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The Best Advertisements So Far This Year! Is 2014 the Comeback Year of the Agency? 

I think it’s fair to say that traditional TV advertising is not the marketing monolith that it once was. The way we watch and experience film and television on our DVRs and devices has meant that companies have had to adapt and think very differently about print ads and TV advertising. In a new era of social media prankertising and media-optimized ad campaigning, are the best advertisements traditional ad campaigns? And are they still relevant or effective?

Those questions remain to be answered but what we can see from looking at recent TV campaigns is the return of agencies making some of the best advertisements we’ve experienced for some years. This is surely a reaction to the choice and quality of content we are seeing on our TV’s and devices and possibly a counterpoise to the cavalcade of web-focused, social media-motivated ads that have been so prevalent in 2013.  As series such as The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, The Following, etc., elevate the expectations of the public, I think there is a certain expectation in TV ad quality also.

The following adverts from the last 5 months could be seen as evidence to support a general need for agencies to up their game when it comes to TV ad content. And although the past five months have seen a goldmine of TV sporting event opportunities for companies and agencies to wet their beaks (such as the Superbowl, Sochi, and the upcoming World Cup), there is a sophistication in the storytelling and the production of these commercials that seems very different from the ads we were seeing just a year ago.  Viewers have been treated to some really funny, touching, and memorable ads that mirror the cinematic quality of today’s TV shows.

Please view the following TV ads and decide for yourself:

Until now, I don’t think the world of cable advertising has been particularly creative or engaging. All I can recall are those very graphical FIOS ads with swishy-swooshy graphics and the massively budgeted Time Warner ads with P-Diddy and a crowd of celebrities. Grey of New York, however, created a hilarious campaign for DirectTV that could last for years. The idea that your cable going out is of major consequence to your life is one that we can all relate to as TV junkies. They’ve turned this idea into an imaginative, funny, and brilliantly produced commercial.

Wieden + Kennedy in Portland created one of the most hilarious and bizarro adverts of 2014 for Old Spice. The ingenuity of the commercial from concept to production is quite something. It’s a totally new take on advertising men’s cologne: edgy, funny, surreal, and thoroughly original. Personally, I didn’t think the previous “Smell Like a Man” guy on the horse adverts quite worked and had a lack of clear concept. The new “Smellcome to Manhood” ads are so much funnier and I imagine are strangely appealing to a younger male audience who are can easily relate.

The “mini documentary” represents  a real trend in advertising at present and we have seen Apple, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many other big companies creating uplifting montages of people overcoming adversity. I think that this Powerade ad may be the best of them (or at least the one that is most likely to make you cry like a baby). It feels like the ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy, have created the perfect storm of music, story, and payoff in the young man’s incredible abilities.  Beautifully composed and produced, the story feels like you’ve experienced an entire documentary movie in less than a minute.

This is another offering from Wieden + Kennedy and further reason to regard them as the breakout agency in terms of quality TV commercials. This is the best of the pre-tournament World Cup ads and is a lesson to all other agencies in brilliant technical production. But behind the beautiful production and bravado is a fantastic idea that appeals to every boy who dreams of being a soccer star in this witty, wish-fulfillment commercial that creates massive excitement for the tournament and its biggest stars.

This globally-released commercial by BBH, London is another epic piece of storytelling. Big production values and cinematic quality tracks the failed relationship between two star-crossed lovers from the dawn of man in different incarnations that include cavemen, Roman citizens, and Titanic passengers. In the past we have seen some great and not-so-great Axe commercials with the concept that using Axe “will help you score.” This is a better play on this concept and easily their best yet with an almost heart-warming story that is a much more tasteful, mature, and interesting look at the product as the key to your romantic destiny (Aaaaah!).

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