Colin Kaepernick Nike ad grab_crop

FEATURE20 December 2018

Review 2018: best campaign of the year

Features Leisure & Arts North America Retail Trends UK

Looking back over the past year we canvassed opinion on what was the best campaign – be it advertising, brand or political. Here our contributors share their suggestions with two standing out.

Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad

Deborah Mattinson, founding partner, BritainThinks
The stand out campaign is Nike’s embrace of polarising quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It showed a deep understanding of Nike’s audience, and an on-brand willingness to take a risk. There is a lot of talk about ‘brand purpose’ nowadays. This embodied it.

Andy Brown, chief executive, Kantar Media
It has got to be the Colin Kaepernick campaign for Nike. The campaign coupled incredibly low spend with great judgement about its target audience. Nike made a clear decision to focus the campaign on its younger audience, recognising it might alienate some of the less valuable segments – or buyers – in the process. The campaign quickly dominated the social news cycle, with almost four million daily posts appearing globally in the days following the signing on 3rd September – seven times more mentions than Nike would experience on a typical day. According to Kantar Media data, half of the social content around the campaign was positive, while negative reactions encouraging a boycott of Nike products increased from 5% to 29% following the announcement. Analysis shows that over 35s were responsible for 54% of all negative sentiment, suggesting the older social users, who Nike actively decided not to target with the campaign, were more likely to dislike it. 

Ryan Howard, head of analytics, Simpson Carpenter
When a brand wades into one of the most politically charged issues of recent years, then plonks itself down on a cultural knife-edge with folded arms, you would bet that the move was ignorant, foolish or mistimed. The answer is none of the above; Nike delivered a masterclass that reminded us that a brand should stand for something if it wants to be anything. 

Will Galgey, chief executive of insights, UK & Ireland, Kantar
Nike lead the way with Colin Kaepernick in the US and Nothing Beats a Londoner in the UK.


Steve Phillips, chief executive, ZappiStore
Iceland’s banned orangutan advert against the use of palm oil: it grew enormously popular for zero media spend.

Ben Hogg, managing director EMEA and APAC, Lucid
The anti-palm oil Iceland Christmas ad, was a very well-executed campaign. It knew exactly what it was doing every step of the way and it really shows a marketing team that is pushing boundaries. 

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
Although Iceland was a surprise winner of the Christmas ads with it’s cost-effective, viral ad on palm oil, it was also interesting to see that, early on, other retailers fully supported Iceland publicly. It’s quite rare to see this sort of cross retail promotion in support of a wider issue.

Other mentions

Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos Mori
Take Back Control continues to haunt British politics and is still having more impact than anything produced this year.

Greg Clayton, managing director, Kadence International
I loved the Nike: Nothing Beats a Londoner campaign. A perfect example of a positive multi-cultural personalised marketing campaign, highlighting the energy, chaos, vibrancy and aspiration of our fine city.

Jane Frost, chief executive, Market Research Society
It hasn’t felt like a vintage year for campaigns. Though, at a time when it is increasingly difficult to achieve cut through across a proliferation of media platforms, the Royal British Legion continues to inspire me with how it engages the public. Its emotive campaign to mark 100 years since the First World War stood out in 2018. 

Frédéric-Charles Petit, chief executive and founder, Toluna
Kraft’s #familygreatly ad that featured family photos and videos in the brand’s 30 second spot during the second half of Super Bowl LII in February 2018. The ad was part of Kraft’s larger Family Greatly campaign, which centres on parents’ concerns about not being perfect (which is a great tie-in to making quick and easy dinners with Kraft products).

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
The Burberry ‘Close your eyes and think of Christmas’ ad turns the whole seasonal genre on its head with a celebration of a new stoic solitude that feels spot-on for pre-Brexit Britain.

Nick Bonney, founder, Deep Blue Thinking
I really love the work McDonalds has been putting out this year. It’s achieved that rare balance of being able to communicate some key product benefits (e.g. app ordering, table service) but communicated using some lovely human stories. A brilliant example of framing things from the consumer perspective rather than ‘product-out’

Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank
In another year with a lot of political campaigning, Extinction Rebellion stood out, rising from seemingly nowhere to grab media attention with a mix of great timing, a real sense of urgency, and strong language that seems to encapsulate a certain paradoxical Millennial spirit (we’re in dire straits but we’re not giving up) – it’s not afraid to polarise, nor to anger.