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Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology

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    Everything was in place to shoot something special.

    Geico CMO Ted Ward liked the idea so much, he had approved it immediately. ("We didn't pass this one by anybody," he would later tell Adweek.) The directing duo Terri Timely had loved the scripts and signed on. And The Martin Agency creatives couldn't wait to get on set and film a campaign they'd dreamed up that would make fun, innovative use of that most moribund of marketing channels—YouTube preroll, where ads go to die.

    There was just one small problem. The dog.

     

     "I expressed serious concerns about getting the idea filmed in one take with two adults, two kids, a dog and a setting out of a Norman Rockwell painting," Steve Bassett, group creative director at Martin, admits of the now-famous "Unskippable" ad with the dog loudly devouring his family's spaghetti as they sit, frozen, through an increasingly hilarious dinner-table disaster.

    Ward, for the record, had been more optimistic. "We've had better luck with dogs than cats," he says of Geico's beast-friendly oeuvre. "Of course, we've decided to animate lizards and pigs."

    In the end, the canine—a Saint Bernard mix named Bolt—was the perfect slapstick actor, knocking over a salad bowl and a glass of milk while slurp-slurp-slurping his way to Internet fame. (The spot has more than 8 million views, of which full plays were "way higher" than the norm, Ward says.)

    "All I have to say is, it's a good thing creative teams don't listen to their creative directors," Bassett jokes now.



    It's a good thing Martin's particular writer/art director team of Neel Williams and Mauricio Mazzariol didn't blindly accept preroll's limitations. YouTube viewers hate preroll, they knew, not just because it's an interruption but because it's a mindless one, with so many unaltered TV spots not even offering the courtesy of adapting to the space in a relevant, entertaining way.

    With "Unskippable," Adweek's choice for the best ad campaign of 2015, Martin and Geico thus did viewers a favor by purposely hooking them with something fun before the skip button appeared. Inverting the typical ad, they ran the end at the beginning, finishing the pitch in a few seconds—"You can't skip this ad, because it's already over," says the voiceover—and then letting the cameras roll, capturing hilariously awkward bonus footage in which the actors pretend to be frozen as the world continues around them.

    The resulting spots, which are still running, are simple, clever, funny and innovative. They're disarming at just the right moment, self-aware enough to be loved by ad people (for whom being skippable is the ultimate fear) and pure entertainment for everyone else—as viewers happily submit to the sales pitch (Geico's logo is front and center on screen the entire time) before watching their next cat video.



    "We had the research. We knew the skip rate after five seconds was 96 percent, so we collectively challenged ourselves to find a workaround," says Martin group account director Brad Higdon. "If we're going to interrupt someone on their way to watch something they actually sought out, and want to watch, we better make it worth their while."

    The "Unskippable" idea was simple—perhaps too simple, the agency thought at first.

    "When we first reviewed the idea, naturally we all got a good laugh, but then we all kind of looked at each other and said, 'Has no one done this before?' " Higdon says. "That's really the beauty of the idea: its simplicity. The fact that preroll is universally loathed and yet no one ever did anything about it. So we cycled through several scripts, all with the same construct, and picked our favorites. We then did a little bit of fine tuning to make sure the scenarios and humor were all on brand for Geico—beyond the 'You can't skip this ad' joke alone." 

    The idea was brilliant, but the execution is what really brought the ads home. Park Pictures directors Terri Timely—aka, Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey—shot four ads over two days, changing only a few things in the scripts. They moved one spot from a living room to a poolside barbecue, and conjured up the crazy vacuum cleaner in the office spot.

     

     "Everything freezes a few seconds in, so they art directed each scene like a still life, from tiny little props to the symmetry to overall color tone," says Williams, Martin's creative director. "It would have been easy to just do the Wes Anderson thing here and go a little overboard on the crafty side. But they embraced the campiness of the scripts and went more 'stock photo chic,' which gave everything just the right personality."

    "We just let the camera roll," says Bassett. "The actors were encouraged to stay frozen but use subtle eye movements and other cues to let the viewers know that the actors knew what was going on but they weren't allowed to break character."

    Creasey and Kibbey say they contributed mostly to the art direction and casting. "We felt the spots were best told in one shot, so we really had to create scenes that read quickly but had enough depth and detail that could hold up to repeat viewings," Creasey says.

    "That actually required a bit of restraint," Kibbey adds. "Whenever we had the impulse to push one element or another, we had to ask ourselves if it would enhance the bizarre suspended moment we are seeing unfold or detract from it."

    The dog spot is the most famous, and no wonder. It's where everything came together—the great idea, the inspired direction and some wonderfully comic animal acting.

    "We had an extensive conversation about what food was the funniest, from sausages and corn dogs to chicken casserole," says Mazzariol, Martin's associate creative director. "We finally decided the messy nature of the squiggly spaghetti would make it a great choice. And who would've thought—apparently dogs love spaghetti."

    "We got a lot of good takes where Bolt just ate off the dad's plate," adds Creasey. "The trainer told us he thought Bolt was probably getting full and wouldn't do much more, so we probably only had one take left. We just told him to see if Bolt would jump on the table and see what happened. Apparently Bolt has two stomachs because he went to town. I think he would have kept eating if we let him."

    "During that last take with Bolt, I couldn't believe that he was able to keep eating," says Kibbey. "I was so excited that I took out my phone and snapped a couple pictures off the monitor. I didn't realize that anyone witnessed my less than professional behavior until I saw this video that Mauricio posted online." 

    Check out Mazzariol's video here:



    Both agency and client are reluctant to call the work groundbreaking. (It wasn't like we came up with 'Unskippable' and were like, 'Pencils down, we just invented electricity!' " Williams jokes.) But it did use creativity and humor to sidestep a seemingly intractable problem in a heavily used medium—picking up lots of industry awards along the way, including a Film Grand Prix at Cannes and two gold Clio Awards in the Digital and Innovative categories.

    "You always need to reinvent," says Martin group creative director Wade Alger. "That is how you stay current and top of mind. That is key. If you don't, you become irrelevant, simple as that." 

    "We had a blast making these, and it's so wonderful that they were so well received," adds broadcast producer Liza Miller.

    Not coincidentally, it also drove sales. Ward said Geico's digital business is booming, with mobile volumes running at record levels. "This was a big piece of that," he says, adding that Martin is now working on a follow-up "that's maybe almost as innovative."

    "They've earned the right to throw some really crazy stuff at us," Ward says with a chuckle. "And we've earned the right to approve it, evidently." 

     
    See the rest of Adweek's 2015 Ads of the Year package here:

    The 10 Best Ads of 2015

     
    Top photo (l. to r.): The Martin Agency associate creative director Mauricio Mazzariol, creative director Neel Williams, Geico senior director of marketing Amy Furman, executive producer Brett Alexander, broadcast producer Liza Miller, account executive Allison Hensley, group creative director Steve Bassett and Bolt the dog.

    Cover photo (clockwise from top): Williams, Mazzariol, Bassett and Miller (plus Bolt).

    Elevator photo (l. to r.): The Martin Agency chief creative officer Joe Alexander, project manager Karen McEwen and group creative director Wade Alger.

    This story first appeared in the Dec. 14 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

     
    CREDITS
    Client: Geico
    Campaign: "Unskippable"
    Vice President, Marketing: Ted Ward
    Manager, Broadcast Production and Agency Relations: Amy Hooks
    Marketing Buyers: Katherine Kalec, Brighid Griffin
    Marketing Coordinator: Thomas Perlozzo
    Agency: The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.
    Chief Creative Officer: Joe Alexander
    Senior Vice Presidents, Group Creative Directors: Steve Bassett, Wade Alger
    Vice President, Associate Creative Director: Neel Williams
    Associate Creative Director: Mauricio Mazzariol
    Vice President, Executive Producer: Brett Alexander
    Broadcast Producer: Liza Miller
    Junior Broadcast Producer: Coleman Sweeney
    Business Affairs Supervisor: Suzanne Wieringo
    Senior Integrated Production Business Manager: Amy Trenz
    Financial Manager: Monica Cox
    Senior Vice President, Group Account Director: Brad Higdon
    Account Supervisor: Josh Lybarger
    Account Executive: Allison Hensley
    Senior Project Manager: Karen McEwan
    Production Company: Park Pictures
    Director: Terri Timely
    Executive Producers: Justin Pollock, Jackie Kelman Bisbee
    Line Producer: David Lambert
    Editorial Company: Whitehouse Post
    Editor: Caleb Hepler
    Executive Producer: Kristin Branstetter
    Producer: Jojo Scheerer
    Telecine: Co3
    Colorist: Tim Mascik
    Post Facility: Running With Scissors
    Flame Artist: Chris Hagen
    Executive Producer: Scott Friske
    Senior Producer: Cheryl Lage
    Music: APM
    Audio Post Company: Rainmaker Studios
    Engineer, Mixer: Jeff McManus


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    British hardware store Robert Dyas has the quirky viral Christmas hit of the season, and while the theme is oddball indeed—randomly suggesting that straight, gay and bisexual people all love the store and its products—it's actually a pretty straightforward copy of a local Rhett & Link commercial from 2009.

    The low-budget Robert Dyas spot, which is closing in on half a million YouTube views since being posted late last week, shows store customers and employees declaring their sexual orientation as they tout particular products. The results are strange—and confusing to many viewers, who can't quite grasp why that should matter when shopping for hardware. 



    But don't overthink it. The spot is actually a fairly blatant knockoff of the well-known Red House Furniture spot from 2009, created by Internet comics (and part-time weird-ad mavens) Rhett & Link. The difference is, the Red House ad focused on race instead of sexual orientation, saying black people and white people all love the store's furniture. That spot has almost 5.5 million views. Check it out below. 


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    Talk about being your brother's keeper.

    This haunting Johnnie Walker spec ad from Germany explores that concept in highly memorable fashion—delivering one of the most potent punch lines of the year.

    Two brothers traverse the fog-kissed, craggy terrain of Scotland's Isle of Skye—their childhood home, apparently—as a voiceover poetically recounts their experiences and depth of feeling for each other. The notion of "freedom," and "being free," surfaces several times as they climb rocky hills and gaze over twisted landscapes as desolate and awe-inspiring as the mountains of the moon.

    Reaching a dilapidated farmhouse-type structure, they share some Johnnie Walker, then continue on to a desolate peak overlooking the sea.

    Watch "Dear Brother" below before reading further.



    Whoa—to die for, right? Killer! Sure, it's a Sixth Sense riff nearly a generation after the fact, and also vaguely reminiscent of surprise endings like the one in that Robinsons juice spot. Still, the ad masterfully tweaks a somewhat familiar twist into something truly special. The heartfelt vibe and evocative imagery over its 90 seconds keep the finale from getting overly maudlin. Some might say the denouement verges on parody or dark humor—but skirting such territory gives the film extra dimension.

    Plus, the notion of a physical and spiritual journey exploring what it means to be "free"—for both brothers, in this case—powerfully distills the essence of Johnnie Walker's "Keep Walking" mantra (which flashes on screen at the film's conclusion). In fact, "Dear Brother" takes this conceit down a whole new road.

    We raise a glass to directors Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebherz!

    Both are studying at the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg (which produced "Dear Brother") and hoping to make it big in the ad biz. Lebherz took a few minutes to chat with AdFreak about the project:

    AdFreak: Why do spec on such a grand scale?
    Dorian Lebherz: We wanted to create an emotional film that tells the story of two brothers that go back to the most important places of their youth. We love to connect emotional storytelling with great cinematic pictures. So we followed the two brothers on the paths of their youth through the Scottish highlands. We tried to integrate the brand. The story itself is based on the message "Keep Walking."

    That's quite a surprise ending.
    The twist at the end of the film is to surprise the viewer about the fact that the brother isn't here anymore and to recreate the feeling of somebody missing. That is also the reason why we tried to keep the one alive always with a slightly sad attitude and to frame the picture so that it would work without the dead brother. Nearly everybody has been to the point that you've lost someone, so everyone can empathize with the feeling of our protagonist. It's the memories that keep those persons alive.

    What was the inspiration for the story?
    We wanted to create a story that touches the viewer within 90 seconds. I think when something touches you, you keep it in mind. So, one day we had the idea of two brothers visiting the places of their youth for the last time together. The Scottish landscape and the brand felt perfect for this situation.

    Have you shown it to the brand?
    We love the old advertising message "Keep Walking." It says don't stop until you reach your goal. It stands for the effort that somebody puts into something, and that is what made the brand big. But Johnnie Walker lately changed their message to "Joy Will Take You Further," and produced a film with lots of different situations of people climbing or going by hot-air balloon. We think that a visually told story that creates emotions is always stronger than just showing different settings without storytelling. So we haven't showed it to the client yet. But we are thinking about it.

    Describe the challenges of shooting on location.
    When we first arrived the weather was beautiful, and we visited all the locations where we wanted to shoot. We also found some stones where we wanted the actor to slip. When we woke up on our first shooting day, the weather was terrible. It had been raining all night long, and when we arrived at the river again, the water was about half a meter higher than before and it was rushing. The place where we wanted to shoot was gone. So we had to search for another spot. That is what we had to do all through the shoot. We had to change the story with the weather. I think this is what makes the film very real. We always had to deal with changing situations.

    CREDITS
    Directors: Dorian Lebherz and Daniel Titz
    Director of Photography: Jan David Günther
    Production Company: Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg
    Producer: Madlen Folk, Johann Valentinitsch
    Starring: Mathew Lewis Carter, Robin Guiver
    Editor: Raquel Nuñez
    Music: Renée Abe
    Sounddesign: Marvin Keil
    Voice: John Reilly
    1st Assistant Camera: Adrian Huber
    Colorist: Jan David Günther


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    For those who've noticed Reese's building on its Halloween dominance by making uniquely shaped candies for other holidays, too, here's a little-known fact: It's been making Christmas tree-shaped peanut butter candies since 1993. 

    But it wasn't until this year that anybody really paid attention, and not for the most flattering reason: The trees appear to be extra blobular this season, and fans have taken to Twitter to complain about the shape—which seems more fecal than festive.

    Luckily, Reese's social media team knows how to shut down haters. Without denying that the trees are indeed sloppier than usual, the brand started a campaign to end "tree shaming" and declare all trees to be beautiful. 

    Our favorite, though, is this one, mostly because it inspired a fan comment that finally gives that smiling poo emoji a purpose:



    The work is smart social commentary that packs a bushelful of truth ... because no matter what it looks like, you're gonna eat the tre, and like it, as one realist aptly pointed out:

    Now, the only thing left to do is orchestrate an #AllTreesAreBeautiful tie-in with the Peanuts movie. It seems like nearly every other brand is partnering with Peanuts, and Reese's doesn't just have a peanut butter product—it's got a crappy tree worthy of a Charlie Brown Christmas.


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    If you've ever been relegated to the kids' table at Christmas—despite knowing in your heart of hearts you were ready for the big leagues—you'll appreciate this sweet, simple ad from Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn. 

    The commercial, created by TBWA\Neboko in Amsterdam, opens on a pre-teen boy arriving at a relative's house for Christmas dinner. Everywhere he turns, he's treated like a child—from the coat rack (where he tries—and fails—to get his coat hung in the tall closet), to cocktail hour, to setting the table (where, after attempting to light a candle, he's limited to blowing it out of a more "competent" adult's hand). 

    The 90-second cut reaches its climax when the protagonist, too old to hang with younger kids, but too young to keep company with the adults, is inevitably sent to sit with the babies, who are happily eating what appear to be hockey pucks shaped like Christmas trees.

    But wait—naturally, there's more. Because Christmas and advertising are both about happy endings, he's not doomed to his his preadolescent fate after all. 



    Overall, the ad works nicely. Whether you've ever felt jilted at a family holiday, the boy's perspective is relatable: Nobody wants to feel left out. It also manages to be refreshingly heartfelt without feeling hackneyed. 

    This year's other notable supermarket Christmas ads from around the world include Australian grocer Aldi's nod to the absurd stressors of this most cheerful season, German supermarket Edeka's macabre (and vaguely sociopathic) family gathering, and U.K.-based Waitrose's straightforward ode to food.

    Albert Heijn's contribution is also beautifully shot, if not as heart-stirring as Dick's Sporting Goods' spot ... though nobody should try to eat any of the latter store's products.

    Then again, imagine this young hero's disappointment when he finally gets to eat real food, which turns out to be turkey—not all that different from gnawing on a baseball mitt, actually.

    CREDITS
    Client: Albert Heijn
    Campaign title: Ben's Christmas
    Creative agency: TBWA\Neboko Amsterdam
    Creatives: Hannah Mulder, Sam de Greef, Martijn van Marle, Sander Volleman
    Production company: Pink Rabbit
    Postproduction: Captcha Amsterdam
    Director: Ismael ten Heuvel
    DOP: Martijn van Broekhuizen
    Editor: Martin Heijgelaar
    Producer: Jony van Hees


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    BBDO global chief creative officer David Lubars recently told Adweek the agency world has an "an unhealthy obsession" with awards. But even the most cursory glance around the industry will tell you awards shows are here to stay. If anything, they're more prominent than ever—many agencies have at least one full-time employee whose primary job is to manage the year-round application process.

    Agency creatives and executives accept these events as a crucial part of the business landscape—as long as organizers deliver their kudos with a knowing smirk. This is advertising, after all.

    For more than five decades, the Advertising Club of New York's International Andy Awards have recognized "the brave process of creativity" by gathering a jury of influencers to weigh in on the year's best work. The 2016 event will be chaired by Wieden + Kennedy partner and global co-executive creative director Colleen DeCourcy, and it continues the tongue-in-cheek traditions of years past with a call for entries video purporting to showcase "The Best Commercial of the Year So Far."

    Who is the protagonist in this strange "commercial" whose identity is obscured by grime and the limitations of language? What literal or metaphorical role might he play in the ad industry, and how does his presence relate to the Andy Awards? W+K would rather not say.

    "We're just poking fun at the clichés, the classic tricks that are worn out," DeCourcy told Adweek. "The message is: Do something new. Stop caring about the wrong things. Have some fun."

    Advertising has long been an industry prone to self mockery, and this year's Andy Awards continue that tradition, even though it's not quite like other such elbow-rubbing affairs. "The Advertising Club of New York has become a kind of second home for a lot of creatives in this business," said DeCourcy. "We pick our juries, we run our process, we we meet up and work together on events for young and diverse creatives, and we give a lot of our time throughout the year thinking of ways to make this business better for us all."

    DeCourcy added, "The Andys is an incredible act of collaboration. It's run by and for creative people." On that note, W+K has also created a microsite for the event that functions as an ongoing curatorial effort by agency creatives eager to show their best faces to the jury, which this year includes top creatives from such shops as BBDO, FCB, Deutsch, McCann, Anomaly, Walton Isaacson and Barton F. Graf 9000.

    Best.andyawards.com promises to deliver "the perfect interactive experience," which means visitors can leave their own fingerprints on the site by embedding videos, images, GIFs or audio tracks. "This site is a pure interaction," reads the copy on the site. "It is an amorphous, intelligent being."

    Gina Grillo, president and CEO of the International Andy Awards, said, "This year, we wanted to include creatives, inventors and innovators in the Andys CFE launch, sharing an entirely new platform from which people could be brave."

    Beyond the Wieden + Kennedy work, this year's awards includes several firsts. The 2016 winners list will include separate categories for Typography, Art Direction and Corporate Social Responsibility, the practice in which clients turn to agencies to remind the world that the marketing game isn't just an endless search for revenue. This year, the Andys also partnered with corporate sponsor Amazon to make sure every hard-working person involved in a winning campaign could receive a 3-D printed statue.

    As DeCourcy put it, "The Andy Awards isn't Advertising's Got Talent. This show is run to celebrate what we do and lovingly push each other further."

    So what makes an Andy winner?

    "The best litmus test is did a group of people put their skills, their reputation and their brand on the line to get to a great idea and get it made?" DeCourcy said. "That's what gets an Andy."

    May the best ideas win.

    Credits
    Client: ANDY Awards  
    Project Name: Beat the Best and Win an ANDY  
    Agency: Wieden + Kennedy New York
    Executive Creative Directors: David Kolbusz, Jaime Robinson, Colleen DeCourcy  
    Copywriters: Howard Finkelstein, Andrew Jasperson  
    Art Director: Grant Mason  
    Interactive Art Director: Andre Poli  
    Head of Content Production: Nick Setounski  
    Producer: Orlee Tatarka  
    Account Team: Jacqueline Ventura  
    Business Affairs: Sara Jagielski, Tana Prosper  
    Director of Technology: Charles Duncan  
    Executive Interactive Producer: Jonathan Percy  
    Sr. Interactive Producer: Jen Vladimirsky  
    Technology Lead: Alex Maiorov  
    Lead Experience Designer: Kate Bauer  
    Front End Tech: Joe Zhou  
    Creative Technologist: Craig Blagg  
    Project Management: Cory Chonko, Ava Rant
    Production Company: Caviar Content  
    Director: Hugo Stenson  
    Executive Producer/MP: Michael Sagol  
    Executive Producer: Kim Dellara  
    Line Producer: Tova Dann  
    Director of Photography: Jac Fitzgerald
    Editorial Company: Joint Editorial  
    Editor: Lindsey Houston   
    Post-Producer: Stephen Schmidt  
    Post Executive Producer: Michelle Carman  
    Editorial Assistant: Stephen Nelson
    VFX Company: Caviar Content  
    VFX Supervisors: Terry Huynh  
    VFX Flame Artists: Arnold Aldridge
    Colorist: Dave Jahns
    Mix Company: New North Sound 
    Mixer: Brandon Jiaconia  
    Sound Designer: Alison Ables  
    Producer: Alex Thiesen 
    Artist: Alison Ables  


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    As 2015 comes to a close, we've picked our Ads of the Year, including Geico's "Unskippable" at No. 1. And now it's time to look at the trends that informed some of the year's most creative work. In no particular order:

     
    Powerful Women

    If 2014's female empowerment ads were all about what it means to be beautiful, 2015's were about what it means to be strong. Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey were among the year's most buzzed-about athletes (Rousey even turned Carl's Jr.'s sexism on its head). RAM's female-focused ad about courage was one of the year's most stirring. And Always' "Like a Girl" campaign found a new rallying cry with a single word: "Unstoppable."

     
    LGBT Mainstreaming

    In 2014, Honey Maid and a few other brands made high-profile ads with gay couples. In 2015, dozens of other companies (Campbell's, Wells Fargo, etc.) followed suit—achieving the remarkable feat of making such ads almost unremarkable.

     
    Gender Identity

    It was a huge year for gender issues in pop culture, and some marketers bravely joined the conversation—among them, Google, Japanese cosmetic brand Shiseido, Pot Noodle and Magnum ice cream, whose "Be True to Your Pleasure" campaign was one of the coolest of the year.

     
    Anti-Endorsers

    Ricky Gervais, Ewan McGregor, Isla Fisher and Neil Patrick Harris were among the celebs who delivered bemused, cynical, even openly (if jokingly) reluctant endorsements this year—comically biting the hand that fed them.

     
    Saving the Planet

    Creativity informed environmental work in 2015 like never before. M&C Saatchi Stockholm's brilliant interactive site for SPP used a slider to toggle between clean and polluted versions of the year 2045. Pentagram designed climate change posters completely out of emojis. DDB Stockholm's Rag Bags famously turned shopping bags into recycling containers. And Fred & Farid embodied client Biocoop's mission by rethinking every element of its ad production process to be as green as possible.

     
    Saving Ourselves

    Ad agencies also made lives better this year through creative innovations. Most notably, there was Grey London's LifePaint for Volvo, the celebrated invisible safety spray designed to make cyclists and others visible on the road at night, as it become reflective in the glare of headlights. Among the other inventions: the "Lucky Iron Fish," advertised by Geometry Global, which helped Cambodians battle iron deficiency; and Grey Singapore's "Life Saving Dot," which provided iodine to Indian women through the decorative bindis on their foreheads.

     
    Livestreaming

    Meerkat and Periscope both launched early in the year, and the race was on for brands to try their hand at live video content. Target, Red Bull, Mountain Dew, Coach, GE, Taco Bell, DKNY and Nissan were among the early adopters, broadcasting everything from private events to office tours to announcements of product offers.

     
    Simple Logos

    The biggest logo debates in 2015 were about the simplest designs. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush's stripped-down logos caused the biggest stirs in the political world, while Google had the most-discussed corporate rebrand—which was itself a simplification. The cleverest logo of all came from Sonos, which was brilliant designed for online use—thanks to an optical illusion, it appears to vibrate as the user scrolls down a page.

     
    Emojis

    Was there a brand in 2015 that didn't create an emoji—or a whole keyboard's worth? Starbucks, Dove and Star Wars whipped up hashtag-triggered custom emojis on Twitter. But Coca-Cola topped them all—getting emojis on Twitter and into working web URLs.

     
    Trolling

    Yes, brands trolled each other (Burger King's McWhopper proposal to McDonald's was a highlight). But the biggest win came from a consumer trolling on behalf of a brand—Mike Melgaard posing as a Target customer service rep on Facebook and hilariously excoriating commenters critical of the retailer's move to gender-neutral toy labeling.

     
    Robots

    Robots were huge at Cannes Lions, as Sir Tim Berners-Lee spoke of the coming AI revolution and Dentsu had an android host a talk. But the sneakiest bot of all came to South by Southwest—Ava, an AI from the movie Ex Machina, who joined Tinder and catfished admirers into visiting the film's Instagram page.

     
    Outdoor Tech

    Out-of-home ads have been wired for years, but some of this year's were truly awesome, from Ogilvy's tweeting potholes in Panama to Breakfast's insanely cool Forever 21 machine that re-created Instagram photos in thread. The best, though, was WCRS's billboard with a battered woman whose bruises healed as more passersby looked at her—a brilliant way of reminding people not to ignore the problem.

     
    Bloodvertising

    Looking for some (literally) bloody good advertising? There was plenty of it this year, thanks to a macabre trend of using actual blood in the production of ads. BBDO was particularly sucked in—with BBDO Proximity Thailand making ink from dead smokers' diseased lung tissue, and BBDO Russia creating paintings in human blood drawn from dead mosquitos, for an insect repellent brand.

     
    Older "It" Girls

    While Hollywood continues to shun older women, the fashion world is embracing them like never before. Among 2015's notable models: Joan Didion, 81, for Céline; Joni Mitchell, 72, for Saint Laurent; Iris Apfel, 94, for both Kate Spade and Alexis Bittar; and Twiggy, 66, for L'Oréal.

     
    A Galaxy of Star Wars Ads

    Has Star Wars met a brand tie-in it didn't like? Intergalactic partners for The Force Awakens include HP, Duracell, Fiat Chrysler, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Lucky Charms, Adidas, Pottery Barn, Subway, Verizon, Kay Jewelers and dozens of others. Yet this Anchorman 2 level of promo insanity hasn't dented excitement for the film at all. Seems we literally can't get enough.

     
    Long Copy

    Actual words made a comeback in print and outdoor ads. FCB Lisbon's ad for Harmony Condoms stretched the phrase "Oh my God" into a remarkably long-lasting 1,000-word sentence. DDB Stockholm published a tart long-copy McDonald's ad narrated by a pickle. Publicis London's clever outdoor ads for Depaul Nightstop—placed around corners, with text on each side—told a different story about homelessness depending on your angle of view. And Brazilian author Paulo Coelho beat them all, publishing the entire text of his novel The Alchemist in single newspaper and outdoor ads.

     
    Private Parts

    Erotic films were the hot new vehicle for cancer PSAs this year, with DDB Bolivia and M&C Saatchi Sydney both getting actors in real adult content to pause and demonstrate proper breast and testicular checks. One of the year's funniest campaigns was testicularly themed, too—Clemenger BBDO Melbourne's great underwear ads with a pair of chatty balls.

     
    Crafty Creations

    Advertisers make the darnedest things. Among this year's most peculiar creations: Taylor Herring and Millennium FX's freakishly real-looking polar bear, who wandered London terrifying people (and promoting a Sky Atlantic show set in an Arctic town); TBWA\Hakuhodo's incredibly intricate ice cubes, carved for Suntory Whisky; and our favorite, Ogilvy Argentina and Salta beer's tooth implants—which double as bottle openers—for rugby players who've lost teeth in games.

     
    The Dress

    The biggest web story of the year—the crazy worldwide debate over whether a particular dress was gold and white, or black and blue—provided endless fodder for brands in social media. But the Salvation Army (and agency Ireland Davenport) had the most powerful response, showing a battered woman in a gold and white dress, with the headline, "Why is it so hard to see black and blue?"

     
    Virtual Reality

    VR remains more of a promise than a reality for most brands, but it increasingly preoccupies creatives looking to provide a leading-edge experience. Brands like Mountain Dew, Infiniti, AT&T, Volvo, Jim Beam and Merrell all experimented with it this year; Oculus Rift owner Facebook launched virtual reality-style ads; The New York Times delivered Google Cardboard to all its print subscribers; even View-Master, the classic toy, got into kids' VR—all signs that the first mass creative success in the medium is not far off.

     
    Drones

    The FAA approved the use of drones to shoot ads in late 2014, and marketers as varied as Acura, Nissan, Toyota, Patrón, Nike, Adidas and American Express have swarmed the skies ever since. Thanks to public's obsession with them, drones are also the subject of commercials—like the exhilarating Audi spot from Venables Bell & Partners in March, with a driver fleeing a school of killer flying machines.

     
    Faux-Fancy Fashions

    Fake formal attire was big this year. Quiksilver invented a wetsuit that looked like a suit and tie, and Fruit of the Loom debuted its Professionals Collection of sweatsuits printed to look preppy.

     
    Stock Photos

    The world's least creative photography was put to fun uses in 2015. Scion got a bunch of stock-photo people to drive a car. And Vince Vaughn memorably appeared in a series of stock photos with his co-stars for the movie Unfinished Business.

     
    Unicorns

    Dogs, cats, goats, pigs. All fine, fine advertising characters. But this year's go-to beast had a more mythical pedigree. The revered unicorn showed up repeatedly, most notably in a cinematic Canal+ spot cheekily explaining why we don't have unicorns today, and in the Squatty Potty viral where one of our uni-horned friends poops rainbow soft-serve. 


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    There's a kind of time-out moment in Game of Thrones when Cersei Lannister, who is generally a villain, asks an enemy of hers how her daughter—who now lives in his kingdom—is faring. He snappily answers, "They don't hurt little girls in Dorne." 

    Cersei softens, her reply opening a brief window into what's made her such a sadistic, miserable human: "Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls." 

    "Dear Daddy," an ad for Care Norway by agency Schjaerven, drives that poignant point home with a sledgehammer.

    At least once in your life, you've probably called someone a whore. Maybe you were a kid when you did it. You tested out ugly words, the way we all do, and maybe, once you got older and more educated, you recognized the impact words like that could have, and you stopped. 

    We've all done that. The problem is, by the time we realize that isn't quite a nice thing to say, the damage is done. We have contributed to a spiral of torture that will both mar a little girl, and forever haunt her judgment as a woman. 

    According to WHO, one in three women in the world will experience physical or sexual violence in their lives, most often from a male partner. That's a ridiculously huge figure. And "Dear Daddy," Care Norway's latest PSA, asserts that it's crappy jokes about women and girls—and the lax attitude we have toward people who make them—that feed that statistical beast.

    The video is a heartfelt letter from an unborn child, expressing appreciation for the father she hasn't yet met. "Dear Daddy," she begins. "I just wanted to thank you for looking after me so well, even though I'm not yet born. I know you already try harder than Superman; you won't even let mummy eat sushi!" 

    This warm start is reinforced by a man getting into his car and casting an intimate look at his partner, who rubs her big ripe belly in the passenger seat. But things quickly take a turn for dark, destabilizing territory. "I need to ask you a favor," the girl's voiceover continues. "Warning: It's about boys."

    The ad scrolls across the faces of the boys, younger and older, that our unborn heroine will meet in her life. There is nothing menacing about their features, but something about them begins to feel that way as things progress. 

    "I will be born a girl, which means that by the time I'm 14, the boys in my class will have called me a whore, a bitch, a cunt, and many other things," the girl says.



    From a young age, appraisal moves with girls like a shadow; adolescence is littered with the hazards of both male and female commentary. We've both survived these jokes and made them, and as the narrator points out, in our early years we most often brush them off as "just for fun, of course. Something that boys do. So you won't worry, and I understand that."

    That last phrase carries lots of baggage that the following minutes work painstakingly hard—sometimes too hard—to unpack: The sense girls have that when bad things happen, it's probably their fault; and the debilitating soup of emotions we feel when someone slights us, but our fathers, who love us, laugh at similar comments and sometimes even make them. 

    Mean words and dumb jokes aren't the dangers that dads prepare for when bringing a girl into the world; they can't possibly comprehend the minefield that awaits well before puberty begins to ripple under our skin. This yields all kinds of interesting strategies for protecting ourselves without seeming like we have to, including this classic: A guy comes aggressively onto you, and you have to find a playful way to make it seem like you're in on the game, but also like it's his idea to give up. Blame and alarm are things we cannot project, for reasons both social and self-protecting.

    If we stopped here, that would be plenty. But things only worsen for our heroine, because this isn't about the general dangers of girl-bashing; it's about very specific consequences. By 16, boys are taking liberties when she's drunk. "If you saw me, Daddy, you would be so ashamed ... because I'm wasted," she says. 

    By 21, she is raped ... by a boy she grew up with, because their fathers went swimming together. And when she finally finds Mr. Perfect, who gradually becomes less so, she discovers that, despite being educated, and having been raised to be a strong and independent woman, she cultivates the silence and submission that enables his eventual abuse. 

    "I'm not the victim type," she insists, even while acknowledging a confusing medley of emotions: the sense of love and hate, the endless uncertainty about whether she truly did something wrong. It's a masterclass in how girls internalize the shame of their own harm, which isn't something that happens randomly; it is something we're taught to do from the moment we start mixing socially.

    The ad concludes with a powerful ask, which reminds you that this whole story was a long preamble to a favor she was warming up to—more evidence of an almost compulsive need not only to apologize, but to justify herself in advance of requesting anything, even something that might save her life. 

    "One thing always leads to another, so please stop it before it gets the chance to begin," she says. "Don't let my brothers call girls whores, because they're not, and one day some little boy might think it's true. Don't accept insulting jokes from weird guys by the pool, or even friends, because behind every joke there is always some truth. 

    "I know you will protect me from lions, tigers, guns, cars or even sushi without even thinking about the danger to your own life. But dear Daddy, I will be born a girl. Please do everything you can so that won't stay the greatest danger of all." 

    That's a plea even Cersei can get behind. And in this particular case, we won't mind standing with her.


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    Tony Hale is a cubicle creeper, nagging white-collar workers to actually take their lunch breaks, in a new campaign for sandwich chain Subway.

    The Veep and Arrested Development actor lurks over—and sometimes under—the desks of office drones, doing his best impressions of their hungry subconscious. He'll even accompany you to the nearest location ... so he can ruin your meal, too. 

    Hale—who serves as the goofy personal aide Gary to Julia Louis-Dreyfus's Selina Meyers on HBO's hit political comedy Veep—exhibits a rare gift for being obnoxious. Try not to laugh when he starts spraying one unlucky camper with a water bottle.

    Hale concepted, wrote and starred in the digital shorts with Subway's oversight, though the brand said he will not appear in future commercials and is not officially a brand spokesperson. Catalyst and 360i collaborated on the campaign as well. 

    One spot has launched—see that one below. Two more are coming Wednesday and Thursday. In the second spot, he talks directly to the camera about the decline of the lunch break, and then bellows at office workers, all but forcing them out of the office. 

    Adweek responsive video player used on /video.

    Charles Hood, whose credits include writing and directing indie flick Freezer Burn, helmed the camera.

    Subway is working to distance itself from longtime spokesman Jared Fogle, who is serving 15 years after pleading guilty to charges related to child pornography and soliciting sex with minors. In the wake of the scandal, Subway hired new marketing brass and shifted lead creative duties to BBDO, which launched its first work last fall.

    The new campaign's bid to save lunch breaks is part of a broader social media campaign from the chain. That's a noble pursuit in and of itself. The only problem is, it's not clear why anyone, given a chance to break away from their workspace, wouldn't go get a real sandwich instead.

    CREDITS
    Client: Subway
    Title: "#savelunchbreak"
    Director: Charles Hood
    Producer: Kevin Mann
    Producer: Rachel Miller
    Producer: Chris Boyd
    Director of Photography: Adrian Correia
    B-­Cam Operator: Herbert Wei
    First AC: Nathan Kelley
    First AC: Carlos Medina
    Gaffer: Sean Tanner
    Best Boy: Gabriel Lewis
    DIT: Patrick Burke
    Sound Mixer: Kevin Rosen-­Quan
    Production Designer: Ayse Arf
    Script Supervisor: Tracey Merkle
    Key Hair/Make-up Artist: Kristin Turner
    Key Costume/Wardrobe: Megan Lian
    Editor: Grant Surmi
    Music: Kevin Blumenfeld
    Producer's Assistant: Ace Hasan
    Production Assistant: Adam Federman
    Production Assistant: Jennifer Maizlish
    Production Assistant: Derek Klezmer
    Production Assistant: Blair Scott


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    If you're a cat, you have to be careful when using restaurant/bar review apps. You might just end up in the wrong part of town, at a horrifying bar straight out of your nightmares.

    That's what happens in this lunatic ad for dopl, a kind of Yelp competitor, by Seattle ad agency Wexley School for Girls. A feline (with a human body) heads to a bar called Spay Lounge (red flag right there) and walks in—and finds an unspeakable scene in progress. And then things get even worse.



    Dopl chose Wexley for the job because of the off-the-wall sensibility.

    "We came to Wexley because we knew they were the type of agency that would get dopl's unique culture and philosophy. Their sense of humor is right up our alley," says Dennis Duckworth, the app's founder and CEO. "Initially, we were looking for something that had a guerrilla or stunt aspect to it. While we weren't totally sure what was doable within our scrappy startup budget, we were confident that Wexley would come up with something memorable and unique."

    Duckworth, the lucky dog, even got to be in the video. "I, personally, wasn't expecting to be part of the final product … so that was an awesome bonus," he says. "My wife and I and other members of the dopl team had a blast being on set and being part of the video. Wexley completely understood that dopl is a labor of love for the team and they figured out a way to make sure everyone could get as involved as they wanted to be."

    Ian Cohen, co-founder and executive creative director at Wexley, says it was a dream job.

    "Dennis came to us with an amazing app and the wide open assignment of 'Do whatever you want,' " he says. "The budget was small, so the creative had to feel big and make noise. This kind of assignment doesn't come along often, and we spent quite a bit of time thinking about how to do something ridiculous enough to be shared but make it tangible to the app, which is all about making sure you don't end up at the wrong place. Dogs humping the crap out of each other was really just a sweet byproduct of this really intelligent thinking."

    Cohen adds: "We also know that for the younger skewed audience that dopl targets, this video isn't even that racy. It's just fun."

    Dopl bills itself as an app that learns the user's likes through an intelligent custom "doplrithm." Users input preferences into the app when they join and provide ratings along the way, leading to smarter recommendations over time. 

    CREDITS
    Client: dopl
    CEO: Dennis Duckworth
    Agency: Wexley School for Girls
    Exec Creative Dir: Ian Cohen
    Creative Director Patrick Mullins:
    Director Of Production: Gabe Hajiani
    Associate Producer Tara Cooke:
    Art Director Evan Bross:
    Copywriter Paul Feldmann :
    Project Manager Amy Lower:
    Account Director: Jordan Karr
    Account Manager: Nick Minnott
    Director: Ian Cohen
    DP: Chris Bell
    AC: Coburn Erksine
    Gaffer: Vincent Klimek
    Key Grip: Kerry Flanagan
    Swing: Isaac Lane
    Production Designer: John Lavin
    Wardrobe Designer: Collette Jones
    Wardrobe Assist: Gwen Stubbs
    Editorial Co: Bronson & Bronson
    Editor: Mather McKallor
    Audio Co: Pure Audio
    Sound Designer/Mixer: Scott Weis 


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    Yet another Internet manchild fantasy has become reality, this time thanks to Astonishing Studios. Say hello to the DIY Chicken McNuggets Vending Machine, a fully functioning, miniaturized machine that dispenses boxes of McNuggets and dipping sauces via separate ports, and is small enough to fit on the average office desk. 

    Oh, also, it's made entirely out of Legos.



    The inevitable downside is that the machine holds only two four-piece boxes of McNuggets at a time and must be manually refilled, so you basically have to buy your fried white chicken pieces twice—once to stock your machine, and a second time to dispense them (use exact change; the machine will reject those lesser coins that you're always trying to get rid of). That's a pretty serious commitment to hipster-status nugget consumption. 

    The real purpose of this thing, though, is to show off what Lego Mindstorms is capable of doing, and the YouTube video above explains its inner workings in great detail. Personally, we hope they build a time machine next, just so we can tell our 10-year-old selves what's waiting for them in the very near future. McNugget machines, for example.


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    Do you spend the holiday season triumphantly pumping your fist in the air, buoyed by the unwavering belief that your gift ideas are so absolutely spot on, they'll make their intended recipients shout out with glee?

    If so, you should check out Overconfident Wrapping Paper, the creation of a few mischievous elves at GSD&M.

    This particular wrapping paper replaces seasonal sayings such as "Joy to the World" and "Peace on Earth" with cocksure copy alerting those who are about to tear open their packages of the orgasmic awesomeness nestled within.

    They'll surely get the message from lines like, "Grab a mop, because you're about to wet yourself," "Stop with the foreplay and let's get down to business" and "This O Holy Night, You'll scream O Holy Sh t."

    Leaving out the "i" makes it nice instead of naughty! (Though "foreplay" suggests whatever's inside might be the latter. If you're lucky.)



    "There is so much anxiety associated with holiday gift giving," GSD&M group creative director Ryan Carroll explains. "Did I get the right gift? Will they like it or just return it? Should I include the gift receipt? We loved the idea of swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction and creating something cocky or brash for those occasions when you know you nailed it."

    The paper is available at Etsy for $20, and proceeds benefit the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians in GSD&M's Texas hometown.

    "When you give the perfect gift, it takes everything you have not to tell the person how amazing it is," says Carroll. "Now you can let your wrapping paper do the talking for you. Also, we really wanted to use a 'Pee yourself' joke."

    CREDITS
    Writer: Matt Garcia
    Junior Art Director: Ryan Warner
    Designer: Colby House
    Print Producer: Helena Abbing
    Group Creative Directors: Ryan Carroll, Scott Brewer
    Chief Creative Officer: Jay Russell 


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    It's a tradition at Publicis Groupe for CEO Maurice Lévy to videotape a holiday message to employees. But this year, Lévy has outdone himself with a comic video themed "The Skippable Wishes."

    It starts out in ordinary fashion, with Lévy at his desk warning viewers not to expect "anything funny or any technological tricks." But he then breaks his promise on both accounts. Acknowledging that most people skip ads to get to the content, he tells viewers to go ahead and skip his message to get to some ads—some amusing fake ads in which Lévy has prominent cameos (and manages to sneak in some Publicis news, too).

    The video was done by Marcel and Prodigious. Check it out here:

    • Publicis Groupe "The Skippable Wishes"


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    Here's a very special love-at-first-sight Christmas campaign from Belgian cellular company Mobistar.

    Two spots, brought to you by Publicis in Brussels, tell the same story from different perspectives—one his, one hers. What appears to be a chance meeting at a skating rink between strangers escalates with further run-ins—in the subway, then the park. Finally they steal a kiss, and she inexplicably runs off.

    It's not totally clear why two ads are necessary in this case, where split perspectives don't add as much to the experience as they do in, say, Cornetto's teenage-romance YouTube hack for the U.K., launched earlier this summer.

    But whichever Mobistar commercial you watch first, you're in for a twist. Watch the spots here, spoiler-free: 



    We're going to assume by now that you know the punch line. If only they'd stayed in touch—perhaps with help from the telecom brand—they could have spared themselves some holiday embarrassment.

    Sure, the argument doesn't hold up to strict interrogation. Everyone has a cell phone these days, and decent service doesn't signify consistent communication. The ads are so deftly crafted and entertaining, though, that these gaps don't matter. 

    They play on hackneyed mistletoe vibes to a tee, sweeping the viewer along. Before the reveal, that little voice in the back of your head wonders why the pair keep failing to truly connect, but the scenarios are credible enough that shyness alone could account for this, especially after they neck. That adds power to the reveal: When it does drop, it really is surprising—even if, in retrospect, it seems likely she knew all along. 

    Regardless, while incest is a taboo, at least it's being used intentionally, and innocently enough, as a comic device here (unlike in the infamously funny Folgers commercial).

    CREDITS
    Client: Mobistar
    Contacts: Isabelle Vanden Eede, Nathalie Moons, Marie Treguier
    Agency: Publicis Brussels
    Agency website: http://www.publicis.be
    CD: Tom Berth, Geert De Rocker
    Creation: Sophie De Plecker, Joris Luyten
    Copywriter FR: François Massinon
    Account Team: Filip Van Der Haegen, Frederic Sodermans, Amandine Clio
    Designer: Christophe Vantricht
    Strategic Director: Annemie Goegebeur
    Strategic Planner: Berten Peremans
    Film Production Company:  Czar
    Director: Koen Mortier
    DOP: Martijn van Broekhuizen
    Executive Producer: Eurydice Gysel
    Producer: Joop Haesen
    Agency Producer:  Marc Van Buggenhout, Tuyen Pham
    Editor: Manu Van Hove
    Production Design: Geert Paredis
    Grading: Olivier Ogneux
    VFX: Ann Vandenbussche
    Sound: Cobra
    Music: Buddy 'Apologize (If You Tried)'
    Post Producer: Bieke De Keersmaecker
    Media Agency: Havas Media


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    In the spirit of the holiday season, and to finally upstage that classic recording of dogs barking "Jingle Bells," ActionAid Sweden and the Wenderfalck agency produced an album of Christmas carols ... interpreted by bleating goats. 

    In addition to cashing in on goats as an Internet fad, the album—titled All I Want for Christmas Is a Goat—is an attempt to raise awareness about goats' overall utility, especially in rural and high-poverty communities.



    The album itself can be streamed on Spotify, and the promo video above includes snippets from a few songs. It sounds exactly like you'd imagine it would: each song is a patchwork of goat noises that roughly follows familiar melodies. 

    But as far as novelties go, it's still better than the Insane Clown Posse Christmas album.


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    The questions we ask reveal who we are, according to Google's 2015 year-end video. If that's true, then it appears we're a benevolent bunch of globally minded folks who want to know about the terrorist attacks in Paris and Cecil the lion's death but still can't figure out the color of "the dress" or fully master the Nae Nae.

    The two-minute video, which joins a growing list of 2015 recaps coming from tech and media companies, curates highs and lows—the Black Lives Matter movement, the same-sex marriage law, David Letterman's farewell, the pope's U.S. visit—to a voiceover from Caitlyn Jenner's acceptance speech at the ESPY Awards.

    The short film comes from Los Angeles ad agency 72andSunny and Google's head of brand creative Michael Tabtabai in their first collaboration.



    It's a moving piece of work that's intended to reveal "our struggle for identity," the ad agency said, with questions about human rights, gender equality and the European refugee crisis. It's also part of a larger treasure trove of data from Google that looks back at massively popular people (Lamar Odom topped two lists), musical artists (the ubiquitous Adele), politicians (yes, Donald Trump was No. 1, but Deez Nuts also ranked in the top 10) and TV shows (more searchers wanted to know about quiet drama Better Call Saul than brash Empire or highly rated The Walking Dead).

    "Questions are such a powerful storytelling tool," said Matt Murphy, partner and group creative director at 72andSunny. "They reveal not only individual curiosity but much larger statements about who we are as a collective whole. In reflecting back on 2015, the questions we asked created a bigger, more impactful story of acceptance and coming together, which is what the world needs more of right now."

    Google reportedly used trillions of queries to come up with the results it's presenting as raw numbers, downloadable datasets and interactive elements. It's a data geek's dream, though it shows, via the popular query "What is 0 divided by 0?" that we still sadly can't do math.

    See the video above, and go here for a deeper dive into the year in search.


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    Retiring U.S. soccer legend Abby Wambach wants to be forgotten.

    A new ad from Gatorade features the 35-year-old clearing out her locker and delivering a pointed farewell message about relinquishing the spotlight to the next generation of stars.

    Wambach played her last game Wednesday night, captaining the U.S. Women's National Team in an exhibition match against China at the Superdome in New Orleans. The U.S. lost 1-0, breaking its home winning streak of 104 matches, but Wambach still left the field to a standing ovation.

    Her résumé includes the world record for international goals scored by any man or woman, with 184 over the course of her career.



    Sure, Gatorade's approach to saying goodbye is a touch melodramatic. (The spot was made by TBWA\Chiat\Day.) But at its core, it's a simple and resonant message, fitting to the occasion and in line with the brand's "Win from Within" campaign, which also featured this fall's look back at a clairvoyant young Serena Williams.

    It's also a timely reminder going into the new year. 2015 has been particularly good for the profile of the U.S. Women's National Team in the wake of its World Cup win. But women's soccer has historically been a woefully underfunded sport—the U.S. pro women's league delivers salaries in the $7,000 to $38,000 range, a fraction of what men collect for the same game (drawing a comparison to women's tennis in the 1970s).

    So, anything that helps keep people focused on the game—and its potential for players, fans and sponsors—is a good thing as the calendar careens toward 2016.

    For more details about Wambach's significant personal contributions to soccer, check out Nike's tribute video, featuring heartfelt interviews with teammates reflecting on her mentorship. Though for viewers prone to strong emotion, it's best to have tissues handy.


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    Système U, the fourth-largest food retail group in France, is tackling bigger issues than hoverboard stockage in its holiday catalog this year. With a new campaign from TBWA, it's asking: What worldview are we passing on to our kids?

    The supermarket group gives us "#GenderFreeChristmas," which explores the biases kids learn about play. The ad kicks off with girls and boys authoritatively explaining which toys are appropriate for their respective genders: Tea party sets are for girls, while sports and toy guns are for boys, for example. 

    But the ad demonstrates these opinions are less what kids naturally believe, and more a reflection of what they've been taught. We jump to a huge set that resembles the playhouse you wanted as a kid but your parents were too busy to build you. The kids are let loose ... and once free of prying questions, their behaviors reflect more fluid affinities.

    Girls play with trucks and drum sets; one boy bemusedly holds a doll by its leg and contemplates a cloth diaper. While a few girls make ice cream in a miniature kitchen, another boy, dressed like a superhero, pushes a vacuum cleaner around like a toy car.

    As they play, a photographer moves quietly among them, snapping photos, providing the perfect entry point to introduce Système U's Christmas magazine concept: "There are no toys for girls or boys. Just toys." The magazine is illustrated with shots the photographer took while the children cavorted unstaged. 



    The work echoes Target's recent move to stop classifying toys in its store by gender. According to Système U, "few French brands dare display their social commitment, and even fewer dare to do so through film." The idea was to sidestep the classic holiday hard sell and use its brand platform to take a stand instead. "Being a major retailer in France today means being a social stakeholder, in touch with the French people," the company adds. 

    It's also part of Système U's ongoing effort to promote "added social value" in its communications, which it previously supported by being the first French retailer to remove parabens from cosmetics in its bespoke Produits U brand range, and by replacing aspartame with stevia in carbonated beverages (which, granted, also bears some risks—but hey, points for effort). 

    The ad concludes with the following message: "Giving kids the image of a better world. That's what Christmas is all about." Certainly it's nicer than a hoverboard, even if it's not something you can show off on the playground come January. But we like the idea of giving kids the gift of deciding for themselves what they want to play with, and ultimately choosing what kinds of adults they want to be. That decision is impacted by all kinds of things, from toys to jokes, as we most recently learned in a decidedly traumatic ad from Care Norway.


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    In a rare collaboration, YouTube is rolling out a new commercial starring the characters from The Simpsons, in which Homer is seen using YouTube video ads to boost his snow-plow business, Mr. Plow.

    Ad agency Camp + King helped to craft the spot, which starts off by featuring footage from the original episode. But when Homer's business falls on hard times, Lisa Simpson jumps on YouTube and signs him up for the TrueView advertising program. The point, on which Google elaborates in a new blog post, is that YouTube isn't just for big-budget marketers—it can help small and medium-size businesses as well.



    "Video advertisers like Homer can see how people are engaging with his video ad and use this information to make small but important changes to his campaign," the post says. "Are people finishing your video ad? Consider shortening it. Is your view rate lower than you'd like? Potentially make the first five seconds more interesting."

    If you're wondering why Homer wasn't using YouTube ads from the beginning, there's an easy explanation: YouTube didn't launch until 2005, a full 13 years after the "Mr. Plow" episode first aired.

    CREDITS
    Client: Google/YouTube

    Agency: Camp + King
    Chief Executive Officer: Jamie King
    Chief Creative Officer: Roger Camp
    Creative Director: Rikesh Lal
    Associate Creative Director: Justin Hargraves
    Copywriter: Mary Hernandez
    Visual Effects Designer: Zach Corzine
    Brand Director: Emily Dillow
    Brand Managers: Kelsey Towbis, Grace Lazarus
    Director of Content Production: Stacy McClain
    Content Producers: David Verhoef, Vince Genovese
    Talent/Property Negotiation: Vanessa Bendetti
    Business Affairs: Tricia Krasneski

    Postproduction: Misfit
    Executive Producer: Jim Vaughan
    Editor: Matt O'Donnell
    Assistant Editor: Marissa Rosado

    Audio Post: M-Squared
    Sound Engineer: Mark Pitchford
    Assistant Sound Engineer: Phil Lantz


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    It's almost Christmas, but don't worry! There's still time to weep openly at commercials, and this "Lily & the Snowman" spot by Zulu Alpha Kilo for Cineplex is just the thing for that. (And since it's also screening in Cineplex theaters, you can cry like a coal miner's widow right out in public.)

    In the animated spot, a Frosty-esque snowman makes elaborate shadow puppets for a little girl, who keeps him alive by locking him in a freezer for most of the year. That sounds really weird, but the cuteness kicks in when the girl grows up and remembers her sun-averse friend during a late night at work. That was when the sobbing began in earnest for many viewers, judging by the YouTube comments.



    And if the story and visuals don't get you, the music might. The song—a cover of Genesis' "Follow You, Follow Me" by Adaline—is sung at just the pitch for eliciting sad, nostalgic and/or wistful feelings. 

    There's been no word about which movies this short will precede, but something tells us Star Wars will be one of them. With all the nerd tears already being shed over the latest movie in that franchise, it would certainly make the most sense. 

    CREDITS
    Agency: Zulu Alpha Kilo
    Client: Cineplex
    Chief Creative Officer: Zak Mroueh
    Executive Creative Director: Allen Oke
    Associate Creative Directors: Noel Fenn, Andrew Caie
    Art Director: Guilherme Bermejo
    Writer: Nick Doerr
    Clients: Susan Mandryk, Peter Furnish, Darren Solomon, Maxine Chapman, Laura Mingail
    Agency Producer: Tara Handley
    Account Team: Mike Sutton, Roy Gruia, Laura Robinson
    Strategic Planner: Ebrahim El Kalza
    Animation: Hornet
    Directors: Dan & Jason, Hyesung Park
    Producer: Desiree Stavracos
    Rep: Hesty Reps, Lisa Batke
    Audio, Music House: Vapor Music
    Audio Directors: Joey Serlin, Brendan Quinn
    Producer: Kailee Nowosad
    Engineer: Julian Rudd
    Music Licensing: Heather Gardner
    Song: "Follow You, Follow Me"
    Original Artist: Genesis
    Writers: Phil Collins, Anthony Banks, Michael Rutherford
    Publisher: Imagem Music
    By arrangement with Casablanca Media Publishing
    Performer (English Version): Adaline
    Performer (French Version): Julie Crochetière
    Media Agency: PHD Media
    Media Agency Planners: John Wearing, Andrew Young, Scott Henderson
    Read more at http://adland.tv/commercials/cineplex-lily-snowman-2015-230-usa#O7TmOL6etEdVwYXj.99


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