Creative Ideas That Worked in 2018, From Apple to KFC

Top execs pick their favorite work of the year

We invited some top execs in the business to tell us their favorite creative ideas of 2018. They were allowed to pick one idea from their own company, and one idea from outside their company. 

See the full series at "Ideas That Worked."

Jennifer GolubJennifer Golub

Executive Director of Content and Innovations, MAL\FOR GOOD 

Our idea that worked:
Apple "Welcome Home"

Apple HomePod's "Welcome Home" is a lovely synthesis of an inspirational product, MAL's beautiful concept and a perfect execution. The alchemy of the Jules de Balincourt artwork, the performance by FKA twigs, the Anderson .Paak track. 

HomePod — Welcome Home by Spike Jonze — Apple

Spike Jonze's artistry is a continuous experiment where music and choreography are foundational to express the inner creative life-force of an individual. Whether it's Christopher Walken leaping across the railing of a ubiquitous hotel, Kenzo's heroine escaping a dull convention, Levi's "Crazy Legs" moving through chaotic Mexico City, or the dreamlike adventure of Adidas' "Hello Tomorrow." The perfection of Spike's heroes is their spirit, a universal representation of all of us. 

Another idea that worked: Payless, "Palessi"

Retail is undergoing a major cultural shift with the increasing prevalence of online shopping. I'm happy to have my paper towels delivered by a drone, but I want to interact with expertise and a space that elevates the spirit, whether that is L.A.'s Arcana Book  or the curation at a shop like Tortoise. Payless and their agency DCX tapped into this cultural zeitgeist brilliantly with their Palessi stunt, creating a faux high-end shoe store, stocked with Payless shoes. 

The Payless Experiment

They invited stylists, who were completely duped, dealing an effective blow to elitism. The success in perception was directly due to the branding, story, and importantly, the context, having overtaken a former Armani store. 

Steve Jobs understood the power of an invitational retail experience with assured intuition when he pulled out of Comp USA and created the Apple Store. I expect Payless will be unpacking their own learnings around how to create a compelling retail experience in this new consumer landscape.

Bobby PearceBobby Pearce

Chief creative officer, David&Goliath

Our idea that worked:
HBO, "Because of Her"

If you're doing your job right, it should be hard to pick a favorite ad. Even if it's just over the past 12 months. That said, the one that stands out for me the most is our HBO "Because of Her" campaign, which showcases the talented women who bring a unique point of view to the stories told on HBO. 

Barry | Because of Her

While many people know about the women who play a role in front of the camera, not many are aware of all the incredibly talented and creative women behind it. From directors to writers to cinematographers to producers, these women are a fundamental part of making HBO the quality programming that people know and love.

In this campaign, the ad represents a scene—in which Ballers director Chloe Domont is calling the shots in an editorial suite, writer/producer Amy Aniobi is deciding where Insecure's Issa Rae takes the conversation, and cinematographer Paula Huidobro is pulling focus on a tense moment in Barry. Each scenario gives a small peek behind the curtain and demonstrates the incredible power these talented women possess. 

Another idea that worked: KFC, "FCK"

First of all, it's a print ad. A print ad, people. As much as I hate when people say "Print is dead," I have to admit that print, especially newspaper, isn't exactly the first thing I think of when trying to reach a global audience. Second, I would guess that the ad itself probably cost just a few dollars more than a couple of KFC $5 fill-ups to produce. 

Yet somehow it got as much attention and awareness as countless other ads that ran on national television and cost a lot more to make. Lastly, it's not even a brand ad. It was an apology for making a mistake that angered a group of customers. Yet somehow it turned into an incredibly popular piece of communication that made people love KFC even more. 

Who takes something that should have been a PR nightmare and turns it into a huge marketing opportunity that increases brand affinity? Mother London. That's who.

Andreas-BaumertAndreas Baumert

Group creative director, Forsman & Bodenfors New York

In 2018, we saw plenty of fresh and innovative brand ideas that tapped into culture or tugged at our heartstrings. While a number of this year's campaigns were highly complex and future-facing, some of my personal favorites from the year took a simple yet effective approach to tell a message.

Our idea that worked:
AdoptUsKids, "Firsts" 

One example of a simple yet effective campaign is Forsman & Bodenfors New York's latest campaign for the Ad Council and AdoptUsKids, called "Firsts." 

The topic of teenage adoption is already an uneasy one, with the stigmas associated with teenagers. We decided to focus on simple, authentic moments that weren't the standard "Uh-oh, Dad burned dinner" or "Mom is a goofball" approaches that have become the cliché for parents trying to connect with their kids. We wanted to have the campaign highlight true situations that teens and parents can relate to, and tell a multi-sided story, not just from the perspective of parents. The spots are emotional but quite simple and lighthearted.

Another idea that worked: Or take McDonald's "Follow the Arches" campaign. The idea is so simple and clever—it's surprising it hasn't been done before. 

By not showing a single product or their entire logo, the campaign illustrates how strong and instantly recognizable the McDonald's brand is. Not to mention they're using the logo as the art direction of how they are telling people to get to their product. I wish I thought of this! 

I'm looking forward to seeing what 2019 has in store for how brands communicate their brand purpose and spread that message around the world. 

Brian CarleyBrian Carley

Chief creative officer, Rokkan

Our idea that worked:
Cadillac XT4, "4 Wherever It Takes You"

"4 Wherever It Takes You" is bold, cohesive and expansive. We developed an unprecedented amount of content for this campaign and brought new ideas and technology to the brand that they'd never previously explored—like 360 virtual reality installations at Cadillac dealerships and immersive activations like the one at ComplexCon.

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 | Joy

By going bold, bright, colorful and high-energy across all mediums, Cadillac reached a new generation of driver and opened the door to unlimited creative opportunities. 

Another idea that worked: Nike, "Colin Kaepernick" ads

The still images for the "Dream Crazy" campaign were even more powerful than the film. The creative choice to go with black and white forced us to see true emotion in the subjects. It also caused us to settle our gaze on the text and digest the power of the statements. 

An ad that makes you look up or stop scrolling is successful, but one that goes the extra step of creating a conversation or making people act is truly impactful. If 31 percent growth in online sales over the course of a few days doesn't prove action, I don't know what does. 

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

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.