1/30/15 • Five Of The Best Ads Of 2014 – And What Makes Them Great

As posted in The Gaston Gazette:

(1/30/15) BELMONT, N.C. –  Great ad campaigns are like fine wine: They are complex, carefully crafted and only get better with age. Sure, there are plenty of ineffective ads out there, too, but we’re lucky enough to live in an era where each new year also brings us a new spate of fantastic ads developed by creative teams at the top of their game.

Before we herald the appearances of the great ads of 2015, let’s take a look back at a few of the ads of 2014 that were especially successful and at the reasons why.

  • Procter & Gamble – “Tough Love” and “Pick Them Back Up”: This ad campaign premiered during the 2012 Olympics and was revived for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The two ads in the campaign that were given most prominent billing (and screen time) were “Tough Love,” which charts the learning process and athletic development and paralympians, and “Pick Them Back Up,” which chronicles the many falls of a young hockey player and a young ice skater as they work to realize their Olympic dreams. Both ads show how instrumental a parent’s support (moms in particular) is during a young athlete’s career. What makes these ads so successful is both their accurate portrayal of childhood’s challenges and their ability to tap in to the emotional connection between parent and child – both themes with which any person, regardless of their background, can connect.
  • Budweiser – “Hero’s Welcome”: Budweiser has a long tradition of great commercials – their signature Clydesdales are treated almost like a cultural institution at this point – but their ad featuring Lt. Chuck Nadd and his return home from active duty was particularly timely and effective. The ad, which premiered during the 2014 Super Bowl broadcast, featured Nadd being surprised by a ticker-tape parade and the turnout of his entire community when he arrived home in Winter Park, Fla. The ad’s highlighting of vast community support for military service struck a chord with viewers, as did the brand’s focus on the personalized experience of a single individual’s return from war rather than the experience of a large group. The ad’s use of the element of surprise and its personal approach to a commonly-shared and oft-supported experience made it jump to the top of many “best of 2014” lists.
  • Volvo Trucks – “The Epic Split feat. Van Damme”: Volvo’s ad promoting the stable steering of its line of trucks featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of the most masterful pieces of advertising in 2014. The ad features Van Damme standing on the mirrors of two Volvo trucks driving in reverse, and the trucks slowly spread apart until Van Damme is doing a split between them, suspended above the road. The ad, of course, illustrates Van Damme’s flexibility and his steel nerve, but it also highlights the remarkable “stability and precision” of Volvo’s Dynamic Steering. The ad’s combination of stunt, star power and superior exhibition of its product was a hit: it scored more than 77 million views on YouTube, reaction videos and several parodies.
  • HBO – “Awkward Family Viewing”: The seven ads that HBO premiered in 2014 to promote its HBO GO service veer off in a completely different direction than the ads we’ve previously discussed. Instead of focusing on the moments that bring people together in uplifting ways, HBO focuses on the moments that one demographic in particular wishes it could keep from parents: the moments when watching a risqué scene from one of HBO’s popular television series. The spots feature young adults squirming at the comments of their parents as they watch revealing moments from episodes of Girls and Game of Thrones. The message? Stop the awkward family viewing and get HBO GO so that you can watch these episodes in private. Not only did the spots prove adept at targeting a lucrative and often elusive demographic, but they also infused the marketing of a new product from an established brand with a welcome dose of humor.
  • GEICO – “Ickey Shuffle: Did You Know”: One final ad from 2014 that got a lot of air time, and deservedly so, was GEICO’s ad featuring former pro football player Ickey Woods. Part of GEICO’s series of “Did You Know” ads, this ad asks whether or not people are as aware that Woods will celebrate virtually anything as they are of GEICO’s tagline: “15 minutes will save you 15 percent or more.” Woods is shown celebrating getting cold cuts at the deli counter in the grocery store. Woods’ celebratory dance is both hilarious and endearing, and GEICO used its appeal to broaden the exposure of its brand; they created a series of Ickey videos showing him celebrating everything from birthdays to cute baby photos, which people could then share with friends.

This diverse list of memorable ads from 2014 illustrates that great advertising is alive and well, and that the key to achieving it is creativity, clear focus and emotional appeal. We’re looking forward to seeing what ads in 2015 will measure up – there are sure to be a host of them.

Lyerly Agency’s President and CEO Elaine Lyerly and Executive Vice President and COO Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette. See this month’s edition at http://bit.ly/1DxwCGQ.