Creative Ideas That Worked in 2018, From HBO to Minecraft

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."

Menno KluinMenno Kluin

Chief Creative Officer, 360i

Our idea that worked:
HBO, "Westworld: The Maze"

This interactive voice game earned several awards and a lot of press coverage, but I remember the earliest indicator that this idea was really working came when we first flew our team out to L.A. to talk to the showrunners. 

They weren't just interested in what we were doing; they were engaged, intrigued, eager to experiment with the technology. More importantly, they told us our tone was spot on—that our narrative and our premise, and really our entire approach, was all spot on. That was crucial for us because when you're working on projects for these incredibly popular HBO series, you have to get things right for the fans. Mess up the tiniest detail, and they'll be the first to say, "That's not accurate." 

Westworld | The Maze

This project had an especially tight turnaround, which I think worked to our advantage. No time to second-guess anything, it was just: boom. Twelve weeks. Let's go. By the time we were ready for launch, we knew we had created something special, something that pushed the medium of voice into a new, deeper, more complex, more immersive dimension. 

But there were also a lot of external factors that made this work as well as it did: It hit culture at the right time. It had an audience. People were eager to learn more and experiment with this new medium. It was an experiment gone right. 

Another idea that worked: Nike's Colin Kaepernick work

I'm sure I won't be alone on this one, but of all the work I saw produced by other agencies this year, I'd say it's Nike's work with Colin Kaepernick that most stands out to me as an idea that "worked." Simple. Thoughtful. Provocative. They managed to touch a cultural nerve: They knew exactly where it was, they hit it, and they hit it without deviating from their brand voice.

For me, the most impressive thing about the Nike campaign is how they were able to not just navigate but steer the conversation around it to their advantage. That is just crazy to me. Unbelievable. It requires incredible foresight, incredible planning, all your responses ready to go. Every element came together to create this cultural firestorm, a firestorm that worked to their benefit. Sales up, earned media up, brand preference up—everything up, up, up. 

This was just spot on for them, both in terms of who they are and what they represent. If anything, I would almost say they did too much. Just that visual of Kaepernick's face with the line could have been enough. Either way, it was an enormous, unqualified success, not just from a sales perspective (and let's be clear, they made a metric shit ton of money from it) but in terms of cultural impact. If you're reading this website, then I know you remember how your Instagram feed just lit up the day after. That, my friends, is a home run. 

Carolyn HadlockCarolyn Hadlock

Principal and executive creative director, Young & Laramore

Creative acts > creative ads. While I appreciate a :30 ad that changes the way I think about a brand, I'm drawn to work that changes the way I think about the world. That only happens when advertising transcends itself and becomes part of culture. 

Our idea that worked:
Goodwill's Fall 2018 campaign

This campaign transcended advertising by never being advertising in the first place. It was designed to be fashion editorial. Not advertorial, editorial. It was the only way we were going to get the attention and trust of our target. 

Working with a locally based fashion magazine that had international distribution was a stroke of luck for us. Pooling our resources and talents to create a campaign none of us could've done on our own is true collaboration.

Watching creativity unfold at every turn was inspiring. From the local designers that Pattern identified, to the things they picked up in the stores, to the final transformations. There was a rich diversity in the designers, from their age to their background, that was reflected in the final pieces.

One thing they all had in common was a passion for Goodwill. 

Another idea that worked: The Times of London, "JFK Unsilenced"

Where do I start? So many brilliant layers. 

The fact that they used A.I. to bring a historical event to life that never happened is mind-blowing. The fact that it wasn't done for technology's sake, but as part of the "Find your voice" campaign, is refreshing. The fact that they launched it on the day JFK should have given that speech 55 years ago is timely. The fact that the speech is maybe even more relevant today than it was then is a little terrifying.

JFK Unsilenced

One thing I know for sure: This changed the way I'll think about the asassination forever. And if I lived in the U.K., I'd be the newest subscriber to the Times.

Noel-Cottrell-200Noel Cottrell

Chief creative officer, Fitzco

Our idea that worked:
French's, "Not from France"

In 2018, Fitzco pitched and won a few McCormick & Company brands: French's (Mustard, Ketchup, Crispy Fried Onions), Stubbs BBQ and Lawry's (Seasoning and Marinades). First on deck was a new platform and summer push for French's Mustards. French's has always stood for classic American flavor, "from the ballpark to the backyard." It's a brand that believes taste is what makes a meal great, not fancy recipes.

After much data mining, strategy work, research and connections planning, a new platform and tagline was born: "French's. Not from France."

It celebrates everyday dishes that Americans love that are improved by French's. We launched with online content, pre-roll and longer-form pieces showing real Americans' real family recipes. And we shot it all in Paris. Paris, Texas. We also introduced a bold new graphic look for the brand, with the yellow bottle and food popping off a solid blue background. 

And it worked. Combined with merchandizing and promotion (with our partner agency Momentum), "Not from France" gave the somewhat sleepy mustard category a kick in the butt. The work was culturally relevant. It spoke in the right channels to people who don't necessarily know their déglacer from their béchamel, but who make crazy delicious food. Corndogs smothered in mustard, deviled eggs, smoked brisket and a name like French's—definitely "Not from France."

Another idea that worked: Minecraft, "Coral Crafters"

My favorite piece not done by our agency in 2018 was "Coral Crafters" for Minecraft, where a game update let kids build structures underwater in-game and Minecraft and 215 McCann chose some of those structures and placed them in the real world for coral to grow on. 

The structures have a soft electronic pulse that creates limestone, which stimulates coral growth. As someone who recently snorkeled beige reefs in Hawaii that used to be bright and colorful, this idea really struck a nerve with me. A few of the structures that the kids built in-game were placed off the coast of Cozumel to bring the idea to life, and it achieved scale when kids were encouraged to build reefs in-game to unlock donations to The Ocean Conservancy—they created over 10 million blocks in just 48 hours. The funds are being used to grow coral in the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Game advertising is hard. It's often just a movie-trailer-style hype piece for the latest version of a game. And doing good in advertising is trendy. But this project was different. It sold the latest version of the game, and did good in the world, using none of the old formulas. As a dad of two teenage girls, I'm excited for the future of our planet. These kids really care, and they got to show it in "Coral Crafters." Bravo, Minecraft and 215 McCann.

nathan-frank-paul-caiozzoNathan Frank and Paul Caiozzo

Co-founders, Interesting Development

Our idea that worked
Parachute, "Happy Hibernating"

When you look back at your year's best work, what resonated says as much about what was happening in the world as it says about the brand. What did people react to most warmly in 2018? The idea of withdrawing from society, taking a break, and building an impenetrable den for winter.

"Happy Hibernating" seamlessly combined a moment in culture with Parachute's unique perspective. 

Another idea that worked: Sonos, "Nasdaq Bell"

We love moments where brand, product and culture collide brilliantly. This idea took an already PR-able moment—an IPO—and turned it into a PR-able brand moment that brilliantly illustrated what Sonos does: innovation through sound. 

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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