1/7/2013: I've been involved in the ad agency world since I was 18 years old, and since then, there have been numerous campaigns that can only be described as simply excellent. Campaigns like the ones we've seen from Old Spice will go down in the pantheon of supreme campaigns, but along they way, there have been a few others that have caught my eye. So, without any further adieu, here is my favorite "ever" campaign, and my favorite campaign of 2012.
Atomic's "We See It Too" Campaign
Empathy forms the cornerstone of many great campaigns. Messaging that makes consumers actually feel when they see an ad is, to be blunt, the holy grail of advertising. That's why I fell so in love with this campaign from Atomic. As a skier, it hit me square in the adrenal glands and made me incredibly restless for ski season. I can't remember what year this campaign rolled out, but I can quite clearly remember the first time I saw a piece of creative for it. I was reading the Ski Magazine buyer's guide - the issue of the magazine that comes out in late August and annually "kicks off" the march toward ski season - and the image below greeted me, spread across the fold.
Very simple creative - the same generic state fair ride that I had seen at the Minnesota State Fair, but with a few chairs blurring into chairlift chairs. And then the clinching copy: "We see it too." Aside from being incredibly appealing to me as a skier, this ad hit the motherlode on so many strategic levels. The strategists behind this work nailed the demographic to a T: skiers young and old see skiing everywhere. When they look at a hill, they don't see the grass, they imagine what it'll look like covered in snow. When they see traffic cones, they don't see a detour, they see a ski race course. Hence "We see it too" was born. That line instantly makes the brand empathetic to the consumer.
The execution of the print ad itself was wonderful, as well. A simple, effective, and beautifully colorful photograph with just a couple of tweaks to add in the skis to make The YoYo look like a chairlift. The campaign continued through the season with several more "We see it too"-themed ads, each with a different slant. One showed parking meters slowly transforming into ski race gates, while another showed bumper-to-bumper traffic morphing into moguls. In all, a very simple, obviously scalable, and empathetic campaign from Atomic.
Nike's "Find Your Greatness"
This is one of those campaigns that you had to really be hiding under a rock not to notice. From an athletic apparel brand, it's natural to expect a high-energy spot featuring sports royalty jaw-dropping athletic feats, all meant to get the consumer to believe, "Yeah, I can do that, too!" And there's certainly nothing wrong with that - it's an effective tactic for many brands, and it can create some truly memorable advertising.
That's why Nike's "Find Your Greatness" campaign for the London 2012 Olympics was so memorable and so unexpected. This campaign was bold in so many different ways, from the out of home media placement to the creative itself. "Find Your Greatness" sparked wonderful emotional responses from many perspectives. The key messaging, "Greatness is not some rare DNA strand, it's not some precious thing. Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We're all capable of it. All of us." hit home for every individual who has ever considered him or herself an athlete as well as anyone who has ever wanted to simply be seen as athletic. The creative itself was again wonderfully simple; in one case, it was as stripped-down as one young American boy running on a desolate country road. The boy was clearly not LeBron James or Michael Phelps - he was an everyday athlete. As in, the 99.99% of the world that will purchase an athletic product for a setting other than the bright lights of professional leagues. The strategy here again is admirable: make a campaign that shows that everyone who does anything athletic or health/wellness-related is an athlete. And empower them - make them feel that greatness isn't something born and bred, but worked for and earned. And oh, by the way, Nike offers the products necessary to carry you along the way.
Another fun aspect to this campaign was the London out of home media buy. It featured 100% saturation in three of the busiest intersections in London - in other words, gobbling up every bit of available space in locations like Oxford Circus (where London's enormous Niketown is located) and putting the everyday athletes on display. It was a bold decision to include no glorification of the incredibly successful athletes, but a return to glorifying the individual athletes who sweat and compete for the sake of being an athlete.
Campaigns like this are the reason we get into this industry in the first place..