FCK, 99% off, Just Do It: Advertising execs pick their favorite ads of 2018

Award-winning agencies like Wieden+Kennedy, Mother London, Droga5, Joan Creative, Venables Bell & Partners, DDB, and BBH weigh in–and give us a peek at 2019.

FCK, 99% off, Just Do It: Advertising execs pick their favorite ads of 2018

Ah, the end of the year. A time consumed with evaluating the past 12 months while simultaneously establishing an agenda for the next 12. Or just, y’know, self-promising to eat better or something. In advertising, it’s when we evaluate the best work of the last year, trying to glean insight into what it might tell us about where brand creative strategy is headed.


In order to do that I went straight to the source, a collection of leading ad execs from a wide variety of agencies–big, small, indie, networked–to get their thoughts on what work by others stood out most in 2018 and why, the trends sweeping across their business, and what it says about what we can all expect in 2019.

Nike “#JustDoIt”

Amy Avery, chief intelligence officer at Droga5: “I love it for a few reasons. It is beautifully done and it is a great example of leveraging culture. Though I suspect Nike had tons of data behind them to make this decision, people view it as pure creativity, which is how data should influence work.”

Chris Garbutt, chief creative officer of TBWA Worldwide: “It was such a brave move for Nike to directly take an activist stance and to back someone so audacious and courageous. And it paid back. Brands need to stand by their beliefs and be part of pushing change going forward.”

What the best work of 2018 means for 2019:


AA: “I think we will see brands immerse themselves more in culture and let go of some of the fear that has perhaps held back some great creative ideas.”

CG: “I expect to see the continued rise of ‘bionic creative’: What we call big, bold creative ideas that are informed by data and cultural insights. We saw some of this in late 2017 and through 2018, such as with the Marmite Gene Test. We’ll see more use of data upfront to inform and shape the creative idea.”

Libresse “Viva La Vulva”

Susie Lyons, chief strategy officer of DDB New York: “Libresse’s ‘Viva La Vulva’ and Nike’s print ad with Colin Kaepernick. They’re not just great pieces of work, they’re important pieces of work, and a good reminder of the potential and power we have as an industry. Yes, we have a responsibility to our clients to do what’s right for their business, but we also have a responsibility to people to do what’s right for humanity, and both these pieces are great examples of how you can do both.”

What the best work of 2018 means for 2019: “As technology and AI continue to do all the things technology and AI can do, I hope we as people in advertising focus on the things that people can do–empathize, entertain, create, and move society forward in a positive direction. I hope that’s where we’re headed, and I hope that’s where we stay headed.”


Tom Blessington, co-president at Wieden+Kennedy: “It was a brilliant response from both KFC and their U.K. agency, Mother. The strength of the idea isn’t just transposing the brand’s initials to create near profanity (sure, that has stopping power) but its real genius is the ad’s brutal honesty and humanity. It perfectly captures just how mortified the chain must have felt after they experienced a massive chicken shortage that forced them to close a good number of restaurants. It’s how anyone would feel in that moment if they ran KFC. But instead of issuing a press statement filled with corporate-speak and spin, they ran a simple ad in two newspapers that generated an overwhelmingly positive response (over a billion impressions) proving that being disarmingly honest, even when you’re vulnerable and embarrassed, is still the best policy.”


What the best work of 2018 means for 2019: “I would like to believe that the net take-away of 2018 is ‘fortune favors the brave.’ It’s getting harder and harder to penetrate the force field consumers have developed to protect themselves from unwanted messages…. 2019 will not be the year to play it safe, round off the edges, and ‘put the consumer at the core.’ It will be a year where brands put their values at the core, speak from their heart and walk the talk. In turn, consumers will reward their courage with admiration and preference.”

Skittles “Exclusive the Rainbow”

Will McGinness, partner and executive creative director at Venables Bell & Partners:”It was just such a delightfully dumb idea. The fact that they were able to essentially make a joke into such a big PR story was refreshing.”

What the best work of 2018 means for 2019: “I think brands are gaining more confidence in the social space. Brands like Wendy’s have shown that you can have attitude and personality and be more likable for it. Hopefully that trend continues.”

Cards Against Humanity “99% Off Black Friday Sale”

[Screenshot: Cards Against Humanity]
Jaime Robinson, cofounder and chief creative officer at Joan Creative: “Every year, Cards Against Humanity does a spectacular statement-making stunt before holiday shopping season. This year, they skewered the Black Friday hysteria by creating a crazy 99% off sale where everything was 99% marked down, including a vacation to Fiji, 500 pounds of garbanzo beans, a solid gold dildo, and an actual Picasso.

I love how this tiny brand creates a ton of noise in the world each year and finds a new way to activate and grow its audience. They start everything with a premise of inviting people into the joke–to have them play an actual part in the idea.”


What the best work of 2018 means for 2019: “I’m encouraged by what’s happening in fashion, with all of these crazy creative directors turning major houses upside down and having fun with it all. I hope more and more brands will start to be a little more playful and break a few of the rules. Audiences are really looking to see new sides of the brands they love.”

OKCupid “DTF”

[Photo: courtesy of OKCupid]
Gerard Caputo, CCO BBH New York: “The execution simple, fun, fresh and bold. This is a great idea followed by excellent execution that can flex into any media format and go on forever.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity.