Creative Ideas That Worked in 2018, From Burger King to American Greetings

Top execs pick their favorite work of the year

At Muse, we've posted a list of our favorite 18 ad campaigns of the year (with the stipulation that they couldn't look like ads at all). Now, it's time for the industry to weigh in. 

We invited some top execs in the business to tell us their favorite creative ideas of 2018. We're calling the series "Ideas That Worked." They were allowed to pick one idea from their own company, and one idea from outside their company. 

We'll be running a series of articles featuring their answers. See the first four sets of responses below, and follow the full series of articles here.

Fernando Machado

Chief marketing officer, Burger King

Our idea that worked: "Whopper Detour"

"Whopper Detour" was one of my favorite Burger King ideas this year. It took us about a year to make this FCB New York idea. Why? Because we had to code our mobile app with mobile order/payment and have the app work well consistently with geofencing. We had to geofence all our restaurants in U.S. (more than 7,000) and all McDonald's restaurants in U.S. (more than 14,000). It was a lot of work, but it paid off big time.

Burger King | Whopper Detour

We are investing a lot to improve guest service at Burger King. Technology has a key role in that. Mobile payment is not necessarily new to people. Nor is geofencing. The beauty of this campaign comes from a big, bold, daring, almost crazy creative idea. The PR headline was very clear: "You will be able to order a Whopper for 1 penny at McDonald's." Wait, what? That's kind of a mindf**k. A Whopper at McDonald's? Well … that's the type of idea we know works for Burger King. 

By inviting people to drive to our main competitor to get a crazy discount, we triggered the highest traffic increase to our restaurants since the middle of 2015. Not only that, this direct, e-commerce, PR and integrated campaign propelled our BK App to become the No. 1 app in the Apple Store and Google Play Store (from a starting position around No. 400-and-something!). We got more than 1.5 million people to download the BK App in the U.S. in less than 72 hours. We had more than half a million redemptions of our promo (more than 40 times our previous record for a digital coupon promo). And perhaps most important, we had people seeing Burger King as a modern, savvy and interesting brand. 

Another idea that worked: Nike's Colin Kaepernick ad

The best work of the year? I am pretty confident you will get the same answer from most people you ask. Nike's Colin Kaepernick ad was the most relevant and powerful ad of 2018. This year, there were lots of truly strong campaigns, such as P&G's "It's a Tide Ad" and the "FCK" print from KFC, among others. But Nike hit a home run. 

This was an execution completely linked to Nike's classic "Just Do It" positioning. It is an outstanding example that shows that big ideas can evolve, continue to be modern, and trigger amazing creative. In fact, the brand context helps the ad be that much more powerful. The timing was also absolutely key. It was like a lightning struck you when you saw the print or out-of-home for the first time. The boldness of the client is also something that deserves a lot of credit. Most clients I know would have passed on the idea. Nike didn't. Fortune favors the brave. 

Finally, the results were out of this world. Nike's share price reached an all-time high, sales increased more than 30 percent during the campaign period, $43 million in earned media during the first 24 hours, etc., etc., etc. I could keep going. 

Sandy Greenberg

Co-founder and CEO, Terri & Sandy

Our idea that worked:
CityMD, "You Need Some CityMD"

As you read this, most likely someone is sneezing in your face. You see, we discovered a study which revealed nine out of 10 millennials aren't going to the doctor. Turns out, they are so sick of the medical system, they'd rather self-diagnose or tough it out. Just when you want to feel bad for these tired, sick souls, you realize—wait—they are exposing YOU to their germs.

People Who Know Meredith Carlson

It's time for an intervention, or perhaps hundreds of them, which will play out this flu season in our campaign called "You Need Some CityMD." The campaign promises a faster, kinder, affordable kind of care. Let's hope it drives people in droves to CityMD. Or this winter, you might find yourself wanting to swan dive into a pool of hand sanitizer. 

Another idea that worked: Sea Shepherd, "The Plastic Ocean"

I was not prepared for my response when I pushed play on a video called "The Plastic Ocean" by the environmental group Sea Shepherd. The film starts out so breathtakingly beautiful, with violet and blue hues set to a subtle, innocent children's choir. I was intrigued—indeed, mesmerized—until it became clear that I was actually witnessing a plastic ocean seize and suffocate magnificent sea creatures.

The Plastic Ocean

Sounds of the suffering animals—dolphin, sea turtle, shark—enter midway through the piece, making it all the more painful to watch. As the video ended with the line: "Every year, more than 1 million animals die from sea debris," a single tear of mine dropped into the plastic ocean. Congratulations to FF New York and the brilliant creative minds that let us see the sea in such an artistic way. 

Dave Weist and Tim Vaccarino

Executive creative directors, MullenLowe Boston

Our idea that worked:
American Greetings, "What It Means to Love"

What's the best work to come out of our own walls this year? That's a tough question because opinion is often shaped by what others project on the work. So really, the question for us became, what felt especially personal this year? Probably the American Greetings campaign "What it means to love." Will it win awards? Perhaps. Does it ring true and capture the human condition? Absolutely. 

American Greetings | What It Means to Love

The film shows the complicated lives of six different people all grappling with what it means to love. They have their own stories and struggles, but all of them have a hard time expressing their true feelings. The film shows their inner thoughts superimposed over the scene in their own handwriting. It's the connection they hope to make. For us, this one gets the details right and it elevates American Greetings to something much bigger than cards. Cards are just cards, but in the right moment they mean everything. And by the way, the Mercadantes were awesome.

Another idea that worked: Apple, "Welcome Home"

That one thing that made us turn green with jealousy? The "Welcome Home" Apple spot shot by Spike Jonze was just ridiculously good. In a time where so much work is quick and disposable, to see something with that level of imagination, craft and sheer determination was overwhelming.

HomePod — Welcome Home by Spike Jonze — Apple

You got the sense that it started with a simple premise and kept building and building and building to a truly magical place. It's just deeply original, flawless, committed and, ugh, hard to watch because you want one, too. A lot of the Apple work felt this way in 2018, but the Spike edition was our highlight.

Rafael Rizuto

Founder and chief creative officer, TBD San Francisco

Our idea that worked:
StubHub, "The Gift Rapper"

With the Gift Rapper, we combined the power of hip-hop and artificial intelligence to allow users to gift event tickets in the most engaging way possible: wrapped with a custom rap. 

We asked a series of seemingly simple questions to start, but behind the scenes, an A.I. was churning a dynamically generated rap (written and performed by Guinness record setter MC Murs). The end result is a "bit-gift" ... a sweater-clad animated rapper who sounds off holiday cheer depending on what kind of ticket is being gifted. The quiz itself had around 10,000 possible different results, and each answer has a corresponding snippet in the lyrics and time code in the background music. We built a node application that generates all the song variations; for each song, it mixes the audio recordings into a full track, generating subtitles file in a SRT format. To create the final result, the node application combined the voice audio track, background music, motion graphics and subtitles together into a single video file. 

StubHub | Gift Rapper

One of the things I love the most about this work is that we used A.I. to enable the idea, not as the idea. It would be humanly impossible for the rapper to come up with so many combinations alone. Both man and machine played a fundamental role to make this idea happen. The campaign is still running until the end of the year, but the results are coming and they are amazing. Please visit 

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

I've been a fan of the work done by Burger King since the CP+B times, but I was never sure of the real business impact they generated besides immense PR. Awesome, provocative stunts. What's different about this one are the astonishing results they created in such a short period of time, yet keeping the same provocative and super creative approach. In less than two weeks, the app went from No. 400 on the App Store to No. 1. This is incredible. This work will not only be good for Burger King, it has a lasting affect in the whole industry. A great example to clients and agencies out there that you can truly do effective work while being outrageously creative. 

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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