The best advertising and marketing campaigns seem to come out of nowhere, don’t they?

With more and more platforms, and ways to consume media, it’s hard to understand how anything can cut through the noise.

Yet these campaigns did.


We think that by taking an in-depth look at the best advertising campaigns of 2017 we’ll know what will pop in 2018.

It’s not about playing catch-up.

It’s about understanding why the things that worked so we can start…

Learning from the best marketing and advertising campaigns

What were the best marketing and advertising campaigns of 2017?

There were many to choose from, but we tried to narrow them down to the the most effective ones.

Of course, we only pulled from a consensus of the best advertising and marketing campaigns of the year.

But the most popular advertisements seem to have a knack for finding ways to connect to people. Be it through social media, or through other clever methods.

We tried to highlight the ones that did this most effectively.

That's how we arrived at our list of the best marketing and advertising campaigns worthy of further dissection.

What can we learn from these popular advertisements?

It seems like a lot of what people connect with is due to shared experience. Social media. New tech.

And of course, social causes.

We'll dive into all these and more.

So let's get started.

Many of the best advertising and marketing campaigns exist on social

Look no farther then Wendy's to see this in action.

Wendy's seemingly cracked the code on social media engagement. And helped create a new brand identity in the process.

Their social engagement can serve as an idea for all brands moving forward. In fact, they won a Clio for public relations.

They won it for the #nuggsforcarter campaign.

Wendy Tweet 18 million - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

Carter got his nuggs. And Wendy’s got a marketing campaign.

Carter Wilkerson of Reno, Nevada tweeted at Wendy's and asked how many retweets it would take him to get free nuggets for a year.

Wendy's replied "18 million".

Carter's tweet became the most retweeted tweet ever. He achieved his goal of free nuggets for a year, but more than that became a platform for the brand.

Carter began to raise funds for his own non-profit, and earned a sizable donation in his name at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

This wasn't Wendy's only big moment on Twitter.

Wendy Tweet Big Mac - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

Wendy's penchant for "sick burns" became one of the best advertising and marketing campaigns of the year

Wendy's Twitter roast of Mcdonald's went viral, and became its own meme.

The Wendy's Twitter account became known for it's humor. It made the brand huge, without paying for a single traditional ad.

Given the scope, and the relative cost, could this have turned into one of the best advertising and marketing campaigns of all time?

It's hard to buy the 'staying power' of anything on social.

Regardless, Wendy's found a fairly low cost way to make a huge impact.

Social Media trends in advertising

Bacardi's"Break Free" ad is a summer campaign if there ever was one.

It's a hot day in a vibrant Caribbean town seems 'caught' in an instagram 'boomerang' loop.

The genius is incorporating the popular social media feature into the narrative.

The best advertising and marketing campaigns often seize the moments with majors trends

The best advertising and marketing campaigns hitch their wagons to the rising trends in the world around them. Via commentary or satire. In this case, the boomerang feature is baked into the plot, and helps create a fun, dynamic, and familiar look.

Popular advertisements connect emotionally

That's what so many of the best advertising and marketing campaigns that truly endure have done.

While that fact seems constant, how the best ads do that changes.

Take a look at this popular advertisement from Volvo:

Hold on… there’s something in my eye..

Not exactly what car commercials are known for. The ‘structure’ here is familiar. We anticipate the culmination from the get go.

What’s so different? The masterful cinematic execution.

Volvo Cinematography - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

In a space seemingly dominated by gifs, memes, and clever tweets, cinematic imagery and music can still win us over

In focusing on a new safety feature, Volvo's "moments" campaign is right in their wheelhouse.

At the same time, the ad can be about something that matters more to any of us than our cars.

Our children. Their lives. Their children.

Our future.

Much bigger than a car commercial?

Volvo Daughter - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

Connecting with viewers is  a hallmark of many of the best advertising and marketing campaigns

Not really. It's just that Volvo found a way to tie their feature right to our heartstrings.

While this single ad isn't a multi-platform campaign, it merits mention in this piece as a part of Volvo's brand.

Volvo has built its brand around safety. And Volvo's 'vision' is for an injury and fatality free future. The product, the Xc60, and it's new safety features, reflect that goal.

This ad is perfectly on-brand with the history of Volvo, and the future they want us to see.

Many of the best advertisements feature tech

As the world around us becomes more tech focused, the best marketing and advertising campaigns take note.

Interweaving new and emerging tech with products is more and more common.

Take this advertising campaign from Kolle Rebbe for MISERERO - The Social Swipe:

The best advertising and marketing campaigns find ways to innovate

This ad campaign is all about making it easier for people to donate to a cause.

Some of the most memorable, and frequently best advertisements of all time do this. They'll feature someone or something in need, and ask you to help. With a small donation.

Where this ad campaign from Kolle Rebbe takes it to another level? You can donate right here ON the ad, in person.

Not only that, the featured tech makes it interactive, and kind of fun.

They didn't reinvent the wheel by going with a tried and true best advertisement focus. Rather, they did an effective and modern upgrade.

Virtual Reality in advertising

Another really cool use of tech in one of the best advertisements of 2017?

Ikea place.

Ikea place is a product that allows used to 'virtually' place furniture in their homes.

It's one of the best ads because it does a great job showing off the product. But also because it feels like a tiny little piece of some kind of future.

Functional? Check.

Science-fiction? Also check.

Nobody was expecting to be virtually placing furniture in their homes before they bought it. And yet, here we are.

Ikea's new VR feature was part of one of the best advertising and marketing campaigns

Best of all?

The ad campaign makes the tech seem easy to use. The best commercials always make 'cool' and 'new' seem easily within our grasp.

Social awareness in the most popular advertisements

Activism and social awareness have become more and more popular in the main-stream, and among those under 60.

You can bet that the best advertising and marketing campaigns all take note.

It's impressive how ad campaigns find ways to turn their product towards a social cause. Take this one from AirBnB:

Airbnb went with social awareness to craft one of the recent best advertising and marketing campaigns 

It's a natural fit to make a product about sharing one's homes with others into an ad campaign about inclusiveness.

And it goes to show how aware brands are of the power of social awareness in their marketing strategies. There are many advertising campaign examples like this.

When targeting younger people today, social and political awareness almost becomes critical.

At the same time, we know the best advertisements usually connect to the product. Which is why this ad from Airbnb works so well.

The best advertising campaigns from... fictional characters?

This is a weird one.

And amazing none-the-less.

Fictional creative ad director Don Draper came up with an ad for Heinz in one season of AMC's Mad Men.

Then in real life, Heinz went for it.

Mad Men Heinz - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

Fictional Heinz didn't think this was one of the best advertising and marketing campaigns 

The ad campaign, fictionally created in the 1960's, is pretty simple. To quote Nicole Kulwicki, head of the Heinz brand:

“Mr. Draper really understood the one thing every Heinz fan knows, which is to never settle for the foods you love without the great taste of Heinz. What we loved about the campaign is that it doesn’t require paragraphs of copy to explain it. It features mouthwatering food images, and all that’s missing is the Heinz.”

Of course, Mr. Draper doesn't exist. the creatives at David Miami lovingly recreated the campaign from the TV show, and then Heinz approved it.

Wherever it came from, the ad works.

Mad Men Heinz Boards - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

I's 'low-fi' by today's standards- a series of one-sheets.

Yet because of its cache it was recognizable to many on social, and on billboards around New York.

Heinz Billboard Mad Men - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

Better late than never, for the fictional executives of Mad Men.

An advertising campaign about our world

The natural world is full of opportunities for ad makers. Gorgeous photography has long been a staple of the top ad campaigns.

Of course, majestic landscapes lend themselves to that well.

Our own national parks and natural beauty face ongoing threat. Patagonia created popular advertisements that both address this, but highlight the natural beauty.

In this spot, Patagonia founder discusses his own personal affinity for public lands.

In another truly stunning ad, Patagonia focuses on the fate of bears ears.

Patagonia has created campaigns across multiple platforms to effect the change they want to see.

By using phone2action, Bears ears has connected users and interested parties to elected officials. The goal?

Flood the Utah governor with calls about the matter.

Patagonia continues to build its brand, but associates itself with a case it believes in.

Rock Climb - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

Breathtakingly on brand

The best marketing and advertising campaigns feature YOU

Apple launched it's official instagram account in 2017. This was a shift from marketing ads on the social platform.

Apple began haring images captured on iOS devices as a part of a "Shot on iPhone" campaign.

The tech giant also included interviews, and quotes of the various photographers.

The end result?

A campaign that connected the capabilities of the devices to their users.

With user generated content. On the popular social platform.

Similarly to Patagonia’s campaign, Apple connects with Environmental concerns

As usual Apple nails it. Are we even surprised anymore?

Timing is everything in an advertising campaign

Chiquita banana rode the wave of interest in the 2017 solar eclipse.

They capitalized on the interest the eclipse generated, and the sun's banana shape.

Gifs. Tweets. Videos. A massive banana unveiled near the Flatiron Building in NYC...

Chiquita picked up a ton of new twitter followers, a host of social engagement, and over a million views. It was one of those advertising campaign examples that people will reference.

Banana - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

Popular points of interest definitely make for popular advertisements.

Patience serves up the best advertising and marketing campaigns

Back to fast food.

KFC has done some very popular work with agency Weiden+Kennedy.

But this recent recipe was pretty clever even by their standards...

In September KFC started following exactly 11 people on twitter. The five spice girls, and 6 men named Herb.

Then one man put it together...

KFC Twitter - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

Yes, it was the secret recipe to KFC.

Naturally, the tweet exploded. Soon thereafter this amazing painting of the man who unlocked the twitter secret, and the colonel himself, appeared.

KFC Painting - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

This was another instance of letting the internet do it's own work. Very similar to the work Wendy's has also done on some of the other best advertising campaigns.

When brands engage with their audiences on social, amazing things can happen.


"What do the best marketing and advertising campaigns have in common? We think we know #advertising, #wendys #heinz #patagonia

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An 'end of year' advertising campaign

Spotify has become known for creating "out-of-home" advertising campaigns at the end of the year.

To end 2016 (or begin 2017) Spotify went with an "It's Been Weird" theme.

When you stop to think about it, 2016 WAS weird.

The large scale "OOH" campaign connected what exists in a solitary digital realm, to the public. On a much larger scale, to boot.

Spotify Billboard - Learn from the best Marketing campaigns of 2017

Wrapping up

The best marketing and advertising campaigns connect the brand to consumers.

Furthermore, they do it across many platforms.

They find you where you are. In your political beliefs. Your concern for your child's safety. In your playlists. Or your sense of humor. Maybe even in some your other random interests.

The best way to cut through all that noise?

Show up where people are already looking.

We covered 2017.

What's coming in 2018?

To answer that check out our post The Best Creative and Digital Advertising Trends for 2018.

And as always, let us know what we missed or got wrong in the comments!

Like this post? Share it!


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