A Caterpillar Cake

FEATURE22 December 2021

Review 2021: Campaign of the year

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What were the best campaigns of 2021? From caterpillar cakes to Swedish pop legends, our panel of industry personalities highlight their favourites of the year.

Rebecca Cole, managing director, Cobalt Sky
Not sure if it’s strictly a campaign, but Aldi’s handling of the “Colin versus Cuthbert” battle with Marks and Spencer was a perfect example of a brand using social media in a smart way. The Aldi approach to the “caterpillar cake-off” captured the public imagination, led to a significant increase in engagement with their brand, and helped them to reinforce and raise their brand identity. #FreeCuthbert

James Endersby, CEO, Opinium
Definitely Sports Direct with their agency The Romans for their thoughtful, well-timed and inclusive campaign ‘#FastAndSlow!’. With 80% of Muslim men and women aged 18 to 35 concerned about how to train safely during the holy month while fasting and with 29% feeling there is not enough advice about how to exercise safely, the campaign provided training tips from a range of famous British Muslim athletes and helped address concerns that many Muslims have about exercising safety and stigmas during Ramadan.

Ben Shimshon, co-founder and managing partner, BritainThinks
‘Hands. Face. Space.’ After the certainty of ‘stay at home’ we all needed help to navigate the post-lockdown world of ever-changing risk levels, personal choice, and communal responsibility. ‘Hands. Face. Space.’ offered a simple, memorable, checklist for balancing our new risks and new freedoms.

Shazia Ginai, CEO, Neuro-insight
I would say Channel 4 smashed it out of the park again this year with their ‘altogether different’ campaign. Channel 4 have a knack for being able to celebrate diversity in a meaningful yet humorous way. This campaign is a reminder of the fact that many people are on the side of celebrating difference rather than using it as a tool to divide, but its mere existence shows how much work there still is to do. Channel 4 recognise that they can use their voice to influence the minds of many, so they do, and for that I am grateful.

Caroline Frankum, global CEO, profiles division, Kantar
The Amazon ‘Climate Pledge’ TV commercial really stood out to me this year. It’s powerful, holistic use of unapologetic messaging, sobering background imagery, and youths from diversified backgrounds representing Gen Z frustrations and passions. It really delivered a clear ‘what’s it going to take for you to do something?’ call-to-action for businesses who are not yet one of the 108 who have accepted the challenge to do something good.

Ryan Howard, marketing science consultant
In the year when LinkedIn frothed over with abstract waffle about brand purpose, and activists itched to cry ‘greenwash’, Sky Zero stood apart from the onslaught of tired cliché. This was a multi-pronged juggernaut with more depth and polish than we’ve ever seen from campaigns of its type. One can detect the level of thought required to maintain an authentic tone, avoid pandering to the moment or preaching to the converted.

Anna Cliffe, joint managing director, Trinity McQueen
McDonald’s continued to smash it out of the park with crafted creative, beautiful use of music, and relatable ads. I take my hat off to them.

Lisa Wilding-Brown, CEO, InnovateMR
This year, empathy has influenced advertising campaigns to touch more on the human condition and take a stand. There has been much more inclusive and authentic advertising messaging, seen notably by Sephora and Target. I specifically love Lego’s new ‘Braille Bricks’, helping blind children learn braille through play.

It is amazing when I can sit back and find these types of advertisements inspiring from the consumer perspective; I know the work and time it takes to put them together, and how the best ones so clearly start the journey with insights. Learning what makes the customer tick is key, and it is also abundantly transparent when research has been neglected.

Graham Idehen, director customer success, Emea, Lucid
Google’s ‘It’s OK to Ask’ with Marcus Rashford really impressed me. In a time where we’re trying to normalise conversations about race, it was refreshing to see this campaign let everyone know that it’s okay to ask questions about things you don't know.

Barrie Brien, CEO, STRAT7
I love the simplicity, style and elegance of the Apple campaigns. Their longevity is impressive, effective and powerful.

Jane Rudling, managing director of insight and analytics, Unlimited
The relaunch of ABBA. In a fairly gloomy year for news, the launch of ABBA Voyage was ‘Everywhere’ and it put a smile on our faces. You don’t need to be a fan to see the positive energy that the launch spread. 

Frederic Charles-Petit, CEO, Toluna
For me, it was the Oatly Super Bowl commercial. Either you loved it or disliked it, but we all talked about it.

Matilda Andersson, group managing director, Crowd DNA
The McDonald’s ‘We deliver’ Ad – it’s so simple and bold in its simplicity, captured the mood of lockdown in cities and it’s beautifully done.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
Tesco for another year. Last year’s pandemic ‘Every little helps’ made me cry, fast forward to 2021 and ‘Don’t stop me now’ now really taps into the mood of the nation (cleverly avoiding use of the word ‘zeitgeist’) and shows how a great campaign idea keeps a brand fresh and relevant in the hearts and minds of its customers.

Bob Qureshi, CEO and managing partner, I-View
A brand campaign that stood out in 2021 is one from the new main sponsor brands we see on the shirts of the England Premier League clubs. The standout deal for me is the we see for TeamViewer at £235m over five years with Manchester United FC – it’s such a different brand from all the other sponsors. Here we have a brand technology that exploded in its value and worth during the pandemic and will be here for some time to come.

It will be interesting to see which other technology firms (outside of the online betting and telecoms firms) carve their way into this territory.