The Ten Best Marketing Campaigns of 2016 Marketing

Marketing By Kit Smith on December 16th 2016

2016 was a year. I think that’s probably the best we can say about it. It had exactly the right amount of days in it, and we have ticked off one more loop in our endless journey around the sun.

Outside of that, a lot of strange things happened. Things that were definitely Not Good. Things outside of the norm.

Luckily, breaking the mold is exactly what we want when it comes to the best marketing campaigns. We’re looking for the ads that stood out in an incredibly competitive space.

The best marketing campaigns of 2016  were experimental, embraced cause marketing, collaborative marketing, live video, data, and consumer insights.


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Virgin – Seize the Holiday

Live video has quickly become a trend in the digital world, and this ad from Virgin Holidays jumped on that trend with great effect.

The video is brilliantly choreographed with amazing activities from several global destinations shown in quick succession.

The live aspect isn’t a gimmick either; it demonstrates that there is a whole world out there, just waiting for you to “Seize the Holiday”. It also quickly shows off all the possibilities in the destinations serviced by Virgin Holidays.

Pret A Manger – Little Veggie Shop

This ad might not seem as exciting and flashy as some of the others listed here, but I’ve chosen it for a very sound reason. Pret asked their customers for insight and acted on the answer.


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The campaign started with an online poll asking if customers would support vegan stores. The results encouraged them to turn a central London store into a Little Veggie Pop-up.

“A lot of brands say vote for a change, when they’ve already made up their mind. It is just lazy. If customers are good enough to give you their time, you need to listen.

“Marketers find it hard to listen, they usually have their minds already made up. That is a mistake because if customers want to be part of you brand, you need to take them seriously.”

The store ended up increasing profits and delivering on an idea that their customers wanted. In fact, it was so popular it went from a temporary to a permanent store, with popular recipes making their way into other Pret stores.

pret veggie

Image: Pret a Manger

Under Armour – Rule Yourself

This ad focuses on its star rather than the brand. That’s easily done when you have Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time.

It’s beautifully shot, with only occasional flashes of the Under Armour logo as Phelps trains. It highlights the hard work and determination needed to be successful, with the implication being that if Under Armour is good enough for someone that puts this much effort into their training, it’s probably good enough for little old you.

Airbnb/Art Institute of Chicago

Another visually stunning ad, this time a collaboration between Airbnb and The Art Institute of Chicago. They recreated Van Gogh’s famous bedroom to highlight an exhibition of all three versions of the painting.

It’s an innovative collaboration that saw great publicity for both the art gallery and the homestay network.

OK Go & Morton Salt – One Moment

You may be familiar with Chicago-based indie-rock band OK Go. Their music videos are invariably brilliant concepts, designed for the digital, sharing age.

With 2016’s One Moment, the band released a 4.2-second music video, presented by Morton Salt. The seasoning sellers have decided to embrace cause marketing under the Walk Her Walk banner.

Once the video is replayed in super-slow-mo, the video lasts the entire length of the song and reflects the message that Morton wanted to portray.

“We want to show that a single moment can contain so much wonder, so much beauty, and so much change,” said OK Go vocalist Damian Kulash.

Nike – Margot vs. Lily

In January, Nike released a series of ‘branded content’. Margot vs. Lily was an original series from Nike following the stories of competitive sisters Margot and Lily.

The long form ads were aimed at the millennial audience, and while it was a risk for the clothing giant to take, the data suggests the series was a big success.

Margot vs Lily was one of the best marketing campaigns of 2016

H&M – Come Together

In a crowded space, my favorite holiday ad was directed by Wes Anderson, echoing the style of his film The Darjeeling Limited.

It also features one of the stars of that movie, Adrian Brody. If you are familiar with Wes Anderson’s work you can instantly tell he is the director on this.

Product placement is also completely lacking, instead focusing on the beautiful visuals and heartwarming Christmas story.

Hotels.com – Skippable Ads

The best marketing campaigns often play with the format, and this effort from Hotels.com has an amusing take on the ‘Skip Ad’ button found on YouTube videos.

When you hit the button on this ad, the same video is played, but every character in the video is now skipping. It’s in keeping with the tone of previous ads featuring Captain Obvious – we featured one in our Best Facebook Marketing Campaigns post which played with the silent video format.

The video below demonstrates the concept by flicking between the two versions of the ad.

Spotify – Thanks 2016, It’s been weird.

One of the best marketing campaigns of 2016 was saved until the end. Spotify used the mountains of data they hold to produce a series of lighthearted ads that also played on the annus horribilis that was 2016.

The campaign, which will be rolled out across 14 markets, features localized messages that merge listener data and pop-culture references. It’s a lighthearted way to highlight the way Spotify has been able to harness data to deliver a better experience.

spotify

Image: Spotify

Google – Year In Search 2016

How do you sum up a year like 2016? This video takes an emotional look at the year just gone, covering a wide range of events. Google’s end of year review is a fitting way to wrap up our review of the best marketing campaigns of the year.

Tugs on the heart strings that one. I’m a fan of the design too, with the simple search bar seeming to say that Google is now our window to the world.

Those are our picks for the best marketing campaigns of 2016, but in truth, we had to omit a lot of great campaigns otherwise you’d still be reading this post in 2018.


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Kit Smith

@Kit_Smith

Kit is a writer and marketing expert. When he's not researching ways to make you better at said marketing, he's often lost in foreign countries, or making pottery (or both).

  • Sober Sista

    These are excellent examples. It’s also crucial to have good PR, e.g., Mohr Publicity. You cannot underestimate the value of online presence.

  • Great list, Kit! The definition of integrated marketing became a bit muddied but true to its promise, the movement blurred the long-held barriers between different advertising media. In a multi-media world that we live in, new media and old media sit alongside one another, sometimes competing, other times working collectively – in the case of integrated campaigns they work together. Thanks for sharing!

  • Uyenta1812

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