98 Creative Campaigns That Caught Our Eye in the First Half of 2023
Creative inspiration for the modern marketer from the past six months
Each Friday, Agency SOS puts out a short email newsletter with three things that caught our eye that week — campaigns, PR stunts, art installations, branded entertainment, and other inspiring bits.
Most marketers are so mired in the day-to-day on their own brands, they often miss interesting ideas from other industries. We highlight three each week and, hopefully, inspire people as they think about the next creative activation for their brand.
Here are the 98 ideas (in chronological order) that caught our attention since January…
01. January headspace
January-vertising is a thing. It’s a big month for categories like gyms (hello new year’s resolutions) and Equinox made a splash with this love-it-or-hate-it New Year’s day ad. “Dry January” is now enough of a cultural event that alcohol alternative campaigns (like this one for Tito’s) are in the mix. But we really liked this one from Headspace, a mindfulness and meditation app. It features a great performance from the lead actress and insightful snippets of the scenarios that make the first month of the year especially challenging.
02. Finding the funny
Healthcare ads are usually serious and heart-string tugging, so we’re happy to see this comedic campaign from Zocdoc and 72andSunny. (To be fair, it does remind us of this great campaign from Duncan Channon from back in the day.) It finds humor in the all-to-common problem of figuring out how to choose a doctor.
Watch the ads and read about the campaign.
03 & 04. Phone twofer
Two phone-related campaigns. First…sometimes an ad just needs a simple visual metaphor that you use over and and over again. That’s what McGarrah Jessee did for Instacart in this nice 30-second spot. Second…we’re suckers for a Rube Goldberg machine viral video, but this one is an inspired demo to advertise CASETiFY’s phone cases. See it. Read about it. Watch the (very cool) behind-the-scenes.
05. Long run
In an era where ads keep getting shorter and shorter, there’s something glorious about an hour-and-twenty-three minute brand film that is a single shot of…running. “Church of the Long Run” by Tracksmith, an east coast running and apparel brand, is a celebration of the things their target audience holds dear: time, space, perseverance, nature. The sound design is as gorgeous as the visuals — meditative and cinematic.
06. Yes you cran
Ocean Spray and agency Orchard produced one of our fave campaigns last year, and they’re back with two new funny spots that demonstrate the power of “cranfidence.” (Puns FTW!) The scenarios give them a vehicle to put LOTS of client-mandated reasons-to-believe (RTBs FTW!) into the body of the spot without making it too cringe. And apparently cranberries make you yell. (Funny screaming FTW!)
07. Lighten up
We have mixed feelings about these sort of big-budget, long-form brand films. On one hand, when done well (like this one) they’re delightful — a piece of movie-like entertainment. But celebrating them sometimes feels like we’re poopin’ on the more traditional, hard-working, short-format ads. There’s room for both and we can admire oranges without demanding that every apple turn into one. With that long preamble…this is a nice story from Ikea (and Rethink) about a troll, a boy, and a new light stand.
08. Crazy delicious vegetables
As super fans of Gritty and Murph and Marjory the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock (look it up) you know we’re suckers for a slightly-unsettling anthropomorphic mascot. So we have to shout out “Veggie Man” from Terra Chips and agency Humanaut. The campaign is in on the joke — they know that the veg-bomination is a terrible way to sell veggies and it becomes a nice foil to highlight their product. There’s a second spot in the “Crazy delicious vegetables” campaign that highlights the absurdity of veggie influencers
09. Go long
One extra one this week! Long copy ads are not dead…if you can find the right gimmick. Take 5 Oil Change and agency Erich & Kallman found one: a 2,380-word print ad that you can read in the time it takes to get your oil changed. There’s a little bit of rambling-in-the-way-school-kids-do-to-hit-the-required-word-count-for-a-school-proejct, but the copy is fun as it riffs on dinosaurs, moose, hot tubs and more.
Read the full ad.
10. Skip the cow
Sometimes “your strategy is showing” can be a diss, but for this new campaign from planted-based butter alternative Flora (and agency Pablo London), it’s actually a compliment. Because the strategy “it’s weird that nobody talks about the fact that butter is, essentially, made inside a cow’s digestive track” is provocative and eye-opening. The spot doesn’t get too clever; the hero makes the point straight to camera. And the tagline “skip the cow” is pretty great.
11. Travel for the not-rich
Kayak (with help from agency Supernatural) has some new ads out that play into the idea “you don’t have to be rich to travel.” The spots with the alien-fish “elites” are especially weird (shout-out to Muse by Clio for calling them “ritual-robed porpoise/penis hybrids”) but the ones featuring human protagonists are a bit more relatable.
12. Tax time
Tax season is upon us, which means the tax prep providers are all rolling out new campaigns. Categories where everybody launches new work at the same time are fascinating because you get to compare how different players land on different answers to the same question.
The biggest one is from TurboTax (and W+K) with a campaign that focuses on “Not Taxes” (all the stuff you can do when you don’t have to worry about taxes. Watch all the spots and read about the campaign. We think “don’t do your taxes” might be a BIT of an over-promise, but can’t deny the ads have style.
11. Filters FTW
Snapchat released a well-crafted new spot this week. Snap has an interesting challenge in that they’re well-known, but not well-understood. (It doesn’t help that competitors keep stealing the features THEY pioneered. Hello, filters!) So the new spot is, essentially, a demo spot, highlighting features, but with enough style to appeal to both its young user base AND the older ad folks the platform needs to attract.
12. Roman numerals
The Super Bowl is coming and it’s going to dominate all the ad chatter for the next few weeks. (When you spend $7M for 30-seconds of air time — and that’s before you’ve paid the talent or shot a frame of film — it’s a make-or-break moment for a lot of marketers.) We’re doing our best to ignore all the teaser hype (AdAge has all the latest teasers here) BUT we do admire this bit of “big game” hijacking from Heinz (and Rethink). Roman numerals are confusing but the ketchup brand provides an easy way to remember what LVII stands for.
13. Horse sense
This is ridiculous, but sometimes ridiculous is a great way to get attention. Lexington, Kentucky’s tourism board (and agency Cornett) hired an animal psychic so that the horses could provide testimonials about the region. Sure, it’s nuts…but we’re featuring small regional tourism ad in this newsletter, so maybe they’re crazy like a fox…er…horse.
14. Celebrity is not an idea
This headline in AdAge caught our eye this week: Rami Malek Meets Catherine Deneuve in Cartier’s Glossy Ad Directed by Guy Ritchie.
Merit of the spot aside (it struck us as sort of meh), the headline made us laugh. It’s the sort of Mad Libs let’s-throw-a-bunch-of-celebs-together pitch that passes as an “advertising idea” these days.
It felt like it could have been generated by ChatGPT, the AI tool that’s all the rage. So…that’s what we did! We asked the AI robots to generate 15 more concepts, based on the same formula as the headline.
Read all 15. Honestly, they’re no worse (and some are a lot better) that the real one.
15. Denim stories
Levi’s launched a new campaign to celebrate the 150th anniversary of 501 Jeans. “The Greatest Story Ever Worn” (from Droga5) debuts on the Grammys this Sunday with three stories inspired by true events. The full campaign will feature 13 different stories and roll out over the course of the year in film, social, outdoor, print, events, activations, and digital.
16. Office destroyer
If you work in tech or adjacent industries, the layoff news has been sort of bleak lately. (FWIW, our founder has some thoughts.) So this campaign from ZenBusiness (and agency Joan) feels well timed: encouraging those who want to start and run their own business. The energetic, stylish spot that launches the campaign features a this-ain’t-quiet-quitting protagonist who destroys the office on her way to something better.
17. Slack disdain
Basecamp has gone 20 years without a brand campaign, so it’s interesting to see their maiden voyage. (Disclosure: we use Basecamp at Agency SOS and dig it; we had nothing to do with these ads.) The project management platform’s campaign uses a time-travel device to point out the absurdity of overly-connected modern work and throws not-so-subtle shade at Slack. It ends with the oh-so appealing “Just let me do my job” tagline.
18. Tiny sub
Regular readers of our newsletter know that we’re suckers for all things miniature. So we liked this new social campaign from Subway in the UK (and agency Taylor Herring) to celebrate the launch of their new Teriyaki Steak Subs. It features the world’s tiniest sub, made by artist Nadia Michaxu.
19. Cheesy jams
Tillamook dropped a cheesy new campaign at the Grammy’s last weekend (that’s not a dig; they’re a cheese brand) with help from agency 72andSunny. “Block Jams” is a cheddar-inspired album with an 80s-infomercial-style teaser.
20. Musical scent
Finding good 15-second spots is one of our obsessions here at SOS. (Anybody can make a 10-minute brand film, but a catchy, hard-working :15 is the true workhorse of the ad biz.) Old Spice (and W+K) managed to cram a body odor musical number into 15 seconds. It’s so fast, you discover something new in each viewing. (We see you, Dancing Deodorant.)
21. Ready for Rihanna
We’ve tried REALLY hard to avoid watching any of the teasers and pre-released Super Bowl spots. But we’ll make an exception for the promotion of Rihanna’s half-time show. Apple Music (the half-time show’s new sponsor) rolled out a few different videos to build anticipation…
First, they gathered a fan from each team and asked them to help sing Rihanna’s hit “Stay.” Some, uh, are better than others, but it’s a fun way to hype Sunday’s performance.
22–26. Five Favorite Super Bowl Ads of 2023
It FELT like a Super Bowl spot. Funny, well-paced, and a good joke where they kept raising the stakes.
A product demo done well. Not sure it needed the celebrities, but you can’t really blame Google for hedging their bets for the big stage.
One of the many dog spots, this was as emotionally manipulative as all the others, but it was done with nice storytelling and production craft.
A 60-second dick joke is hardly highbrow, but it made us laugh, there are some great performances in it, zero celebrities, and the insight that people are more comfortable talking about sexual dysfunction than electric vehicles is pretty inspired.
A charming spot with the scope and humor you want from a big game ad. Good decision to feature Flag Football star Diana Flores instead of the usual cast of NFL players and the bit with her mom was especially fun.
27. Icy slide
For its first brand campaign in five years, Cheez-It (and agency Leo Burnett) go for eye-catching absurdity with a human toboggan and the tagline “Want it, Need it, Cheez-It.”
28. Singing hamster
Pringles had a big game spot last weekend (FWIW, we liked last year’s version better), but their new ad airing in the UK (from Grey London) features a very strange singing hamster. Here’s to weird/stupid ads making a comeback!
Watch the spot and read about the campaign.
Ibotta (and agency Callen) has a new set of spots out in their “There’s Money in Everything You Buy” campaign where they take the tagline quite literally.
30. Advertising in The Times
Two really good pieces in The New York Times this week and we have gift links for both! First is an article entitled “Why are You Seeing So Many Bad Digital Ads Now?” that explains why easy access to digital channels has flooded your feed with, well…crap.
Second, is a deep dive on a part of advertising that many INSIDE the business don’t understand — how ads are served to you on websites. (Advertisers aren’t buying space for a particular site or publication any more, they’re buying somebody with your demographic and then instantly bidding for your attention.) If you’ve ever wondered how “programmatic advertising” works, you should read (or listen) to “How the $500 Billion Attention Industry Really Works.”
31. Got 🌿 millk?
Zing! This new Silk campaign (from agency Orchard) goes after one of advertising’s most iconic campaigns: the “got milk?” mustaches. The ads for plant-based milk feature the offspring of several celebrities that appeared in the original milk mustache efforts from the 1990s and 2000s. It’s a clever way to say “we’re not your parent’s milk.”
See the ads and read about the campaign.
32. Chill ride
A four-HOUR ad that you actually WANT to watch? Well, if not watch, listen to, at least. Nissan (and TBWA NY) tapped into the popularity of lofi YouTube videos (it’s a chill musical genre, boomers) by creating an hours-long animation of a woman driving the ARIYA to a soothing soundtrack. It’s the sort of thing you can put on in the background while you work. “Enjoy the Powerfully Peaceful ARIYA” is a nice way to introduce a new electric vehicle.
33. New Philly cream cheese
Philly may have lost the Super Bowl, but they’re about to win…the plant-based cream cheese game? Oatly is launching the new spread in Philadelphia (the home of that other well-known cream cheese) and they enlisted a fun, funny crew to unveil it.
P.S. Oatly is also running an outdoor campaign…to promote an email newsletter.
OK…for these next three, we did something a little different. Instead of highlighting three campaigns we LIKED that week, we highlighted three that we found MILDLY IRRITATING…
34. Hardcore H2O
Liquid Death is one of the most slobbered-over brands in ad land. It was founded by a creative director who realized that great design and marketing was the key to getting people to pay a ridiculous amount for WATER. They’ve done lots of amazing promotions and built a powerful brand. But their latest — Jackass-esque stunts by dudes dressed as grannies to a death metal soundtrack — feels a little lazy. Their brand lovers will probably go nuts for it and call it subversive and brilliant and it definitely caught our eye…but our eyes rolled a little bit when we saw it.
Watch and read about the campaign.
35. Ryan & Jack
We’ve written about Ryan Reynolds before. We’ll probably write about him again. He garners outsized attention from the advertising press because, well, he’s a movie star who decided to slum it as an ad guy. And he DOES put out lots of great work. (It helps when you’re the client as well as the creative; you don’t say no to yourself.) His new promotion for Mint Mobile is a smart collab-o-tunity with Jack in the Box. The ad trades are high on it. Normal people will be too. Jealous ad-types that aren’t Ryan Reynolds find his shtick vaguely annoying.
Watch and read about the campaign.
We love the Muppets. And, hey, they have to eat, too. So we shouldn’t begrudge them a commercial opportunity. (They’ve been doing ads since the 1950s, so it’s not like it’s a new thing.) But when the Count showed up in an ad for Nerdwallet last week and Oscar is starring in a new campaign for United this week, it sort of…bugs. Childhood heroes shilling for the man! (Using Oscar to green-wash one of the most environmentally destructive industries on the planet is particularly irksome.)
OK…back to stuff we LIKE.
37. Art of soda
You have to tip your hat to a big-budget, visually-inspired spot from one of the world’s biggest advertisers. Coca-Cola has a new one where we can’t even imagine how many VFX hours went into it. In the two-minute film, the iconic bottle travels through artworks by Warhol, Turner, Munch, Hiroshige, Van Gogh, Vermeer and others.
38. Singing suds
Goofy fun from Guinness for their new non-alcoholic brew. The spot (from AMV BBDO) features singing suds and an A+ pun based on the Bonnie Tyler track: “Holding Out for a ZERO.”
39. & 40. Up your game
Video games are BIG business. Two game-related campaigns caught our eye this week:
Home Depot opened a store and Kid’s Workshop experience in Redcliff City, a popular game on Roblox. Created by BBDO and IF7, it’s an inspired foray into a very popular genre: building games.
Read about the campaign and watch gameplay video (with their ear worm theme music playing on a loop!)
Blizzard Entertainment has a new trailer for its Diablo IV game that teases the story through artwork in a French Baroque church. The campaign from 72andSunny and Wildlife looks impressive…but it’s even more so when you realize that it was all painted and shot PRACTICALLY.
41.👂🏼 magic from Apple
Apple, ladies and gentlemen. The best advertiser on the planet. This gorgeous new spot is a visually stunning metaphor for their new AirPods and their ability to “quiet the noise.” The Pixies cover is perfect (and a sly wink to the ad world who used the original track as rip-film fodder for years.) Great stuff from TBWA\Media Arts Lab and Megaforce.
42. 👀 magic from McD’s & DoorDash
A smart, eye-catching outdoor campaign from DoorDash and McDonald’s Canada. “Faster Food” (by agency No Fixed Address) shows what happens when two brands collide: McDonald’s menu meets the speed of Doordash. And the comms strategy — train stations and other commute locations — reinforces the idea of movement. The resulting minimalist boards are as clever as they are gorgeous.
See the outdoor and read about the campaign.
43. 🍺 magic from Coors Light
It’s March Madness, baby. So we have to shout out at least one of the many new basketball campaigns launching this week. Yes, we know food gimmicks are played out and, at this point, lazy PR catnip designed for earned media clicks. But we have a soft spot for the watery deliciousness of Coors Light, so we have to salute Coors Light POPSICLES. The campaign (from Mischief) features Dick Vitale to “provide some chill.”
44. Jump through hoops
In advertising, many clients think the road to success is to say MORE. “If we could just cram a few more features and benefits into this ad, then people would really want our product.” But that’s not true. So it’s always a treat to run into a campaign that doesn’t try to say everything, but says ONE thing…and then doubles down to show how that one thing really is the most important thing. That’s what this ad from Tangerine Bank (and Rethink) does. It’s a jump-through-hoops metaphor brought to life in an eye-catching way.
45. Help any business
Here’s another new example of the “just say one thing” strategy. Squarespace’s new ad offers their simple value proposition: “you can make a website to sell anything.” Then it presents a visual smorgasbord of businesses to prove the point. Simple, eye-catching, and effective.
46. Crashing the hype
There’s something sort of funny about corporate press releases for ad campaigns. For example, Anheuser-Busch put one out this week for their new Stella Artois campaign that talks about “reinvigorating the brand” and “inviting customers to connect over meals” and “focusing on real people and authentic connections.” It’s all eye-roll-y marketing hype. But the actual ads are less heady and a lot more fun — a kinetic, high production value, visual feast. The campaign includes a TV commercial, digital, social, out-of-home, radio, influencers, and partnerships with Yelp and Uber Eats.
47. Play ball!
We make no secret of our admiration for Wieden + Kennedy, probably the best ad agency in the world. And one of the reasons: they turn what, on paper, could be a pretty clichéd concept into something special. The campaign to launch Major League Baseball’s new season is a good example. W+K’s ability to take tons of random footage and turn it into more than the sum of its parts is a testament to editing, music, and craft. The sports anthem ad is well-trod ground, but this campaign does a nice job of modernizing baseball nostalgia.
48. Ketchup fraud
We like this new print and poster campaign from Heinz (and agency Rethink) that’s based on…a viral Snapchat video? The video showed a fast food employee filling up a bottle of Heinz ketchup with NOT Heinz ketchup. The brand dug a little further and discovered it was widespread behavior. Instead of freaking out and sending cease and desist letters to every diner on the planet, they launched this “Ketchup Fraud” campaign to make a point: Heinz IS ketchup.
See the ads and read about the campaign.
49. Lose your head
Sigh. Do we want to write about this canned water brand over and over again? No, we do not. But this one is hard to ignore. Liquid Death has a new spot and promotion about playing hoops with a severed head. (You read that correctly.) It’s just so darn bonkers and wonderfully perverse that you have to tip your cap to them.
50. Bye bye, bro
Eos (with help from Mischief) has a new campaign that pokes fun at the bro-y clichés in the men’s personal care category. The punchable spokes-dude (nice vest, buddy) delivers well-written lines like, “This one has notes of whisky and lumber, with undertones of talking over people.” And the tagline (“Unmanhandle Your Face”) is great.
Midjourney and the other AI tools are transforming the ad world at an incredibly fast pace. It’s early days for the tech, but it’s starting to pop up in campaigns. Like this one for Georgetown Optician, a local optometrist. Agency Design Army developed the “Adventures in A-Eye” (get it?!) campaign with a retro-futurist vibe that’s loaded with style.
52. 💉 face
Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign is an all-time classic. In recent years, it’s advanced the conversation around toxic beauty standards. This bold new billboard (from agency David Miami) is in a Toronto mall and is made from thousands of medical grade syringes. The line on the ad: “Over 50,000 cosmetic injectables were performed on our teens last year.” Yikes.
See the billboard and read about the campaign.
53. 👩🏽 knows…gut health?
OK, this one is a little bit of a long walk, but clever. It’s a digital campaign from Brazil for Sanofi’s Enterogermina, a probiotics brand. The gist? Online gamers eat like crap. So the brand digitized versions of the player’s MOM and sent them into the games to tell them to eat better. The activation (from MRM Spain) was called “Ready Player Mom.” These type of stunts are really done to create the “case study” video which becomes the asset for PR and social. The connection to the product is a bit tenuous, but it’s a good hook and and an original concept.
Watch the video and read about the campaign.
54. ⚽️ destroys
This spot from Nike (and W+K) for the NWSL is probably the best use of a wrecking ball since the Miley Cyrus video, so we had to share it.
55. Underwear origins
Who doesn’t love a big budget historical drama about dancing around in your underwear? Hanes (with help from The Martin Agency) travels back in to the Victorian Age for a historically-inaccurate-but-still-fun look at the “birth” of comfortable undergarments.
56. Seattle micro-adventures
Tourism campaigns are usually variations on a theme, so when one ZAGS instead of zigs, we have to applaud. The design of this one for Seattle Southside (by One Twenty Three West) is smart and delicious. Based on the idea of “micro adventures,” there are bespoke designs for lots of local attractions. And the miniature travel kit is inspired. Ranging from video to digital to outdoor, this is a really well-designed regional campaign.
57. Fill that hole
One singular idea, hammered home in a visually interesting way! This “Nothing Fills a Hole Like Pot Noodle” campaign (from adam&eveDDB) shows…exactly that, in a series of funny still images.
P.S. The pothole angle reminds us of this award-winning campaign from Russia from 2013
58. Creativity in the Age of AI
A LOT has been written about the wave of AI tools that exploded onto the scene in recent months. There’s no question that they are going to cause a lot of upheaval in the creative industries. If your head is spinning, you’re not alone. This video (from SPACE10) is one of the more thoughtful primers about the technology and where the opportunities lie.
It’s worth a watch.
59. Let the hate flow
Marketing directors, what type of brand do you have? A brand where, when there’s bad news or negative comments, you ask your PR team to do everything they can to bury the story? Or a brand where you collect all the negative press and boycotts and nasty feedback…and build out a section of your website for it?
Oatly is the later type of brand.
This marvelously bonkers, self-confident play by the oat drink company is one of those ideas that very, very few clients would say “yes” to — a celebration of consumer hate directed at their brand. Bravo, Oatly.
60. Racecar soars through heavens
Not sure any of us here at SOS HQ are racing fans, but this is really nice piece of filmmaking. The teaser for the new Formula E racing season (by Uncommon London) is compelling, perhaps because it leaves you with more questions than answers.
Press release quotes for new campaigns are notoriously self-important, but this one from Uncommon’s Nils Leonard is accurate: “The goal was something that would move you whether you were into motorsports or not. Something dangerous and beautiful. A kind of dance you can’t take your eyes off.”
61. & 62. Health x 2
If you’ve worked in healthcare, you know it can be a challenge to translate heady, scientific ideas into compelling, accessible advertising. These both do a good job.
Mayo Clinic’s “Transforming Healthcare” campaign features a visually compelling transformation story that hints at the science without getting bogged down in it. Watch and read about the campaign.
Moderna (of vaccine fame) has a lovely new spot (by TBWA\Chiat\Day New York) that uses a piece-of-string metaphor to explain the benefits of mRNA without ever having to explain concepts like “protein synthesis.” Watch it. Read about it.
63. Song about baby butts
Huggies (with help from agency Quality Meats) has a new music-driven campaign saluting the vast variety of baby butts. The charming “We got you, baby” campaign will show up in just about every channel you can think of — Spotify, Pandora, radio, TV, print, digital, social, influencer, and PR. Now THAT’s a 360 media plan!
64. Paper pets
We always like a product-metaphor-brought-to-life. This new “They Are What They Eat” campaign for pet food brand Edgard & Cooper takes the tagline literally and shows that fake food leads to fake pets. The cardboard creatures (from agency We Are Pi) make the point and grab your attention while avoiding (most of) the traditional pet ad tropes.
65. Tale of two chickens
Popeyes released two campaigns this week, on two different continents. The contrast between the two is interesting.
In France, they went for the simple visual pun via outdoor boards. “Pop eyes.” Get it? See the campaign and read about it.
In the U.S., the first campaign from their new agency McKinney rolled out this week. The line is “We don’t make sense. We make chicken.” When you watch, the concept DOES make sense…but it feels more like a strategy manifesto (strate-festo!) then a campaign idea. But, as the kids say, “it’s a vibe,” and it’s not a bad vibe for the chicken chain.
Normally, we highlight campaigns that may have flown under the radar…but for one week, we decided to feature three of gigantic, long-running TV campaigns that are always on. See the next three…
66. Go burger or go home
As you old-school ad aficionados know, Wendy’s is responsible for one the 80’s most viral campaigns (before “viral” was a thing we talked about.) “Where’s the beef?” first aired 39 years ago (feel old?) and defined the brand for a long time. Earlier this year, they updated it to “Square’s the beef?” which is either a desecration or a smart refresh, depending on your POV.
But what we really like about the current campaign (from VMLY&R) is the ensemble of actors that play the Wendy’s employees. The performances, writing, and recurring series make it feel more like an Office-esque sitcom than an ad campaign. That’s been tried a lot, but they actually pull it off here.
These characters have been appearing in ads for about a year, now. You can check out all the current ones here, but two that we especially like:
67. All hail, Lily
Commercial spokesperson is a tougher gig than it seems. Deliver all those RTBs (“reasons to believe”) and still come across as charming and relatable? It’s no wonder that when a brand finds a good one that the public likes, they stick with him/her for a long time.
So let’s hear it for AT&T’s Lily, played by actress Milana Vayntrub. The character was introduced back in 2013, appeared in spots until 2016, and then returned in 2020. (BBDO does the campaign.)
This “Great Estimations” spot that’s currently running is a nice example. She gives a very funny, natural performance AND delivers the product news. Bravo, Lily.
68. Flo and mo’
There’s a reason that insurance companies are some of the most coveted clients by ad agencies: they are MAJOR ad spenders. Since insurance is pretty much commoditized, brand advertising that develops awareness and preference is super important. So recurring characters play a big role in the category.
Progressive (and their agency Arnold) have a multi-tiered campaign strategy. Their mainstay character “Flo,” played by actress Stephanie Courtney, was first introduced in 2008. In recent years, a recurring ensemble has developed around her. Here’s a recent example. This one, too.
In 2015, they introduced a new character, “Dr. Rick” for their ‘parentamorphosis’ campaign. (This elevator spot hits a little close to home, if we’re being honest.) Here’s a good interview with the creative director behind the campaign.
It’s a sprawling, mega-budget effort. But you have to hand it to them…they mix it up, give long-running characters something fresh to do, and are constantly developing new campaigns.
69. Eos gets foxy
Foxes wearing humans as coats? Count us in! No, this isn’t an anti-animal cruelty campaign, it’s a campaign for Eos shave cream. Because the cream makes human skin so soft, even an animal would want to touch it. (There’s a spot with a dog that can’t stop rubbing its owner’s arm, too.) Absurdist fun from agency Mischief. And the tagline “Skin so soft even soft things think you’re soft” is awkwardly wonderful.
70. Rooms relaunch
Let’s be honest: advertising can’t do it all. It’s only a part of the marketing mix. To succeed, your product has to deliver. The newest AirBNB campaign isn’t just an ad campaign, it’s a re-launch of the original product experience: staying in a room in somebody’s house while they’re still there. AirBNB rolled out a whole bunch of new features to address customer concerns and improve the experience. (CEO Brian Chesky walks through them in a new video.) But the ads themselves aren’t loaded with all the details and proof points — they focus on the emotional experience of the stay.
Watch the CEO video (and, boy, Chesky does NOT skip arm day, does he?)
Read about the campaign.
71. Nurse brushstrokes
For National Nurse’s week, GE Healthcare (and agency BBDO NY) found a unique way to celebrate. They commissioned Tim Okamura, a Japanese Canadian artist, to paint portraits of nurses using the number of brushstrokes that corresponded with the number of hours that they cared for others. (Yes, there was tech that tracked the brushstrokes.) A bit of gimmick? Sure. But an artfully executed way to honor caregivers and the idea that their work is never finished.
Watch the video, see the artwork, and read about the campaign.
72. Second best
We like this campaign from Ikea (and agencies David and Ingo) that shows their products NOT in use. “Proudly second best” is a wonderfully insightful concept for this campaign targeting new parents.
73. Existential chickens 🐓
Online gaming company FanDuel just released a new campaign with the line “Winner, winner, free chicken dinner.” And, yes, they’re giving away actual chicken dinners. But it’s the digital spots by agency Mischief that really caught our eye. Stop-motion chickens ask existential questions about faith, purpose, and relationships…before it all comes to an, ah, abrupt end. It’s not your average gambling campaign, that’s for sure.
74. Famous hands 👋🏻
We’ve never heard of Frosty Jack, a budget British cider brand. But we like the thinking behind its first TV campaign: since they can’t really afford an A-list celebrity to promote their product, they’re using a “famous” celebrity hand model instead. The tongue-in-cheek campaign (by McCann Birmingham) is goofy fun.
75. A whole lot of radio 📻
We feature a lot of video and digital campaigns in this newsletter, partially because they come with great imagery to accompany the written blurb. This one doesn’t have a great visual, because it’s a radio campaign. But it’s a great radio campaign: simple, effective…and it features 40,964 unique ads. 🤯 It’s for Gala Bingo in the UK by neverland creative. You really should click below and hear it for yourself. (And how about a moment of silence for the team that had to prep and traffic all those versions?!)
Hear it and read about the campaign.
76. Panic, explained 🎨
We love this explainer video that serves as a promotional piece for animation studio Panic. Not only does it break down the animation process for prospective clients, it shows off their chops in a delightfully insane way.
77. Cold & cheesy
Regular readers know that we hold the hard-working 15-second spot in high regard here at Agency SOS. It is the workhorse of the advertising world. The good ones don’t try to do too much — they land their punch and move on. That’s why we really like these sharp new ones from Kraft (and agency Johannes Leonard) to launch their PREMIUM freezer-section mac & cheese.
78. Health privacy
Apple has gone all in on its “we protect your privacy” strategy in recent years and this new spot is the latest entry in that campaign. “Waiting Room” (from TBWA\Media Arts Lab) features a good voice over from Jane Lynch and taps into the fear that all that health data we’re tracking these days might not be as private as we’d like to think.
79. & 80. Let’s get weird
These are both super weird from two brands that revel in the super weird.
Meow Wolf has a new immersive experience they’re opening in Texas in July and just dropped a new teaser trailer from Preacher. It’s some sort of mall-based madness, but they definitely don’t give too much away about the experience. The mystery is part of the fun. Read about the campaign.
81. Big ketchup goes big
Heinz has done some of the best creative work over the last few years — usually one-off, stunt-y activations that earn media attention thanks to their cleverness. (Like this one.) So it’s fun to see them do a big, traditional TV and digital video campaign, with a 60-second anthem and lots of good 15s. From W+K New York.
82. Get a job
So…have some conflicted feelings about this one, but sharing it because it caught our eye and made us wonder, “Is this the right ad for this brand?” It’s a new one for LinkedIn from Droga5. On the the plus side, it’s a visually dynamic allegory for finding a job. The young girl who dances her way through different “professions” is charming. Production values are strong. “Find your In” is a good line. But…using kids to sell a job search has been done before and it was one of the best ads of all time, so the bar is high. Plus…does this really make anybody want to use LinkedIn?
83. Dating outdoor
We like good outdoor and this is a nice batch from Match (and Mojo Supermarket.) Launching in LA and NYC with the tagline “Adults Wanted,” the campaign hypes the dating app as a place where grownups gather. Toxic dating stories are a dime a dozen, so this campaign focuses on the idea that there ARE good ones still out there.
See and read about the campaign here.
84. Multi Crypto GPT Mega A.I.
We like this B2B campaign because it skewers consultants AND the current unrelenting A.I. hype.
85. Suds sounds
Food photography is its own specialized niche in ad land. While there are plenty of practitioners, those at the top of the food chain (pun intended) bring a unique craft to the art form. This new campaign for Miller Genuine Draft by Chuck Studios is a great example. Beer has been photographed a million times…so is it even possible to creative an own-able visual style for your brew? Chuck developed a new “culinary identity” for Miller, based on the way sound waves ripple through the beer. It’s pretty cool.
86. Bye, bye bland
Writing from the “greige” walls of SOS global HQ, this one hits a little close to home, but it’s a well-done campaign from Wayfair in the UK (and BBH London). It encourages homeowners to escape the dystopian catalogue world of minimalist bland furniture into something more colorful. It’s the opening spot in their new “Go your own Wayfair” creative platform.
87. LinkedIn means business
Last week (#82, above), we questioned a LinkedIn brand campaign where the link to the product experience was tenuous, at best. So it’s interesting that they dropped another campaign this week that’s MUCH more focused on selling the product benefits. The funny ads (from Maximum Effort) make the point that LinkedIn is THE platform to advertise if you’re trying to reach at B2B audience. And we like the line: “The place to B…2B”
88. Swatch art
Good lord! The time and craft that went into this is so special, we had to highlight it. Artist Rachel Spelling paints small scenes onto individual color squares in vintage paint swatch books. Take that, A.I. art robots!
See and read about the miniature paintings.
89. Longest ad ever
Fentimans, a UK soft drink and mixer, created the world’s longest ad — a 168-hour film that celebrates their unique botanical brewing process which takes (you guessed it) seven days. Filmed with one static camera in the Northumberland countryside, it follows Fentimans’ master brewer as he watches over a batch of Rose Lemonade for seven days, filling the time juggling, plate spinning, and learning to speak Bulgarian.
The ad aired live on their website starting on June 1 and the full 168-hour video is now posted in its entirety. Why would anybody ever watch a 168-hour video? That’s where the campaign (from Orange Panther Collective) gets clever — they’ve hidden easter eggs in the footage and by finding them, you can enter to win prizes.
(FWIW, the ad shattered the old record, a 14-hour ad by Old Spice.)
90. Life (and love) is messy
Sometimes you just appreciate the craft of a campaign…even when the connection to the product is a bit tenuous. This new one for Kruger (and agency Broken Heart Love Affair) is a lovely piece of film that shows a variety of couples from first kiss to old age. The line “life is messy…love is messier” is supposed to tee up the fact that this is an ad for (checks notes)…paper towels and tissues? Even if the ending is a bit of a record-scratch, the rest of the spot delivers the feels.
91. Natural intelligence
The marketing world is obsessed with the new crop of AI tools. You can create a fantastical image, just by typing in a few words. This new print and outdoor campaign from Nikon (and agency Circus Grey Peru) reminds us that our REAL world is full of natural beauty that is often much more incredible than any AI generated photo. We like the line: “Don’t give up on the real world.”
92. Temporary sauces
Heinz is a brand that’s embraced a “flood the zone” strategy of lots of small creative bets. Instead of putting all their marketing eggs in one basket, they put out a variety of PR-driven mini-campaigns. Their latest focuses on borderline “celebrities” extending their 15-minutes of fame to promote their limited-time sauces.
See and read about the campaign.
93. The Queen’s brew
Howard Gossage said, “Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” It’s a famous, smart quote about our business. So we like it when brands make something entertaining first and foremost. Instead of making an ad, UK brewery Beavertown made a new music video for band Queens of the Stone Age that’s set inside the design-world of one of their craft brews.
94. Winning streak
Brand apparel collabs happen all the time. So how do you gain attention for yours? Nudity! And a sense of humor. PUMA and NOAH made an eye-catching video with an original take on tennis interruptus. Extra props to the writer who convinced them to go all-in with the “winning streak” pun.
95. Sweaty billboard
To promote a new movie, Netflix made a billboard where Chris Hemsworth SWEATS on passersby. First, ew. Second, bravo. If you’re not in LA or NYC to catch the stunt-y outdoor (from agency Omelet) IRL, you can watch the teaser video shared on socials (which is really the point of these single-location executions: content and PR!)
96. Hardcore vs. happy
Speaking of sweat…New Zealand-based fitness brand Les Mills made “the worst sports commercial of all time” to show that working out doesn’t have to be hardcore toxic. The launch film (from agency nice&frank) encourages people to “choose happy” instead. It’s big and sweaty and shouty and features a celebrity and A-list commercial director and is a nice way for the brand to introduce itself to the U.S. market.
97. Death tunes
Yes, we know Liquid Death is always up to something outrageous. You’d think we’d be immune to their no-normal-client-would-approve-this marketing activations. But they do it so well, you gotta respect their game. The latest? A K-tel-esque (look it up, kids) Greatest Hits album of NSFW pop songs based on internet hate for the brand. (That’s not a sentence we expected to ever type, which shows you what a great idea it is.)
This breakdown of Liquid Death’s creative strategy is a good read, too.
98. Barbie IS everywhere
This tweet got a lot of attention this week: “The devil works hard, but Barbie’s marketing team is INSANE.” If you feel like the Barbie promo machine is in overdrive leading up to the release of the new movie in a few weeks, you’re not wrong.
See the full visual tread for many of the promotions, licensing deals, and stunts that are hyping the film.
Yes, 238 bonus links are too many bonus links, but here they are:
Alphaputt | French Lottery | 2023 Predictions | Clothesline Creatures | LOL Verifier | Lil Interns | Nude Billboard | Code Rebrand | 10 Favorite Campaigns of 2022 | UK McDonalds | Fizz Creature | Massive Stacker | DIY TikTok | Unimaginable Burger | TV Dad | RIP Leon | Crocheted Food | Not W+K | Slow Checkout | Prison Break | Home Depot Theme | Apple Action | Schmear Socks | Potato Power | 3D How-To | Perfectly Normal | Typography Trends | Papier Mache | The last ad from the last big ad agency on Madison Avenue | Snow Showroom | Metal Granny | Hear Clearly | Govt Font | Design Process | Too Cool | Job Hunt | Unsavory Concoctions | Lex Identity | Pleasure Portraits | Predictionary | Ring Bell | Colour Clash | Expedia Nothing | Valentine’s Escape | Bottle Story | Heated Court | Chalamet Apple | Marketing Memes | McDoorways | Luna Luna | Shift Happens | Tabasco Influencers | LeBron Record | Empty Jars | Brand Building | Island Voicemail | Scorpion Valentine | Bar Groundhog | Cost of SB Ads | Axe Oops | New 7Up Identity | No Jingles or Mascots | Peeps-Flavored Pepsi | NBA Augmented Dunk | Ikea Posters | 55 Classic Apple Ads | Sore Throat OOH | Open Circuits | Count Counts | Sunny Death Metal | Swoop & Poop | A Life in Plastic | Shopify AI | 7up Oh Yes | Wanpy Packaging | Oscar Gift Bags | Tinder Campaign + New Spot | Schweppes Musical | Good $#!T for Women | Smart Marshalls Campaign | I’m On | .57-second Spot | Kitschy Merch | Typography Murals | Are Personas B.S.? | Sports Change Lives | We Forked Up | Mario’s Shoes | Love Your Stache | Lasso Gear | EEAAO Behind the Scenes | Ranch Ice Cream | Spring Break Iceland | Cardboard Wildlife | Jack Link’s WTF | Founder Influencers | Stop Making Sense Teaser | Great interview with the founder of Liquid Death | Heinz Goes Absolut | No ❤️ for NYC’s New Logo | Global Type Report | Toy Flat Lays | Golden Syrup Goes for GenZ | Aicoken Rebrand | Marketers Prep for Possible TikTok Ban | Mammoth Meatball | Sticky Note Monster | Pigeon Poop Promotion | Pepsi’s New Logo | John Singer Sargent | Snapchat Pantone Finder Lens | Dip Roller | Gucci Outdoor | Organizing Ideas | French Cinderella | Boot Moves | Grass Slippers | Big Bean | Oily Warrior | B&Q Behind-The-Scenes | Giant Receipts | How to Get an Ad Job | A Dark Look at Agency Ageism | The Barbie Trailer | For Sale Sign Upgrades | Car to Goalpost | Worlds / Mood Boards | Care Like Crazy | We Fixed This Toilet | 101 Design Rules | Creative Bar Codes | Wendy’s Roasts | Rack Logo | Let Nature Do the Job | 40 Years of GS&P | Ad Agency Lifecycle | Remote Protection for Sports Fans | Hate the Planet? | Fresh Design | Wee Snoop Like Wine | British Curiosi-teas | La Dolce Velveeta | Pets @ Home | Senior Condoms | Popcorn Billboard | Eurovision Trailer | Japanese Ink | Virgin Rips Off Toy Story | Pizza Menus | Two Lids | Beer for Olds | Gut Bomb | Case Study Lessons | Flower Men | Brand Building vs. Performance Marketing | There Are Only 8 Different Communication Briefs | Brand Poetry | Cat Inheritance | Streaming Undies | Sky Billboard | Digital Street Art | DIY Mini Coopers | New Jim Beam Packaging & Campaign | Jony Ive Typeface Obsession | Savage (and accurate) Satire of 2023 Marketing | Netflix documentary on Paula Scher | Infinite Motion Movement Designs | Lacoste 90 | Behind The Scenes @ Oatly | BudMag | Canada Dry Seal | Bubble Bath Trouble | Odd Harry’s | New Nick Logo | Thank You | Modern Life in Type | Ode to Bad | How Great Happens | ESPN | Snapple Mmmarket | Miranda Rebrand | NIL $ for Nurses | BMW Films Return | OOHA | BK Confusion | Etsy Lamp | Ads with Spelling Mistakes | Branding a City | 70s Jingle Returns to UK | Pepsi Summer Spot | Complimentary Mirrors | Absurd Animations | BK Time Machine | MullenLowe’s New Octopus | Grimace Turns 52 at McDs | Insurance Boy Band | New VW Bus Outdoor | AdobeExpress Goes AI | Volvo Unboxing | Snoop’s Munchie Meal | AI Commercial Nightmare | Fridge Gazing | Battling ChatGPT Billboards | Luxe Travel Sweats | Dog-Friendly Office | Appliance or Cake? | Bleak Lotto | Does Capitalism Suck? | Useful Directory of Creative Things | Classical Graffiti | Gourmet Guard | Dough-ploma | Scale Model of Time | Lululemon Leggings | Photoshop Adds AI | The Barbie Trailer | Good Advice for Freelancers | Pinterest Design System | HOKA’s Fly | Channel 4’s Looping Idents | Environmental Disaster, The Musical | Jason Biggs Hypes Pie | Vivid Oil Paintings | 1966 Baby Secret | Super Mario X Oreo | Bang & Olufsen Avatars | I ❤️ You Acrobat | 🤯 Stop-Motion Time Lapse | A.I. Art at MOMA | Vision of Old Spice | Healthcare Factory | Chat GPT Cheat Sheet | Fiat Color
🏆 2023 CANNES WRAP: This is one of the best recaps of this year’s festival that we’ve seen. In case you missed ’em, here are links to ALL the Cannes Lions Grand Prix winning case studies. Here’s a link to the Gold, Silver and Bronze winners. Here’s a link with all the shortlist and winner lists for each category.
And one last one…
🕯 This plea to advertisers to STOP making novelty candles!
LAST YEAR’S LINKS: