Our Top 10 Ads of 2014It’s an exciting time for brand builders. Online platforms are opening up untold opportunities for brands to share layered nuggets of ad communication with willing audiences around the world.

Traditional constraints of time and budgets have been obliterated by cheaper production options and media channels that welcome longer, more detailed story-telling. This really was an amazing year for content producers and it was tough to single out just ten top ads, but we needed to focus on the stories that stuck a harmonious cord and when looking back, would best sum up this year of advertising.

These are our Top 10 Ads of 2014 and a brief explanation as to why they work for us:

10. Thai Life Insurance ‘Unsung Hero’

Why we like it: In three minutes, this ad makes us feel more than most movies do in 90 minutes. It’s raw, vulnerable and demands that you shed a tear.

9. Beats by Dre ‘The Game Before the Game’

Why we like it: No ad on the list sums up a ‘global’ feeling more than this one, which was by far the best World Cup ad of 2014. Ironically a audio brand schooled all of the prestigious sports labels when it came to TVC promotion at this year’s tournament. It has superstars galore and for us, the backing track couldn’t have been better selected.

8. J Crew “Travel with Style’ with Casey Neistat

Why we like it: Casey Neistat should have ad agencies and production houses nervous. This guy is solid proof that great advertising doesn’t require huge production budgets. He’s fresh, edgy and is never short of a clever low-fi way to shoot film. Ignore this guy and his style of filmmaking at your peril.

7. Always #LikeAGirl

Why we like it: We love creative ideas that frame niche / boring products and brands in a new, intriguing way. Hygiene brands can easily get the same old..same old treatment. But Always stepped away from that in 2014 and sparked online conversations that were taken on by other brands for the rest of the year. They set a trend that escalated the point beyond just selling a product – they started a movement.

6. John Lewis Christmas 2014

Why we like it: Male protagonists in advertising [young and old] are usually stereotypically portrayed as violent / stupid / irresponsible / dope-headed  or sex-starved. It’s hugely refreshing to see a boy portrayed as imaginative and sensitive. The world is a complex and multifaceted place – thank goodness somebody sees that.

5. Johnnie Walker ‘The Gentleman’s Wager’

Why we like it: Johnnie Walker saw the opportunity to produce a branded movie and create a compelling global narrative around their Blue Label brand. This doesn’t feel like an ad and what’s great about it is that it doesn’t come across like there is a marketing suit counting the YouTube views that it gets [which is 11 360 000 BTW]. It’s slow, considered, classic and leisurely. Perfect!

4. Bell’s ‘The Reader’

Why we like it: Beautifully shot, this ad for Bell’s tells a heartwarming local story. There are small details in ever shot that show the care that was taken with the production here. It’s inspiring and aspiring at the same time – an emerging mix that’s hard to get right.

3. WREN ‘First Kiss’

Why we like it: Who would have thought that a film of strangers kissing would generate more than 95 million views on YouTube. WREN is a small US-based fashion brand with a history of clever online advertising. But their 2014 ‘First Kiss’ campaign has really been a masterclass on how to do online video. It’s simple, doesn’t try too hard and captures a tone that just feels effortless for a pop culture participant. It also didn’t hurt that there were numerous spoofs of the idea from loads of copycat sources as a result.

2. Sainsbury’s Christmas 2014.

Why we like it: The production values on this ad put comparable examples to shame. It just looks like money and must have cost a banker’s bonus to make. it’s a beautiful true story of hope, expertly told and cleverly linked to the brand. The acting is superb and overall it’s a rich exploration into the endless possibilities that an unlimited budget can produce.

1. Volvo XC60 ‘Seek Feeling’

Why we chose it as our No.1: Truly special is when an ad works, without seeming to try too hard. We’re not sure what has happened at Volvo recently. Maybe we’re at an age where Volvo is now like the Soda Stream of the 1980’s, but everything Volvo does these days seems to be the work of a genius. This ad, for the Volvo XC60 is just pure magic. The camera angles are sublime, the grading is drool-worthy and the sound design deserves an Academy Award. It was shot in Kwazulu Natal and literally looks good enough to wipe on your tongue.

It’s astoundingly beautiful and our 2014 Ad Of The Year.