Here Are the 12 Best Facebook Marketing Campaigns From the Past Year

Winners show what works in social

The Ice Bucket Challenge was the past year's best use of Facebook marketing, according to the social network, which just announced its ad award winners. It's no surprise the viral campaign got so much praise—Mark Zuckerberg even participated.

Zuckerberg was one of the millions of people to douse themselves in ice water to raise awareness for ALS in what became a powerful moment for online marketing. The best part was that it cost the ALS Association no money to generate all that attention—440 million people saw the videos.

The lesson was not lost on Facebook, which is holding it up as an example of how to use the platform for maximum impact.

This year marked the fourth Facebook Awards, which are timed to coincide with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity—starting next week—where the ad world assembles to honor its top creative work.

Facebook executives also attend Cannes to meet with brands and agencies to discuss the kind of work that can be done using the platform. The social network has been expanding its global presence, too, now seeing more than half its ad revenue come from overseas.

"Facebook continues to see significant business growth internationally, especially in the Asia-Pacific region," said Kelly Maclean, leader of Facebook's emerging markets ad products. "More businesses are connecting with the right people in ways that are unprecedented."

This year, award entries came from twice as many countries—more than 160—as last year, according to the company.

It also was the first year Facebook included winners with Instagram ad campaigns, and video was a core piece of the ad mix, as well.

"The two big things were mobile—people building for where people are—and the other was video," said Mark D'Arcy, chief creative officer of the Facebook Creative Shop. "Seventy percent of submissions this year involved video as an essential component of how they were building a brand story."

Facebook pulled in $12.5 billion in ad revenue in 2014, and mobile ad sales now makes up more than 70 percent of the business. Instagram is just starting to scale.

Facebook chose six award categories looking at the creative content, social strategies, use of targeting technology and results.

"The question I get more than any other is, 'What is the single best ad on Facebook?'" D'Arcy said. "And the answer is as diverse as the people on Facebook."

Brands, agencies and marketers are using Facebook in ways that can switch up creative depending on the audience, tailoring the promotion based on a consumer's interests, background and geography. D'Arcy calls it the science of building relevance.

Here's a look at the top 12 campaigns from the last year—the winners that took home blue, gold and silver honors: (The other winners and notable campaigns can be found here.)

Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Association

Award category: Facebook for Good (blue winner)

In the summer of 2014, people living with ALS raised awareness of the condition by having people all over the world dump buckets of ice water over their heads and post videos of it, issuing a challenge to the next person to do the same.

Goals: Awareness, online traffic, sales.

Results: 17 million videos from 159 countries, including ones made by Will Smith, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg, generated 70 billion video views and raised $220 million. Zero dollars were spent to promote the challenge, and 440 million people saw it.

Like A Girl

Procter & Gamble

Leo Burnett Toronto, Chicago, London/Holler

Award category: Craft (blue winner)

With the hashtag #LikeAGirl, the Always feminine-hygiene brand confronted gender norms by asking people to change their perception of what it means to "act like a girl." The videos spread all over social media, showing young kids giving positive representations of how to run, throw and punch like a girl.

Goals: Drive an emotional connection to Always, build awareness and boost purchase intent.

Results: Emotional connection rose from 38 percent to 41 percent. Ad recall from people who saw the ads was 47 percent, and brand linkage was 59 percent. It was the most watched video in Procter & Gamble history with 76 million views globally. Top-of-mind awareness from the campaign's target audience rose 9 percentage points to 58 percent. Earned impressions hit 250 million. Purchase intent among teens rose from 40 percent to 60 percent.

#KISSaLOT—The World Under the Mistletoe