The year is quickly coming to an end, which is the perfect time to round up a list of highlights from 2017. Today the spotlight is on some of the most successful ads we’ve seen throughout the year. They’re moving, thought-provoking, witty and some outright hilarious. For marketers, it’s a great way to gather ideas, inspiration and find new angles for campaigns.

1. State Street Global Advisors, “Fearless Girl”

McCann’s statue “Fearless Girl” became a global sensation overnight. A bronze statue of a young girl was placed in front of Wall Street’s famous charging bull. The female-empowerment campaign became a favourite at Cannes as well, winning awards in PR, Glass and Nontraditional Outdoor categories. One artist and a powerful message won the hearts of many. “Fearless Girl” is truly outstanding, here’s a video that captures the reactions around the world:

2. Microsoft’s “#MakeWhatsNext: Change the Odds”

This year marks Microsoft’s third #MakeWhatsNext campaign. “Change the Odds” urges young girls to share their dreams and aspirations and encourages them to stay in STEM. In sharing how they will change the world, the girls go through a VR experience that brings their vision to life. Towards the end, sad news are broken to them that only 6.7% of women in the U.S. graduate with a STEM degree. Their responses are what ultimately complete this ad.

3. Audi’s ‘Daughter’

Audi tackles the issue of equal pay and equality in general. As a father watches his daugher participate in a race with other kids, he talks about dreading to explain to his daughter that we are part of a world that values men over women. The thought provoking ad is something different, and definitely leaves you with food for thought.

4. The New York Times, “The Truth Is Hard to Find”

The New York Times released a series of remarkable ads urging their customers to really value the truth that journalists uncover. Slightly unsettling, the ad shows a narration of true stories, interrupted by a camera’s shutter buttons. Although the truth is hard to handle, having a whole picture is something worth valuing in today’s world.

5. 84 Lumber’s “The Journey”

The compelling story of a very real struggle centers around a mother and a daughter fleeing Mexico to come to the U.S. As they approach the border, construction workers are building a wall which shatters their hopes of freedom. Just as unexpectedly, they notice a large door in the middle of the wall which they push to continue their path. The ad raises important questions and brings to light something that needs to be addressed today.

6. Heineken’s  ‘Worlds Apart’

A very compelling ad, that keeps you interested from beginning to end. The #Worldsapart campaign by Heineken did an interesting experiment, testing their question,  ‘Can two strangers with opposing views prove that there’s more that unites than divides us?’. Some of the film’s test subjects are a feminist, environmental activist, a transgender woman and people with completely opposite views to them. Check out what happens when they find out and talk things over over a Heineken beer.

7. Apple’s “Earth — Shot on iPhone”

Climate change remains a heated topic of discussion as brands and different companies strive to raise awareness about the problems we are facing. Earlier this year, Apple released this ad, highlighting the beauty of our world and the importance of preserving our nature and planet. Carl Sagan reads passages from his 1994 book Pale Blue Dot — A Vision of the Human Future in Space. The video is a compilation of videos shot on an iPhone – a clever use of current technologies that is a great example of a product being used for a good cause.

8. Heinz, “Pass the Heinz”

Fifty years ago, in a fictional world, Don Draper pitched an ad campaign for Heinz which some of you may remember from an episode of Mad Men. He suggested not showing the product at all, which seemed odd but this year, Heinz actually took the idea and ran with in. The results? Pretty effective and a clever reference!

9. Burger King’s “Flame Grilled”

This ad campaign featured actual photos of Burger King on fire. The taglines for the images are “Flame Grilled Since 1954”. Although it’s unknown whether these fires were caused by flame-grilling, it’s really not the point. It’s more about this dark humor that we can all appreciate. The element of surprise and a touch of the unexpected sometimes makes for the best ads.

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10. MailChimp, “Did You Mean MailChimp?”

This campaign won a Cyber Grand Prix at Cannes. MailChimp clearly had lots of fun creating the campaign, coming up with funny names that sound like their brand like MailShrimp, FailChips, KaleLimp, SnailPrimp and others. They pulled off both online and offline stunts that brought lots of attention to their services.

11. KFC Cauliflower Burger

If you’re here for the giggles, KFC’s #cleaneating burger ad has all the ingredients. It’s clearly a spoof making fun of foodies and a very specific audience. The ad features a fake influencer, Figgy Poppleton-Rice who proceeds making a burger out of ridiculous ingredients only to be cut off by the real KFC ad – ‘The Dirty Louisiana’ burger.

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