2019 has been another tumultuous year hasn’t it?
There’s been moments of unbridled joy and sporting achievement at the cricket and rugby world cups.
We’ve had the never-ending B**x*t saga, growing climate change angst and global trade wars.
Thomas Cook went bust after almost 180 years.
It’s no wonder we’ve consoled ourselves with social media distractions like the Wagatha Christie / Vardygate scandal.
For businesses and brands, 2019 has been a tricky year: navigating a post #MeToo era, responding to climate concern, and helping customers make sense of a changing world.
So, who got it right? In no particular order, the Freshfield team look at some of the campaigns that caught their eye.
Gillette – The Best Men Can Be
Back in January, Gillette took a bold and brave step by targeting an audience beyond the rugged, masculine man. It tapped into challenges facing men in a modern world and highlighted so-called ‘toxic masculinity’ in a bid to promote better male role models and behaviours. A microsite even explained the rationale behind it. The campaign created a stir and some said Gillette risked losing its core audience by emasculating men, but it was also praised for reaching out to women – the wives, girlfriends and partners who may buy and influence what their men do.
Coldplay – Everyday Life
Marketing budgets for the world’s top artists can be staggering, but Coldplay took a very different approach to advertising their newest album Everyday Life. Harking back to a simpler way of life, the band bought classified advertising space in local newspapers like the Daily Post in North Wales to reveal the album’s track listing and give hints about its release.
EXCLUSIVE: @coldplay have made a world-first album reveal in a North Wales Daily Post newspaper advert #wearenorthwales #northWales #Coldplay1919 #Coldplay #EverydayLife #musicnews #Album #Wales #Cymru https://t.co/wvNmCtL11F
— North Wales Live (@northwaleslive) 23 October 2019
The ‘low-key’ launch was a huge success with the story being covered by the BBC, Guardian, ITV, NME.com and many others. It’s a great example of how thinking differently can generate positive PR and proof that print advertising is not dead! Interestingly, Coldplay scored another PR success when they announced in November that they would not take the new album on tour because of the impact it would have on the climate.
Spotify – Listen Like You Used To
What I love most about this campaign is not just the end product you see on the billboards. It’s the hours of strategy, planning and audience mapping that will have taken place months before anything was printed. Dull I know, but in this campaign the devil is in the detail.
— Campaign (@Campaignmag) 20 September 2019
Not only did Spotify identify an opportunity to grow its business and increase memberships, but the marketing team were able to really tap into what would resonate most with a very targeted audience. Age and location variable, the adverts are funny, clear and nostalgic and give a sense of Spotify providing continuity in a changing world.
Extinction Rebellion – Declaring a Climate Emergency
Whether you agree with their controversial approach or not, there’s no denying Extinction Rebellion has been hugely successful in communicating its objectives, attracting people from all walks of life, and getting global media coverage – all with a limited budget. It has grown quickly into a worldwide movement by demanding action on climate change through nonviolent civil disobedience, marches and protests. For me it’s the protesters’ homemade signs (made from recycled cardboard of course), I love most. It shows that even at the most desperate of times, humour and creativity can provoke thought, help a campaign stand out and stay on message.
Channel 4 – Complaints Welcome
What better way to let people know about your complaints procedure than making an advert to highlight the real-life complaints you’ve had? The premise itself is not new with ‘letters to the editor’ and shows like the Beeb’s Points of View having long blazed a trail in media transparency. For me it was the execution of this campaign, getting famous Channel 4 faces to read out the often offensive criticism of them and their shows, which made it work. There was a bigger message here too. In a world where controversial views are often shut down and ignored, it was a great way of Channel 4 saying, “We might not agree with you, but we respect your right to an opinion”.
Hovis – The Boy on the Bike
Iconic baker Hovis looked to the past for its big advertising push of 2019, re-releasing the iconic ‘Boy on the Bike’ advert from the 1970s. The original advert, directed by Hollywood legend Sir Ridley Scott, depicts a young boy delivering bread on a steep, cobbled street. Re-releasing the advert was a great story in its own right: Hovis worked with the British Film Institute to remaster the original film and re-recorded the classic score working with descendants of the original Ashington Colliery brass band. Hovis felt its blend of nostalgia, gentle pace and heartwarming story would work with modern audiences more used to a hard sell. The re-release made national media headlines and was widely shared on social media.
Sudocrem – Soothing Families
I absolutely love this advert from Sudocrem. The ad is based around the concept of ‘soothing families’ and is set in a tranquil Japanese garden, featuring three computer-generated Pandas gracefully practicing Tai chi on stepping stones. The reason I like this campaign is because in such a busy, hectic world (especially online) this advert brings a brief oasis of calm and gives viewers a moment to just stop, breathe and enjoy the ad. It also delivers an outstanding tagline about Sudocrem’s power not just to heal skin irritations, but to promote family wellbeing.
AC Milan – Sempre Milan
As both a design geek and huge sports fan, this campaign to rebrand one of the world’s most famous football clubs got me more than a little excited. Hats off to design agency Dixon Baxi which was challenged to create the next chapter for a brand with an illustrious 120-year history. The new identity focuses on the club’s iconic oval shaped badge which informs almost every aspect of its brand touchpoints, creating a coherent visual identity across multiple platforms. I love this campaign because it’s based on a simple strategy ‘Milan to Many’ and an even simpler global strapline ‘Sempre Milan’ (Always Milan).
The Times and Sunday Times – Politics. Tamed
I don’t mind admitting I’m a Brexit news nerd, so I was naturally drawn to the ‘Politics. Tamed’ campaign run by The Times and The Sunday Times, created by News UK’s in-house agency Pulse Creative London. In addition to taking prime position on the papers’ masthead and promoted heavily in print, online and radio, its work turning Westminster Underground station into a jungle was a great ‘out-of-home’ piece. The station even changed its official audio announcements to include messages such as “Mind the gap and always stand behind the yellow line. Toe the party line in the political jungle”. Overall, the campaign was a smart way of communicating The Times can guide its readers through the political jungle.
Game of Thrones – #ForTheThrone
Game of Thrones has always delivered an epic PR stunt, but with the much hyped eighth and final season airing in 2019 it brought out the big guns. Visitors to the Tower of London were treated to a spectacle when Sky Atlantic teamed up with the British Army to switch up the traditional Changing of the Guard. A carefully choreographed military display saw the Coldstream Guards come face-to-face with The Night’s Watch. Of course, the stunt quickly went viral. HBO also delivered big with its viral #ForTheThrone challenge. The television network’s genius campaign saw it hide six iron thrones at unique locations scattered across the world, before releasing a series of 360-degrees videos to tease each site, then sending viewers on a quest to find them. These immersive experiences are nothing short of what we’ve come to expect from Game of Thrones.