Advertising and the Internet have changed the way each approaches content. Today, ads aren’t mere product descriptions or convenient TV breaks. They’re mini marvels of cinema art, complete with complex musical soundtracks and compelling narratives.
In 2017, the top ads were shared millions of times throughout the world. Here, we look at those ads — and the creative teams that brought them to life.
Anomaly for Budweiser: Born the Hard Way
Budweiser’s long history of epic Super Bowl ads has turned the company into its own toughest competition. 2017’s ad, produced by Anomaly, rose to the challenge. The ad, “Born the Hard Way,” pairs old-fashioned American grit with modern American cinematography to tell the story of a German immigrant who comes to the New World with a dream. A classical movie soundtrack pulls us through the one-minute ad to a conclusion that required Anomaly to take a risk.
That risk paid off. The ad’s message — that it’s hard to succeed as an immigrant entrepreneur in any country — found resonance among millions of viewers because it landed in a time when anti-immigrant political rhetoric had found a home in the White House. That’s why the video below has nearly 30 millions views at the time of this writing.
Founded in 2004, Anomaly received Ad Age’s 2017 Agency of the Year Award on the strength of their 44 percent increase in revenue and their 14-for-14 record pitching well-developed campaigns to major brands, including Apple’s Beats by Dre, Campbell’s Soup, Coty and Coca-Cola.
The driving force behind Anomaly’s success can be summed up in this succinct quote from retired Army General Eric Shinseki, a favorite of Anomaly partner Jason DeLand: “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.”
Barton F. Graf for Clash Royale: The Last Second
Multiplayer online game Clash Royale won a Mobile App Game of the Year Award in 2016. In this ad produced by Barton F. Graf, a pink-haired archer releases a final arrow in the last second of an epic battle. We watch as the arrow flies in slow-motion, backed by cinematic vocals. What happens as the clock ticks zero is as satisfying as the rest of the ad is suspenseful.
A related ad, Clash Royale #2, was the most-viewed YouTube ad of 2017, according to the agency. Barton F. Graf made a name for itself in 2017 when it came to YouTube ads: it picked up two Google awards, including #TheYouTubeAd That’s Your Guilty Pleasure Award for “Hay Day 360” and #TheYouTubeAd That Knows No Limits for “Clash of Clans: How Do We Get Over There?”
Cheil for Samsung India Service: We’ll Take Care of You Wherever You Are
Cheil produces ad content worldwide under the agency’s tagline, “Ideas That Move.” This spot for Samsung India, “We’ll Take Care of You Wherever You Are” has music at the heart of its story as well as its message. The ad begins by following a Samsung technician on a perilous drive through rural India, to the sounds of Mohit Chauhan’s “Beh Chala.” When he finishes his repair, the music changes — and the story ends on a note that grabbed over 150 million views in 2017 alone.
The agency’s ability to encompass “move” in all of its connotations in turn moves its success; among other accolades, Cheil Worldwide received one silver and 10 bronze Cannes Lions in 2017 alone.
David&Goliath for Kia: Hero’s Journey
In “Hero’s Journey,” a 2017 Super Bowl ad featuring the hybrid Kia Niro, Melissa McCarthy plays herself — and she’s on a mission. Unable to say “no” to a single environmental cause, the hapless McCarthy finds herself falling out of trees, crashing into ice floes and facing down a charging rhinoceros. The soundtrack? Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need a Hero,” an inspired choice by ad agency David&Goliath that lends the perfect tongue-in-cheek touch to the storyline.
The ad grabbed over a quarter million views in 2017, making the Kia Niro a household name and boosting the success of NiroBot, an AI chatbot users could interact with during the 2017 Super Bowl.
Most powerful of all, perhaps, was the message behind David&Goliath’s entire integrated campaign: You don’t have to be an eco-warrior to drive an eco-friendly vehicle … but if you become a warrior, your Niro has your back.
Dude Perfect: Oreo Dunk Challenge
Dude Perfect started as a group of friends shooting videos of sports stunts for their own amusement. Their antics were so successful that brands like Ruffles and Oreo have sponsored videos. “Oreo Dunk Challenge,” in which the team dunks giant Oreo cookies using nothing but Ping-Pong balls, raises its excitement with a soundtrack that switches between quiet suspense and rock n’ roll excitement with perfect timing.
Dude Perfect has one of the most successful independent YouTube channels in history. They’re going down in history in other ways, as well, such as by landing in the Guiness Book of World Records with one particularly exciting basketball stunt. If they keep partnering up for fun ad content, soon they’ll be at least as recognizable as the brands they work with.
FCB West for Levi’s: Circles
Music is a nearly universal human creation, and so is its movement-based sibling, dance. In “Circles” for Levi’s, agency FCB West’s sensitive combination of dance shots over the head-bobbing beat of Jain’s “Makeba” results in a video that’s half advertisement, half high-art documentary.
“Different cultures, religions and groups all share dance as a common unifier,” said FCB West, “and when we come together to celebrate, we all dance in a circle — a forum for connections and individual self-expression.” The ad focuses on celebrating commonalities in a divided world, and in doing so, it zeroes in on one of the agency’s core philosophies: Stand for Something.
Johannes Leonardo for Adidas: ORIGINAL is Never Finished
Is “ORIGINAL Is Never FInished” an advertisement, or an art video? Agency Johannes Leonardo presents a compelling argument either way in this addition to Adidas’ “ORIGINAL” series. Outstanding cinematography paired with a gritty arrangement of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” create the kind of visual world that art students want to impress.
But don’t assume “ORIGINAL is Never Finished” is for art elites only. Snoop Dogg makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance in this ad, and the combination of well-composed artistic homages with graffiti-filled street shots and a neighborhood choir demonstrate that not only is original never finished, it’s found where you least expect it.
What’s next for Johannes Leonardo? To start, the next iteration of the ORIGINAL series. “Scoring the film is a recreation of Inaya Day’s “Keep Pushin’,” says the agency, “which has been remade into a powerful electronic anthem for the long-form film, and which will appear in multiple unique iterations across the various pieces of the campaign.” We can hardly wait.
Iconoclast for Dior: Miss Dior, the New Eau de Parfum
Sia’s “Chandelier” stars side by side with actress Natalie Portman in this Miss Dior ad created by agency Iconoclast. Matching subtle changes of color palette with the song’s aural ebb and flow, the agency builds a story about the myriad ways in which women express love without a single heavy-handed moment to ruin the mood. The result? A video ad so powerful, you’d swear you smelled the perfume.
Natalie Portman has been one of the faces of Dior since 2010. Under the direction of creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, the brand is taking a public turn toward celebrating the women who for 70 years have supported it. The millions of viewers of Iconoclast’s ad would probably say that the brand and the agency have figured out how to do just that.
Leo Burnett for Mr. Clean: Cleaner of Your Dreams
Hang on for the steamiest cleaning ad you’ve ever seen.
Produced by agency Leo Burnett as Mr. Clean’s 2017 Super Bowl spot, “Cleaner of Your Dreams” has a sitcom feel visually, but turns up the heat with a sensual theme by Eggplant Collective. The result is silly, yet somehow enticing.
Leo Burnett works globally with partners like McDonald’s, Buick and Nintendo. With 111 million pairs of eyes on the Super Bowl, the agency noted the importance of ads that would stick in viewers’ memories. “Cleaner of Your Dreams” fit the bill, according to the agency: The spot was viewed 2.8 million times on Facebook before it ever hit the Super Bowl airwaves. AdWeek called it “a perfectly bizarre, shareable, Super Bowl-worthy twist” on the iconic brand character, awarding it a Top 5 slot when it first aired.
We agree. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have a floor to scrub.
TBWA for Apple: The Rock x Siri Dominate the Day
Can Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson take on any more work? “That sounds like a challenge,” Johnson says to kick off this ad by agency TBWA for Apple’s iPhone 7. Together, The Rock x Siri Dominate the Day as the former drives his own Lyft, flies a jet, paints the Sistine Chapel and launches a fashion line — before lunch. The Rock even fits in a music lesson, which is melded perfectly into the ad’s upbeat, smile-inducing soundtrack.
To launch the iPhone 7 within television’s shorter-ad confines, Apple cut the original into three smaller spots. The full video nears the four-minute mark, making it the perfect snackable online content. The result is an ad that’s been shared millions of times, not because it plugs the iPhone 7 but because it’s silly, fun, and refreshing — implying that TBWA’s moniker, “The Disruption Company,” is well-earned.
Lead image by: Jon Flobrant