2021 in Review: The best ad campaigns

(The best of the best ads of the year)

So, here we are at the end of another year. In 2021, we experienced more freedom from the pandemic during the spring and summer as cases lowered, but here we are, back in a kind of partial quarantine as the omicron variant spreads. While many businesses asked their teams to return to the office, advertising agencies encouraged their teams to work from home.

Smart and thoughtful.

There’s a lot to be said for working from home. We’ll go out on a limb and say that it does help the creative to create work in a relaxed setting rather than in an office where everyone is begging for an overlong meeting. We can support this theory with the creativity that Reel 360 covered this year. From Dubai Tourism to Rocket Mortgage, we saw a real uptick the how agencies met their clients’ creative needs.

The campaigns we covered made us laugh. Others made us cry. And there were a few poignant submissions that made us do both and above all – think about the product or service. You’ll see in many of our articles we refer to agencies not as just their names, but as “our friends at…” That’s because many of the agencies – The Martin Agency, BBDO, McCann, Ogilvy, David&Goliath, Partners+Napier, to name a few, became our friends.

It made us happy and proud to support the agencies and their creatives work throughout such a wonky year. Reel 360 saw our coverage grow substantially in the international arena and we were thrilled to bring that work to our outlet.

The curated work below is a testament to the long hours dozens of copywriters, art directors, creative directors and clients have spent huddled away in mostly isolated home offices :

REEL 360’s Top Advertising Campaigns for 2021

1. Geico “Tag Team helps with Dessert “

This most popular commercial in Geico’s history is also the number one spot for Reel 360 in 2021. Using a combination of old school Hip Hop group Tag Team – Cecil Glenn (DC the Brain Supreme) and Steve Gibson (Steve Rolln) – a 1990s song so popular it’s still used in sports today, and sprinkles, The Martin Agency created one of the rare commercials that enter the zeitgeist. “Shaka-laka-chaka-laka-chaka-laka.”


2. Sandy Hook Promise “Teenage Dream”

Teenage Dream features school shooting survivors from across the country who are experiencing varying degrees of physical and mental trauma, most of whom have severe PTSD.

By subverting Katy Perry’s famous ode to teenage innocence with a re-recording featuring real school shooting survivors reciting the lyrics, the emotive PSA illustrates how the teenage dream is stolen from those impacted by school shootings and underscores the critical importance of prevention. 

CLIENT: Sandy Hook Promise | AGENCY: BBDO, New York

3. Procter & Gamble “Widen the Screen”

The 2-minute film Widen The Screen premiered during the 2021 NAACP Image Awards with a call to action to portray a more holistic view of Black life – one that is layered, beautiful and dynamic – not one that simply reinforces commonly told stereotypes.

Created and produced by a team of largely Black creators in collaboration with Grey New York, and narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Mahershala Ali, ends with the line “Let’s widen the screen to widen our view” and challenges the expectations viewers have about the characters and stories often played by Black actors – fueled by a limited view of Black Life on screen.

CLIENT: Procter & Gamble | AGENCY: Grey, New York

4. Dubai Tourism “A Five-Star Mission”

The Dubai Presents launch film, Spy, stars Alba and Efron as a bickering couple, reminiscent of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and plays on the classic spy action genre, featuring dramatic espionage-style sequences with a humorous twist.

Created and developed by Mother in 2021, the film takes viewers on a breathtaking journey through iconic destinations such as Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Al Naseem and overwater restaurant Pierchic, the film explores Dubai’s sophisticated Jumeirah district before heading out on an epic desert caper to Dubai’s adventure capital Hatta, home to sweeping sandscapes and a multitude of activities including hiking, biking and kayaking.

CLIENT: Dubai Tourism | AGENCY: Mother

5. Apple “Saving Simon”

Oscar-nominated directors Jason and Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Ghostbusters) highlight some of the newest features on iPhone 13 Pro – Macro and Cinematic modes – in a tearjerker holiday card to the world. 

Featuring the song You and I by Valerie June, the story follows a little girl, who desperately wants to save in order to save Simon the snowman from melting. She puts Simon back home in the refrigerator before the end of the winter to ensure that he can see the snowman every day. 

CLIENT: Apple | AGENCY: TBWA\Media Arts Lab.

6. Kia Motors “Movement that Inspires”

Created by David&Goliath, Kia’s “Writer,” debuted during the 2021 Emmys. It followed a screenwriter through the creative process. After several failed attempts at “putting pen to paper”, the writer goes for a drive in her EV6 to clear her head and find inspiration. She begins to notice large letters in front of her spelling out the words, “Open on Paris, 1736” as a horse-drawn carriage crosses an intersection.

As the drive continues, the words “forbidden love” and “stepmother plots,” along with a menacing queen-like figure perched high upon a bridge appear. Characters dressed in period costumes, including a group of violin players and a mysterious masked figure cloaked in black materialize as she drives by – highlighting how the movement of the EV6 – and all Kia models – inspire those that drive them.

CLIENT: Kia Motors |AGENCY: David&Goliath

REELated: 2021 in Review: The stories that caught our readers’ attention

7. Annovera “Please Come”

To celebrate Vagina Appreciation Day, the makers of the birth control brand Annovera, (egesterone acetate and ethinyl estradiol vaginal system) encouraged women to stop being shy and apologetic when it comes to talking about their vagina and vagina health.

To get women to speak and live unapologetically,  McCann New York, enlisted popular comedian Whitney Cummings. And who better to speak candidly about vagina pleasure?

CLIENT: Annovera AGENCY: McCann

8. ServiceNow “Willy Wonka”

ServiceNow’s latest campaign dove into the tantalizing world of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, the world’s most imaginative CEO. Although Wonka’s world is fantastical, the results he enjoyed thanks to the transformational power of workflows are were real indeed.

The work targeted CEOs and proved that a breakthrough, beautiful B2B campaign filled with product stories and stunning visual effects doesn’t have to be the stuff of pure imagination. 

Created by BBDO San Francisco, nine commercials explore different challenges faced by Wonka, from marshmallow pillow supply issues to pesky spy butterflies to coconut snow explosions. 

CLIENT: ServiceNow | AGENCY: BBDO San Francisco

9. Uber Eats “Rides”

Elton John and L’il Nas X were the stars of Uber Eats’ ‘Tonight I’ll Be Eating’ campaign. Each unapologetically themselves, iconically unique and cross-generational kindred spirits, they humorously riff off of each other in the campaign for the delivery app.

Created by LA-based Special Group US, the latest installment of the campaign showcases the obvious chemistry and light-hearted banter between the two – who have spent the last few months collaborating on music together.

CLIENT: Uber Eats | AGENCY: Special Group US

10. Apple “Jump”

To advertise their AirPods Pro, Apple featured the song “Fallin’ Apart (Feat. Denzel Curry & Pell)” by Young Franco, the spot begins with our young hero calmly inserting his AirPods Pro into his ears.

As he goes on his journey, he joins some kids who are jumping rope. People around him get ideas and begin creating jump ropes out of unexpected materials like neon tubing and painted road signs which magically lift off the ground. And the AirPods Pro stay in his ears.

CLIENT: Apple  | AGENCY: TBWA\Media Arts Lab

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There are at least 10 more we could easily list here, but we have to stick to a number. That’s what happens when you continue to celebrate the wonderfully talented people who do wonderful agency work.

Happy New Year!

Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1