I’m stuck on a desert island? Away from slack, emails, zooms, social media, WhatsApp and middle-of-the-night wake ups from my kids? I mean, it sounds kind of idyllic. But I know in reality, I’ll be pretty bored after a day of sun soaking, sea dipping and making sandcastles with nothing to feed my never-ending curiosity. Oh, and I will be hungry too. But I guess I will learn to fish. So, for the curiosity and feeding the imagination side of things, here is my compilation of some of the best ads, branded content, brand entertainment and brand activations that represent the things that make me smile, the things that inspire me, the things that motivate me and the things that just make me laugh.
Desert Island Ads
Bodyform – Viva La vulva
There is so much to say about this ad. First, the track. We’ve come a long, long way together! Because yes, we have. I have admired this brand for always putting its head above the parapet and talking about ‘taboo topics’ (like period blood is taboo!!), and this campaign tackling the alarming rates of labiaplasty – because women feel that their vulva’s are abnormal is just that. The art direction, the humour, the attention-grabbing execution, and the impactful message perfectly reminds us that brands can have an important role to play in challenging and changing societal norms that need to change. And change it has. The cultural conversations that this ad has brought with it is inspiring.
Nike – Nothing Beats a Londoner
Okay, maybe I am biased as I AM a Londoner. But this ad (or really, this is branded content) is just perfect in pretty much every way. So, while I am on this desert island Nothing Beats a Londoner will help me with my homesickness as well as continue to inspire me – as every time I watch it, I get something else from it, spot something new and just never gets bored. The track, the script, the casting, the craft. I love that it gives a platform for young athletes, shows the diverse selection of sports, highlights cultural challenges, and has a lot of tongue and cheek in it. Entertaining? Yes. Inspiring? For sure. Important? 100%. And I can watch it again and again. Because, let’s face it, I have a lot of time to kill.
The Lego Movie
Talking of time to kill, I may be cheating with this selection. But The Lego Movie is just wonderful non-traditional thinking. Creating brand love and consideration can live as so much more than an ad spot and The Lego Movie is proof of that. Okay, yes, it needs considerable budget. But it is a totally different way to fund a brand activation. I love brands that are looking to play in the entertainment space. In a world where we can easily skip ads, most people stream shows and movies (sans ads – for now), brand entertainment allows you to be where the audience is, create something they want to consume and not just play in culture, but BE culture. Lego sits in the genius brand category for me. Also, I have just killed 1 hour 35 minutes waiting for my rescue plane.
Cadburys – Gorilla
The reason that this is one of the best ads that comes to mind for me is, I wasn’t in advertising in 2007. No, I was living a different life as a fashion editor in glossy magazines. So, I remember this purely as a consumer. And I remember thinking – how on earth did anybody produce this genius, bonkers and brilliant idea? And then I remember thinking, how did they get everybody else to believe it was brilliant? Much like in advertising, in magazines I had to sell my ideas into my editor and understood sometimes (!) the more bonkers ideas aren’t always a hook, line and sinker. It’s an ad I will never forget. And as it often comes up in meetings today, I am not alone. Also, I can have a great air drum session on the beach.
So, if you get Spike Jonze to direct an ad, you know it is going to be nothing short of brilliantly bonkers. And this fragrance ad is perfectly that. In a world where perfume ads have typically depicted attraction, romance and sexuality, Kenzo World is everything but. This is pure creative FOMO for me. Obviously the creative and direction is wonderful. But the choreography and casting are phenomenal. I mean, I want to be friends with her. I want to go on a night out with her. Hell, I want to buy the perfume – and you don’t even see it right till the end frame. And while I may be wearing eu de sea water on this beach, I can have a pretty bonkers dance around to keep the vibes up.
Southern Comfort – Whatever’s Comfortable
I mean, on this desert island beach, this could be me. But without the need to disregard what others are thinking of me – because I am aaaaaaaall alone. I love the simplicity of this ad. Beautiful art direction, wonderful casting, simple product integration and great swagger. An ad spot with no script is no easy feat, but the mood is intoxicating, gripping even. You are waiting to see if anything happens, but no. And that is part of the genius. Creatively I aspire to create work that is entertaining and relevant, and this continues to inspire me to think bold and confidently. Much like the protagonist in this spot.
Gucci – The Gucci Vault
I always look to Gucci as a brand that is brave, ahead of the time and driving culture, not just being part of it. Whatever you may think of the Metaverse and NFT’s, it’s been predicted that digital fashion could increase industry sales by $50 billion by 2030, Gucci wasn’t just going to sit back and see what happens. This campaign helped Gucci reach a new audience, attract future customers, road test new product designs and ultimately generate a new revenue stream. So, while this isn’t a typical ad spot, this kind of advertising puts a whole new lens on what is possible. Oh, and the films of beautiful optical illusions directed by Max Siedentopf are what grabbed my attention – that is some beautiful craft right there.
The Last Photo – CALM & ITV
The Last Photo is one of the most impactful pieces of important work I have seen recently. ‘Suicide doesn’t always look suicidal’ is such a human insight and this was executed and delivered with such impact. Not only does it powerfully and simply drive awareness of the current problem, but it gives people the tools to help those that need the support. We all hear and read about the shocking numbers of suicide, but to articulate it in a way that is sympathetic and has actual cut through is no mean feat and The Last Photo was done perfectly. Again, I truly believe in the power of creativity to drive important messages and when it is done and creates a difference it is beautiful.
Kirsty Hathaway is executive creative director, JOAN London.