Creative Ideas That Worked in 2018, From NBA 2K to Atlanta United

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."

Matthew-CurryMatthew Curry

Chief creative officer, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners

Our idea that worked:
NBA 2K, "They Will Know Your Name"

We were able to make some great work with our friends at NBA 2K. The 2018 launch campaign, "They Will Know Your Name," was an idea that promised fame and glory to anyone who came in and outplayed the rest. It kicked off with the reveal of cover athlete LeBron James, as well as a cover design that featured the different names he's known by and things he believes in. The cover went viral, with fans creating their own versions. 

We then hijacked the NBA Draft, having future phenom Trae Young expose the campaign tagline "They Will Know Your Name" stitched into his suit jacket on his way up to the stage. Finally, we launched a TV spot that had LeBron challenge the world to take the throne. 

NBA 2K19 | Come for the Crown feat. LeBron James

The idea became an invitation to anyone, anywhere, a chance to become the greatest of all time. The response was so big that it inspired a follow-up campaign, "Everyone's On," that creatively used data to reveal how many players, teams and rivalries were on at any given time, showing just how big the NBA 2K party really is. 

The idea with "Everyone's On" was to create FOMO as we headed into the holiday season. We took over large parts of L.A., San Francisco and New York with out-of-home executions that were culturally aware and contextual to their location, along with pre-roll that did the same.

Another idea that worked: Postmates, "We Get It"

There was a lot of smart work in 2018, but the work I loved most was driven by real insight. It was well crafted, with the brand at the center of the idea, and nailed a moment in time, attitude or behavior we could all relate to. If I had to pick one favorite, it was the Postmates "We Get It" campaign by 180 LA. 

Maybe it's the writer in me, but there was such an insightful simplicity to this work. Headlines that nailed the cravings, attitudes and idiosyncrasies of different neighborhoods and the people living in them. And a simple design that stood out. 

I love how the idea, "We Get It," speaks both to the literal service the brand provides as well as the level to which the brand understands its consumers (which is really anyone who needs something). It was one of those campaigns where you wanted to seek out every execution because each one made you smile or chuckle for different reasons. There's a brutal honesty to them. A delightful mirror held up to our private cravings and stay-at-home behavior. 

In a world painted by our polished social-media personas, this work was a breath of fresh self-awareness.

Libby-DeLanaLibby DeLana

Co-founder and creative director, Mechanica

Our idea that worked:
iZotopes, "Inspire Collaborations"

Audio technology company iZotope worked with us to design and execute a simple, fun and effective campaign. Reaching out to two songwriters, they created a collaborative video that displayed the easy-to-use, mobile Spire Studio, in which users can record, edit and mix audio tracks, simply by using a Spire and their phone or tablet. 

Inspired Collaborations | Chris Thile and Merrill Garbus Have 4 Hours to Record a Song

Merrill Garbus of Tune Yards and Chris Thile of Punch Brothers and Live From Here were given four hours to record a song, using only a Spire, their apps and their creativity. This campaign is a favorite, as it was a collaboration done to show the simplicity of a product, and how it can be used by musicians of all skill levels in a realistic and relatable way, with some great, original music added for good measure! 

Another idea that worked: Patagonia's political activism

2018 has been a tense year for America, and brands have been given an opportunity to connect with their consumers in one of the most personal ways: political activism. Brands expressing their beliefs on political topics has become more prevalent, so much so that it's hard to tell who is genuinely challenging the system and who is simply trying to hit on a social trend to stay on the good side of the public. 

Patagonia, however, has stood out by taking extra steps through spreading awareness on what's happening with our government and natural resources, something the company certainly holds dear to its heart. This year alone, the brand has endorsed two Democratic candidates, closed up shop on Election Day and donated $10 million it saved from government tax cuts to grassroots activism groups. 

Although this is not one campaign in particular, all of these pieces amount to one message to consumers: Patagonia is a brand that believes in something. They have challenged the idea of creative and took it beyond a headline or video, emboldening other brands to follow suit.

chris-breenChris Breen

Chief creative officer, Chemistry 

Our idea that worked
Atlanta United, "Unite & Conquer"

Atlanta is legendary for its fair-weather fans, so when Arthur Blank launched his new MLS team, no one expected them to win, and very few people expected the city to sell out every game for two seasons straight. Both happened. In fact, Atlanta United broke the MLS single-game attendance record eight times in two seasons. 

Now, there is a multi-year waitlist for season tickets and the MLS franchise has a higher average attendance than any North American pro sports team outside of the NFL. It's also the top 20 in attendance in the world (the first time ever for a North American soccer club!). Let that sink in. 

Then, top it off with an MLS championship, breaking Atlanta's 23-year drought—a championship with over 73,000 in attendance. United.

Another idea that worked: Nike, Colin Kaepernick ads

Hands down, Nike's "Believe in Something" campaign was the best of the year. It wasn't the execution, the writing or the art direction that made it exceptional, it was that it transcended marketing all together. 

Nike took a stand and did what very few companies do—they put their money where their mouth is. Loyalists doubled down, and most importantly, the younger generation took note. For quite some time, Nike was losing ground to Adidas, and in one bold move that ground was reclaimed.

John-WeissJohn Weiss

Co-founder and chief creative officer, Human Design

Our idea that worked:
Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has protected key species on our planet since 1973. Its own survival was called into question when the new administration threatened to cut its funding. Human Design created a campaign that clearly showed how the ESA is the critical one-act that we cannot stand to lose. 

We rallied celebrities to "act" for a species of their choice, by lending their name, social feed and signature to a petition to the U.S. Government to keep the ESA funded. Visuals depicting the fall of the ESA setting off a cascading downfall of species, ending with humanity, were created to mimic dominos falling—a narrative that anyone from 7 to 70 would immediately recognize and comprehend the gravity of the situation. 

The campaign was executed from start to finish in six weeks, and what started with five celebrities ended with 33 signing on to participate and share their voice.

Another idea that worked: Payless, "Palessi"

The work that Payless rolled out with "Palessi" was on point. It clearly closed the value/brand perception gap that Payless has always struggled with. Current Payless customers were reminded that not only are they savvy in saving money, but they apparently have exquisite taste as well. 

The Payless Experiment

The false lines of quality that are drawn by "influencers" was called into question, and the playing field for what constitutes high fashion was immediately flattened. A well-executed and entertaining way to remind consumers that paying less doesn't mean compromising quality. It might only require a perspective (or name) change. 

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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