.

The tactic: holographic images were stitched together from uploaded protests captured on a website that put people in the streets in a virtual manner. The virtual protests were then projected onto a screen in front of Spanish Parliament on April 10, generating worldwide news coverage. —Michael Bürgi



Fly Me to My Dream
Imagination Machine for S7 Airlines / Tellart, W+K Amsterdam

W+K Amsterdam and Tellart took off on a flight of imagination for Russia's S7 Airlines by setting up a neuro-technology installation at a Moscow mall and inviting passersby to play mind games—literally—in order to win free trips to their dream destinations.

Participants were seated in front of a projection map of the globe. Two paths appeared: a direct route to their destination, and paths that would vary based on each participant's level of concentration. Those able to guide their virtual planes to their preferred locale in 45 seconds won actual round-trip tickets to those cities. All told, 50 folks won the trip of their dreams, and everyone who played received 5,000 S7 priority air miles.

The effort attracted more than 80 million earned-media impressions. What's more, 4,500 people signed up for the S7 loyalty program on the day of the event, and over the course of the campaign, S7 enjoyed a 20 percent lift in online bookings. —David Gianatasio


Student: Isaac+

Clothing With Serious Attitude
Expressive Wearable / Sangli Li, Art Center College of Design

What if your clothing could express your attitude through its own movement and gesture?

Sangli Li, from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., took wearables to another dimension with the invention of clothing that reacts to stimuli in its own way—reacting to sudden movement or loud sounds by covering up the body part it's worn on. As Li explains, the clothing is meant to serve as a communications tool to express sentiments our own social inhibitions urge us not to do—such as "You're standing too close to me" in a crowded subway car. Though it's currently just a hat and choker, Li has already designed a number of full outfits.

The Isaac+ Award was created in partnership with Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners. The agency's CEO Ed Brojerdi served as the Adweek Project Isaac jury chair. —Michael Bürgi




Horizon's Internal Incubator
Dunes of Dreams / Horizon Media

Horizon Media wanted to be at the forefront of innovation, while also encouraging its employees to discover their inner entrepreneur. The independent agency launched invention development program Dunes of Dreams, which will be held twice yearly, with the hope that employees will seize the opportunity to push creative boundaries.

Any employee can submit an invention plan—for anything from a mobile app to a program to benefit the agency either internally or externally—in hopes of scoring startup funding and resources to bring their idea to life. Senior agency executives narrow the pool down, and a panel of judges alongside agency employees vote on their favorite ideas and select six winners. Once the agency names the lucky six, those groups have four months to bring their ideas to life in the agency's newly created innovation incubator. —Katie Richards



When Hiring Is a Snap
Recruitment Drive / LMO Advertising

It's best to seek millennials where they are. What better place than Snapchat. That's what LMO Advertising figured when it wanted to find a new intern. It started by boosting its Snapchat following by 300 percent, then snapped out a series of questions, culling through the answers to find the young professional with the right balance of creativity, personality and temperament for the office—and showing to prospective hires how progressive the agency is.

The intern LMO hired ended up becoming a full-time employee, and the independent agency enjoyed 30 million impression of national press for its innovative hiring method. —Michael Bürgi



Global Coffee Klatch
"Meet Me at Starbucks," Starbucks and YouTube / 72andSunny

Hoping to capture all the times friends and strangers interact at Starbucks locations around the world, Los Angeles agency 72andSunny worked with Starbucks and YouTube to document a single day of coffee conversations.

Bringing together 53 cinematographers located in 28 countries, the collaborators told true customer stories through a six-minute interactive documentary that could be expanded to an 18-minute film with rich stories and "bite-sized" content.

The result was Starbucks' first global brand campaign, which resulted in more than 26,000 hours of watched footage, 91 million social media impressions and news coverage internationally. People around the world ended up forming emotional connections with the content and began reflecting on their own stories through social media. The stories—ranging from friendship to romance to family—inspired others to meet and document future stories at their own Starbucks. —Marty Swant



Recycling for Reward
Think Machine for VW / DDB Russia

Russia isn't a country known for its environmental tendencies, so batteries tend to get thrown in the garbage rather than recycled.

Volkswagen and DDB Russia devised the Think Machine, a vending machine placed in several high-trafficked areas of Moscow that accepted only batteries of differing sizes and returned goods from local retailers. Where a normal Moscow recycling facility collects 1,000 batteries, the Think Machines took in 8,000. After generating social buzz in the Russian press, other retailers are looking to install the machines. And VW may roll them out in other European dealerships. —Michael Bürgi



In Search of Ad Quants
Data Bytes Program / Mindshare

In order to swell its ranks of data-adept marketers, Mindshare undertook a recruitment drive of data-science and mathematics talent. The Data Bytes mentoring program recruited 17 university students for its New York and Chicago offices to learn specifically about marketing sciences.

With diverse majors such as computer science, economics, industrial engineering, mathematics, management information systems and psychology, the students spent eight weeks participating in custom-designed lab sessions with The Loop, Mindshare's adaptive marketing engine—finding correlations and patterns within various sources of data. This summer, Data Bytes began its second year, with more than 1,000 applicants vying for the spots. —Marty Swant

This story first appeared in the Sept. 21 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Recommended articles