Creative Ideas That Worked in 2018, From Travel Oregon to Denny's

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."


Darcie Burrell and Azsa West

Creative directors, Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Our idea that worked
Travel Oregon, "Only Slightly Exaggerated"

We love this work. It's so simple and beautifully done. It feels more like a trailer for a Miyazaki film than a tourism commercial, but at the end of it you're still like, "... I should probably go to Oregon." 

Only Slightly Exaggerated | Travel Oregon

I mean, clearly the ad worked on us—Azsa moved her entire family from Tokyo to Portland only a few months after it came out.

Another idea that worked: Payless, "Palessi"

We thought this was so smart. It's nice when a brand is self-aware enough to do something that acknowledges a perception—in this case, that Payless is cheaply made shoes for cheap. 

The Payless Experiment

A fake high-end store full of Payless shoes is such a fun, simple way to change someone's perception of the brand. And it's also a good reminder that we're all idiots who are easily fooled by nice packaging. 

Jed CohenJed Cohen

Creative director, TBWA\Media Arts Lab

Our idea that worked:
Apple, "Share Your Gifts"

Apple's holiday campaign, "Share Your Gifts," was a pure expression of the power of creativity, which is an idea that lies at the core of the brand. It was a modern take on a fairy tale that told the journey of Sofia, a young woman who ultimately discovers that the only way to impact the world around her is to put herself out there. Which I think is a pretty universal human truth. We all know that person who keeps their creative talents hidden because they're afraid to show them to anyone. 

Holiday — Share Your Gifts — Apple

Billie Eilish, an incredible 16-year-old musician, used that story as the inspiration for the track we set to the film, "Come Out and Play," which ended up being a top 20 song on Spotify. People were even inspired to share their own gifts by creating covers of the song and drawings of Sofia all over social media. To me, that's the ultimate measure of the campaign's success.

Another idea that worked: Deadpool 2

I'm a comic book geek, and the funny thing about Deadpool is that he's a comic book character who actually realizes he's a comic book character. Which means that every panel he's in is filled with fourth-wall-breaking pop-culture references and commentary. 

Deadpool 2 | Behind The Scenes of Ashes with Céline Dion | 20th Century FOX

I loved how they brought that aspect of his character into the real world by making fun of everything from Bob Ross to Celine Dion to photobombing other movie posters to celebrity tequila brands, in an endless array of hilarious online videos, trailers and brand partnerships that mocked the very idea of online videos, trailers and brand partnerships. 

All of which led to the record-breaking box office numbers and helped make it the No. 3 R-rated movie of all time.

Mike LearMike Lear

Executive Creative Director, EP+Co

Our idea that worked:
Denny's, "Mobile Relief Diner"

When you get to help a brand live out their purpose, it's a pretty special thing. When we came up with this idea last year, the client instantly said yes, and we were on the ground, feeding people in need from our temporary, 53-foot mobile kitchen within 12 days. 

This year, the idea truly came to life with a permanent, fully customized Mobile Relief Diner that has already fed thousands of people when they truly need it the most. 

The all NEW Denny’s Mobile Relief Diner!

The EP+Co team delivered in a big way on this one, and we're incredibly proud of the work and our client Denny's for making this happen.

Another idea that worked: John Lewis, "The Boy and the Piano"

"They don't even sell pianos!" was one of the first comments I heard. It came from Scrooge, clearly—because I am of the opinion that this is one of the most memorable, breakthrough and lovely feel-good pieces of work I've ever seen. 

John Lewis & Partners Christmas Ad 2018 - #EltonJohnLewis

Sure, they had a billion dollars. Sure, it's just a commercial. But my good glory, it warmed my heart and made me a bit stupid with Christmas spirit. What's not to love? 

Jamie-VenorskyJamie Venorsky

Executive creative director, Marcus Thomas

Our idea that worked
Troy-Bilt, "Won't Let You Down Guarantee"

Warranty is a top-three feature consumers consider when making a lawnmower purchase. Yet there is complete parity across manufacturers. So we broke the category norms and reimagined the warranty, enabling Troy-Bilt to live up to its brand promise of dependability 100 percent of the time, even when its products don't. Introducing the Won't Let You Down Guarantee: If you buy our mower and it lets you down, we'll cut your grass until it's fixed. 

Troy-Bilt | Won't Let You Down Guarantee

By looking at the consumer journey, we identified a moment that could be enhanced for our customers. Creating this branded utility delivered a better experience for current customers, helping to drive future consideration and generated a double-digit sales lift over the previous year. Over 80 percent of surveyed participants said that the guarantee was important in their decision to purchase a Troy-Bilt mower, and more than 60 percent of new owners were very likely to buy from Troy-Bilt again.

Another idea that worked: Reese's, "Candy Converter"

This Halloween—otherwise known as "the Super Bowl of Candy," as Anomaly's Christine Gignac put it—Reese's tapped into an essential truth about kids and trick-or-treating. All candy is not created equal, and there is certain candy you want more of and some candy you don't want at all. 

The brand took advantage of the opportunity to solve this problem and let kids (and presumably a few parents) get more of what they want. They created a vending machine that lets anyone trade out their unwanted sweets in exchange for Reese's.

By making it possible to trade in other candy in return for Reese's, the brand reinforced its self-anointed position as the best candy known to humankind and created a branded experience that consumers and the media couldn't wait to share.

"Disappointment goes in, Reese's come out," says the campaign video. I say it's simply brilliant. 

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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