Creative Ideas That Worked in 2018, From Hong Kong Ballet to Skittles

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."


Pum LefeburePum Lefebure

Chief creative officer, Design Army

Our idea that worked
Hong Kong Ballet rebranding

One of my favorite projects this year was for the Hong Kong Ballet. We have and will always have a great love for the arts—dance in particular is something that resonates with me. I always believed there was a parallel between dance and design. It's storytelling without words. It's highly visual and dependent on shape, form, rhythm and movement to build a narrative. It was this idea that drove the strategy, concept and planning for the branding and the campaign. 

Hong Kong Ballet was undergoing a major transformation under the leadership of a new artistic director, Septime Webre. Our assignment was to establish a new visual identity and brand look encompassing the spirit and revolutionary vision of Webre while maintaining the integrity of the art form and the Hong Kong Ballet.

We wanted to bring the Hong Kong ballet to life—establish a unique look, feel and voice and give them something that could only be theirs. We also wanted to change the perception of ballet while opening it up to a whole new generation. 

Our focus was on photography and art direction. Photography is obviously a highly visual medium, but it also has the same narrative quality as design and dance. We wanted to capture moments, create these cinematic moments that brought dance into the modern world. So, we moved ballet from the stage into the city. Hong Kong took on a key role. 

We looked at familiar elements of Hong Kong, from landmarks to color palettes, because every city has a color and a light quality. We chose the iconic colors of Hong Kong, a lush China red, mixed with a cool jade and mint green. Landmark locations, both modern and historic, were selected as a backdrop for the gravity-defying movement of the dancers—speaking to the merging of old and new; tradition and innovation; and art form and architecture. 

Every detail, from wardrobe (using street clothes) to hair and makeup, were thought through to create something that would not just speak to multiple generations, but would also spark the imagination. We wanted to inspire and to excite—to make people see dance in a new way. Hence, art direction played a huge role. It allowed us to reinterpret dance and establish a sense of modern Hong Kong while highlighting the key elements of the Hong Kong Ballet. The art direction we established allowed their new vision to shine through. 

Another idea that worked: Gucci Garden

For the last several years we have been seeing a seismic evolution in the brick-and-mortar retail space—the move toward experience. Which means creating a journey that inspires, educates and entertains the consumer. "Blended retail" has become a phrase thrown around quite a bit. While there have been some hits, the most memorable comes from Gucci. 

In general, Gucci has been incredibly successful connecting to the younger luxury audience, from introducing "Geek Chic," going green and supporting social causes that resonate both with their creative director and a new generation of customers. Earlier this year, the company created Gucci Garden, and it is an outstanding example of experiential retail. 

The focus is not on selling product, but on creating an inspirational journey. A museum, exhibit/performance space and restaurant led the audience to a gift shop that has small affordable items and goods made exclusively for the Bologna location. There is a $10 entry fee; however, 50 percent is donated to an organization that restores historic properties throughout Bologna. So, really they're hitting all the points—educating, inspiring and giving back. 


Jay RussellJay Russell

Chief creative officer, GSD&M

Our idea that worked
Popeyes "12-Hour Drive-Thru"

Popeyes created a 12-hour drive-thru to prove it's the only QSR that marinates its chicken for 12 hours. The idea demonstrates that in a simple and compelling way. 

To me, those are the best ideas—simple, smart and ownable for the brand. If any other brand tried to do a 12-hour drive-thru, it wouldn't make sense. This was personal and true to Popeyes' purpose—Louisiana slow and Louisiana fast. 

Another idea that worked: Apple "Better You"

I loved Apple's "Better You" spot. It hits me personally; I'm a runner and I hate races but run for myself every day. The insight nails the story: Compete against yourself, find your better you … and the watch helps you do that. 

Apple Watch Series 4 — Better You — Apple

Apple is getting back to true storytelling, and I love to see that. They're great at it. Plus, the spot articulates how the product serves its customer in a way that doesn't feel like a product spotlight. That's it, very simple. 


Allen Gerritsen

Marie Rockett and Pete Valle

Group creative directors, Allen & Gerritsen

Our idea that worked
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, "BlueBikes"

This year, Allen & Gerritsen worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to expand access to Boston’s public bike share system and launch BlueBikes.

BlueBikes is a true combination of data integration and doing good with a great client. Yes, riding a bike is healthy. But only for those who have access to it. That's what this service, and the communication that goes with it, are all about: Anyone can experience the true joy of riding a bike. Oh yeah, and it's healthy too.

Another idea that worked: "Be a Masshole."

Topical. Truthful. Necessary. It's completely insane that we have to have a discussion about protecting transgender rights. But by using the stereotypical Massachusetts goon as the defender of clear-eyed empathy and human rights, MullenLowe took the conversation to an unexpected, eye-opening, funny yet intelligent place. 

Be a Masshole

The ad slapped us across the face and said, "Wake up, everyone! Who are we? What have we become!?" If a Masshole can be enlightened, there's hope for us all.


Ari WeissAri Weiss

Chief creative officer, DDB North America

Our idea that worked
Skittles, "Exclusive the Rainbow"

Creativity is all about unfair business advantage. If we look inside our walls for the best examples this year, Skittles "Exclusive the Rainbow" immediately comes to mind. 

Not only did we save them the $6 million for a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl and still get the same exposure, we actually saw an 11 percent uptick in sales for that marketing window. 

Another idea that worked: Nike's Colin Kaepernick ad

Outside our walls, I was most impressed with the Nike Kaepernick Instagram post. I don't know the exact sales numbers or the exact earned reach, but quite impressive given the production budget and the insane cultural conversation it started. Very impressive. 

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards, editor of Muse by Clio, and host of the podcast Tagline. Previously, he was creative editor at Adweek.

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