The Best Ads of 2018, as Judged by YouTube Viewers

Gatorade, Bonobos, McDonald's spots make the list

In an online vote, YouTube viewers have selected their favorite video ads of the year. And for our money, some underdogs scored some pretty impressive upsets. 

YouTube set up seven categories, with six ads in each, for a total of 42 finalists. Here's how things went down. 

#TheYouTubeAd That Deserves Best Picture

In this marquee category, we figured Apple's "Welcome Home" by TBWA\Media Arts Lab would have walked away with the prize. Instead, it was another TBWA production—Gatorade's "Heart of a Lio" animated short film by TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A. and Gizmo Animation—that won the vote. 

Gatorade | Heart of a Lio

Agencies: TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles, OMD, Resolution Media, Gizmo Animation

"Heart of a Lio," released just before the 2018 World Cup, told the story of Argentina star Lionel Messi—in particular, the pressure on him to deliver for his country on the biggest stage. It was beautifully made, but it didn't really do Messi any favors, as Argentina faltered in the Round of 16 after a very shaky group stage—another disappointing World Cup showing from the diminutive striker. 

#TheYouTubeAd That Rewrites the Rules

This was also a big category, and we might have expected Nike's "Dream Crazy," featuring Colin Kaepernick, to win. Instead, a Bonobos spot featuring men questioning the meaning of "masculine" took the prize in a definite upset. 


Agencies: Observatory, Exverus

#TheYouTubeAd That Makes Me ?

We'd suggest the frontrunner in this comedy category was probably Amazon's "Alexa Loses Her Voice" spot, which was a big hit on the Super Bowl. Google, Hulu, Geico and Samsung also placed finalists here. ("It's a Tide Ad" failed to make the list at all, presumably because it worked best as a series.) 

But in the end, agency We Are Unlimited's "Speechless Thoughts with Charles Barkley" for McDonald's won the day. 

Speechless Thoughts with Charles Barkley

Agencies: We Are Unlimited, OMD

#TheYouTubeAd That Turns an Ad into Action

Frankly, I don't really understand this category. The description says these spots were designed to "get viewers to engage." (As opposed to all the others?) Perhaps it means direct response advertising. In any case, I didn't recognize most of the finalists. 

The winner was Nectar Mattresses for an animated spot by BlackBoard Studios showing cartoon brains getting mellower as they get more sleep. 

Make America Sleep Again | Nectar Mattress

Agency: BlackBoard Studios

#TheYouTubeAd That Frees Your Inner Gamer

The category for gaming spots. Work for NBA 2K, Clash of Clans, League of Legends, Fortnite and Lego's Jurassic World game all made the list of finalists. But in the end, the amusingly campy "You Haven't Played World of Warships Yet?!" spot below earned the most votes. 

You Haven't Played World of Warships Yet!

Agency: N/A

#TheYouTubeAd That Taught Me

A category for tutorials, how-to videos, product reviews and the like. Turkish Airlines and Lego's amazing flight safety video was the best-known spot among the finalists, but Nintendo Labo's "Make, Play, & Discover" spot from Leo Burnett took the prize. 

Nintendo Labo - Make, Play, & Discover

Agencies: Leo Burnett, Blue449

#TheYouTubeAd That Has Six Appeal

The final category was set aside for six-second ads. The idea of giving any sort of prize to a six-second commercial is a bit absurd. And indeed, the winner here—a Groupon spot starring Tiffany Harris—is mildly amusing at best. (The video, from February, also only got about 5,000 views, so who knows how it became a finalist in the first place.)

Save Money on Groupon!

Agency: O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul

See all of the YouTube Ads of the Year finalists and winners, presented in partnership with the Webby Awards, over on YouTube.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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