Creative Ideas That Worked in 2018, From Audi to Busch

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."

Joel KaplanJoel Kaplan

Executive creative director, M/H VCCP

It's been a year of transformation. The realities of project vs. AOR are coming into stark focus. At this point, everyone has pitched for the right to be recognized by procurement so we can be included in other pitches. The sudden rise of internal agencies has somehow turned into the sudden decline of internal agencies. Smaller budgets and higher expectations are a fact of life. 

With all this becoming the new normal, I find myself smiling. Not because any of it makes our jobs easier, but the constant transformation of marketing is exactly what appeals to us who stay with it year after year. There is no better business for restless thinkers. 

Our idea that worked
Audi, #NewSanta

At M/H VCCP, we had our share of transformation as well. Our name, most noticeably. We went from one of the most ill-pronounced names in the world (Muh-tay-zik Hof-fer) to one of the most ill-pronounced initializations in the world.

But as we settle into the new identity, we've launched our most ambitious work for Audi to date. 

Audi Presents | New Santa

#NewSanta is a three-and-a-half-minute cinematic social film (shot with I Tonya's Craig Gillespie) that follows the transformation of a 1,749-year-old cultural icon: Santa Claus. Whether you enjoy it (which I hope you do) or hate it (which you might), take a moment to consider the situation that we as marketers and Mr. Claus both find ourselves in. Our world is changing faster than ever. We can realize the new reality and transform into better, faster, more modern thinkers, or we can keep making ads the same way we have for generations. 

Another idea that worked: Domino's, "Paving for Pizza"

Just look at Domino's. They started fixing potholes this year. Doing actual road work! How can you look back on that and not smile for the sheer guts that the agency and the client had to take that on. 

Right now someone is reading this thinking, "Bullshit, it's not an ad. It's an infrastructure project." Well, I hope that person isn't on a jury panel this summer, because we need fewer ads and a lot more asphalt experiments taking home metal. 

Kirsten-RutherfordKirsten Rutherford

Creative Director, TBWA\Chiat\Day LA 

Our idea that worked
Intuit QuickBooks, "Backing You"

We've just worked with Intuit QuickBooks to launch their 2019 "Backing You" campaign. The work champions real small-business owners, encouraging them to get the time and money they deserve, with the help of a coach like no other … Danny DeVito. 

The campaign features broadcast work, a series of web films and a library of gifs. Let's just say Danny DeVito is the gif that keeps on giving. They've received 2.1 million views in five days. They're popping up in random places in culture, like this month's horoscope for Aquarius (you're coming into some cash, yo). 

Here's the best part. All this is happening completely organically. Why are they working? Maybe because we're the first brand to release a set of gifs that bring a little fun to a traditionally dry category like business. Or maybe because everyone needs a gif of Danny DeVito, in a dog sweatshirt, slow motion walking away from an explosion as cash rains down around him. 

It's the first reason. Probably.

Another idea that worked: Iceland Foods, "Rang-tan"

This piece worked by not working at all.

Christmas is British advertising's Super Bowl. A season of big budgets, big ideas. How brave of Iceland Foods to use its media buy to partner with Greenpeace and run the latter's 90-second film "Rang-tan," highlighting the deforestation caused by palm oil production. 

The animated spot tells the story of a young orangutan who relocates to a young girl's bedroom after his home has been destroyed by the palm oil trade.

Except the spot never ran on broadcast. It was rejected for being too political. Yet despite never airing, the outcry from the ban meant the spot worked better than anyone could have hoped. Iceland Foods' YouTube post has almost 6 million views. Its Facebook post has 16 million views and almost 700,000 shares.

I love the fact that a piece of work that never even went to air can have such an impact.

Dan-KelleherDan Kelleher

Chief creative officer, Deutsch New York

Our idea that worked
Busch, "Tree-Roll"

Small but mighty. For Busch beer, Deutsch partnered with the National Forest Foundation to allow people to participate in the planting of 50,000 new trees. Our idea was to create pre-roll ads on YouTube with a simple premise—if you watch our pre-roll ad for the entire 30 seconds and don't hit the skip button, we'll plant a tree for you. 

Tree-Roll — Busch Beer

In an age where hitting the skip button has become an involuntary reflex, three out of four viewers chose to stay and watch for the whole 30 seconds and have a tree planted on their behalf. That was double YouTube's benchmark for view-through rate, and in less than 24 hours, all 50,000 trees were ready to go. It was a great idea for a great cause.

Another idea that worked: "It's a Tide Ad"

One of my favorite ideas from 2018 was the Tide Super Bowl campaign. This wasn't just another funny Super Bowl commercial. This was a big idea set out to take over the game by making every Super Bowl commercial a Tide commercial. 

It's a Tide Ad (all spots)

The idea was, if you're seeing clean clothes, then it must be an ad for Tide. It was executed perfectly and made the other commercials feel a bit smaller by comparison. 

Estefanio-HoltzEstefanio Holtz

Creative director, Pereira O'Dell


A great idea well executed isn't enough anymore. Today, great work needs to be able to get people to stop. To stop scrolling. To stop refreshing. To stop flirting or streaming Game of Thrones.

Brands willing to create those moments are the ones inspiring the entire industry. Whether it's a controversial social post of an exiled athlete or the touching story of a life changing piano, 2018, created a lot of moments for consumers to stop.

Our idea that worked: Adobe, #MoviePosterMovie

This year at Pereira O'Dell we gave college students a good reason to stop for Adobe with the #MoviePosterMovie.

The social contest invited students to design a poster that would be turned into a short film by writer/director/actor Zach Braff. The idea is a direct payoff of Adobe's belief that anything is possible with creativity.

Another idea that worked: Burger King, "Whopper Detour"

"Whopper Detour" by FCB New York took the task of making people stop literally. Stop at a McDonald's and get a Whopper for 1 cent. A devilishly creative idea that was also effective, according to Fernando Machado, BK's CMO. As media changes and attention spans keep shrinking, creative ideas with stopping power are the only one that will matter.

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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