The Year in Creativity: 24 Trends That Drove Some of the Best Advertising in 2015

Gender identity, outdoor tech, anti-endorsers and much more

As 2015 comes to a close, we've picked our Ads of the Year, including Geico's "Unskippable" at No. 1. And now it's time to look at the trends that informed some of the year's most creative work. In no particular order:

 

Powerful Women

If 2014's female empowerment ads were all about what it means to be beautiful, 2015's were about what it means to be strong. Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey were among the year's most buzzed-about athletes (Rousey even turned Carl's Jr.'s sexism on its head). RAM's female-focused ad about courage was one of the year's most stirring. And Always' "Like a Girl" campaign found a new rallying cry with a single word: "Unstoppable."

 

LGBT Mainstreaming

In 2014, Honey Maid and a few other brands made high-profile ads with gay couples. In 2015, dozens of other companies (Campbell's, Wells Fargo, etc.) followed suit—achieving the remarkable feat of making such ads almost unremarkable.

 

Gender Identity

It was a huge year for gender issues in pop culture, and some marketers bravely joined the conversation—among them, Google, Japanese cosmetic brand Shiseido, Pot Noodle and Magnum ice cream, whose "Be True to Your Pleasure" campaign was one of the coolest of the year.

 

Anti-Endorsers

Ricky Gervais, Ewan McGregor, Isla Fisher and Neil Patrick Harris were among the celebs who delivered bemused, cynical, even openly (if jokingly) reluctant endorsements this year—comically biting the hand that fed them.

 

Saving the Planet

Creativity informed environmental work in 2015 like never before. M&C Saatchi Stockholm's brilliant interactive site for SPP used a slider to toggle between clean and polluted versions of the year 2045. Pentagram designed climate change posters completely out of emojis. DDB Stockholm's Rag Bags famously turned shopping bags into recycling containers. And Fred & Farid embodied client Biocoop's mission by rethinking every element of its ad production process to be as green as possible.

 

Saving Ourselves

Ad agencies also made lives better this year through creative innovations. Most notably, there was Grey London's LifePaint for Volvo, the celebrated invisible safety spray designed to make cyclists and others visible on the road at night, as it becomes reflective in the glare of headlights. Among the other inventions: the "Lucky Iron Fish," advertised by Geometry Global, which helped Cambodians battle iron deficiency; and Grey Singapore's "Life Saving Dot," which provided iodine to Indian women through the decorative bindis on their foreheads.

 

Livestreaming

Meerkat and Periscope both launched early in the year, and the race was on for brands to try their hand at live video content. Target, Red Bull, Mountain Dew, Coach, GE, Taco Bell, DKNY and Nissan were among the early adopters, broadcasting everything from private events to office tours to announcements of product offers.

 

Simple Logos

The biggest logo debates in 2015 were about the simplest designs. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush's stripped-down logos caused the biggest stirs in the political world, while Google had the most-discussed corporate rebrand—which was itself a simplification. The cleverest logo of all came from Sonos, which was brilliantly designed for online use—thanks to an optical illusion, it appears to vibrate as the user scrolls down a page.

 

Emojis

Was there a brand in 2015 that didn't create an emoji—or a whole keyboard's worth? Starbucks, Dove and Star Wars whipped up hashtag-triggered custom emojis on Twitter. But Coca-Cola topped them all—getting emojis on Twitter and into working web URLs.

 

Trolling

Yes, brands trolled each other (Burger King's McWhopper proposal to McDonald's was a highlight). But the biggest win came from a consumer trolling on behalf of a brand—Mike Melgaard posing as a Target customer service rep on Facebook and hilariously excoriating commenters critical of the retailer's move to gender-neutral toy labeling.