For letting everyone in on the extreme-sports video action. Few companies have built their brand identity on the back of content as completely and entertainingly as the San Mateo, California–based camera maker. It's no surprise that a personal high-definition video camera brand founded by a surfer would use action-packed footage as a marketing tool. But GoPro has gone above and beyond amateur and professional sports activities to inspire viral hits. Just hop over to YouTube to see a music video directed by a dog, a fireman saving a kitten, or an eagle's-eye view of flight. Success is measured in views and sales, but when your brand name becomes a verb, you know you're onto something. Later this year, the brand will take another bold step by introducing a GoPro digital channel to Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Read more >>
For becoming the toughest iPhone competitor in the galaxy. Even Apple fans must acknowledge that there have been few marketing success stories as dramatic and quickly unfolding as Samsung's. In fact, speed is perhaps the biggest innovation Samsung brings to the business of making and marketing mobile devices. When CMO Todd Pendleton joined the organization from Nike in mid-2011, its smartphone brand was almost a nonentity in the United States. But in short time—by establishing a plan and an identity, creating cheeky viral ads that took on the absurdity of Apple cultism, and undertaking ambitious projects like launching Jay Z's new album exclusively on Samsung devices—Pendleton turned Samsung into the iPhone's biggest challenger.
For walking all over the competition with unforgettable stunts. Sure, it has long been best known for the boxiest, sexiest station wagons on the planet, but over the past couple of years, the Swedish automaker has taken its B2B business (and knack for online virality) to become the envy of consumer brands the world over. To promote its trucks division, the brand enlisted Swedish ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors to use dramatic stunts—from a tightrope walker crossing between two speeding trucks to the division president dangling high above a Swedish port to Jean-Claude Van Damme's epic splits—to both demonstrate its product quality and, with millions of video views, drive brand awareness across suburban car drivers and highway truckers alike.
For tugging heart (and social) strings to deliver the unexpected. There are few agencies that push the boundaries of social media as far as Pereira & O'Dell does. Having won a record three Grand Prix at Cannes in 2013 for its short film The Beauty Inside for Intel and Toshiba—which starred Topher Grace, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and ordinary folks who auditioned via webcam—Pereira & O'Dell has provided a creative roadmap for how to deftly combine brand, social participation, and sophisticated storytelling. The agency has also created tear-jerking long-form ads for Skype. And its first work as agency of record for Airbnb, which displays birdhouse-size models of actual site listings, is a prime example of Pereira & O'Dell's signature: adding a layer of the unexpected to all the work it does.
For using humor to make its odd name a household one. Launched in 2010 by Gerry Graf—a creative who's responsible for some of the ad world's comedy classics—Barton F. Graf 9000 has grown to become a major startup success story. (Graf named the company after his father and a weapon in the game Doom.) Early on, the shop won big assignments for the likes of Ragú, but it has scooped up more culturally penetrative campaigns for Dish Network and Little Caesar's. Its most recent viral hit came in the form of Climate Name Change, a modest proposal to name hurricanes and other weather catastrophes after climate-change-denying politicians like Rick Perry.
For upgrading its ad agency into a product developer too. If your kid is now convinced that he can start the car using the Force, or if a chorus of dog barks replaces the tune of the "Imperial March" in your head, you have Deutsch LA to thank. After many years of creative dormancy, the storied agency has reached a new creative stride in the past few years, owed largely to these Super Bowl spots for Volkswagen. Deutsch LA has also invested heavily in product development with its Inventionist unit, going beyond advertising to produce mobile apps for brands like Pop Secret.
For moving beyond lip balm to tackle the Super Bowl. Closing in on its first decade, Anomaly continues to blaze a path beyond traditional advertising: Its EOS lip balm has been nothing short of a pop-culture phenomenon. It's also teamed with platform Sirqul to offer hyperlocal advertising, deals, and payment solutions for brands, retailers, and merchants. But while it's often heralded as a "new breed of ad agency," Anomaly is also pretty good at old-fashioned TV advertising, impressing with spots for Dick's Sporting Goods and hit Super Bowl ads for Budweiser and Bud Light—including this year's game-winning "Puppy Love."
For using social media to capture the attention of today's distracted youth. The century-old BBDO's corporate motto has long been "The work, the work, the work." But this year, the agency not only delivered great work but redefined what "work" is. The shop helped Lowe's dominate social media with the "Fix in Six" Vine campaign—which offered quick DIY fixes in simple videos. And the "It's Not Complicated" campaign for AT&T proved once again that leaving improv to kids yields some charmingly funny moments. But its work with AT&T also showed incredible range: In partnering with famed filmmaker Werner Herzog, it created From One Second to the Next, the gut-wrenching 35-minute anti-texting-and-driving documentary that juxtaposed the trivial nature of text messages with the catastrophic damage they can cause.
For collecting product data with a clever campaign. The agency that helped Oreo become the poster brand for real-time marketing didn't rest on its laurels this year. For Hanes, 360i unabashedly asked the Internet what type of underwear it was wearing and shared the responses via the video campaign Undercover Color, which generated a treasure trove of underwear-related data. Most recently, 360i engaged celebrities and everyday people alike in "Roast Joffrey," a Game of Thrones promo billed as the first social media roast.
For snatching up brands with its social media sounding board. RebelMouse, the evocatively named social publishing platform launched by Huffington Post CTO Paul Berry, picked up plenty of funding and hearty endorsements from big brands in 2013. Marketers from GE, Pepsi, and MTV have signed on, and one vocal marketing guru, Mondelez's Bonin Bough, quipped—while speaking at a conference on the death of the traditional website—that he could envision all of the conglomerate's food and beverage brands using RebelMouse. The future-friendly platform (it's not tethered to any one social network) has reached more than 17 million unique visitors so far and has built more than 300,000 sites.
[Image:Flickr user Dan DeLuca]