The Best of 2016 Advertising: Artist Collabs and Social Justice

As 2016 winds down, we were inspired to go back and look at some of our favorite advertising campaigns of the year. When we started compiling our list, one thing we noticed immediately is an unusual amount of inspiration in this year’s cohort. In addition to a bunch of amazing artist collaborations, this year’s ads included more appeals to social justice stuff and brought more diversity to who represented certain brands.

Abstract Thinking

One great example to start with is this Morton Salt ad, done in collaboration with OK Go. The ad promotes Morton’s “Walk her walk” campaign (based on the girl in their classic logo), which works to support non-profits working in fields like arts education and reducing water scarcity.
What’s great about this ad is that it comes out of nowhere. After all, no one expects much from a salt company, and we’ll all likely continue to buy Morton salt anyway. But Morton still decided to make the commercial, and that’s a testament to the fact that modern brands understand that they’re being held to a higher standard by consumers.
Another great example of unusual collaboration is the Wes Anderson directed H&M ad that came out this Christmas season. The four minute ad captures the director’s unique and idiosyncratic style and is more of a short film than the “in your face” 30 second commercial we’re used to seeing on TV. While the ad does get to show off some H&M clothes, it does so subtly, again, putting art before the hard sell.
Rounding out our list of amazing collabs is this Spike Jonze-directed Kenzo perfume ad, which takes some perfume ad stereotypes and turns them on their head by going “off the rails” and grabbing the audience’s attention through its sheer unconventionality.

A Call for Social Justice

A surprising number of ads this year tapped into the zeitgeist of equality and social justice. This Secret deodorant ad shows the real anxieties of a transgender woman using the restroom, and makes the point better than many more serious outlets did.
Similarly, this CoverGirl Lash Equality commercial features their first male CoverGirl and a woman in a hijab, and does so casually, without being too heavy handed or calling attention to itself. By doing this CoverGirl took a chance, knowing that a certain portion of their demographic wouldn’t like the move, but the campaign ultimately received an overwhelmingly positive response.
This promo for the Rio Paralympics was shown in the UK, but immediately went viral worldwide. The ad features people with disabilities as the real “superhumans,” by showing them performing an incredibly wide range of skills. Another great aspect of this ad is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously either, helping to give a relatable, human portrayal of artists with disabilities.
We’re really excited to see marketers putting their best foot forward with impactful, adventurous, memorable advertising campaigns. Did you have an ad you particularly liked this year? We want to know! Shoot us an email, or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter!
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