The most creative campaigns of 2023 #YearInReview (2024)

2023 has been a lot of things. It’s been a year that saw great divisions widen and a year that seemed to almost revel in chaos, but it was also a year in which creativity continued to shine, even as it stood on the precipice of potential technological upheaval.

Yes, if 2023 will be remembered by the history books for any one thing, it will probably be (other than the existential madness of Barbieheimer, of course) artificial intelligence. Indeed, if the 21st century is remembered for only one thing, it’s starting to seem as if AI, and its role in shaping our shared future as a species, will probably be it.

But I’m not here to talk about AI. At least not today. I’m here, alongside a selection of industry experts, to look back over the year that was 2023 and spotlight the pieces of singular creativity that stood out and extended a bold middle finger to the gathering darkness of “infinite content”.

So, join us for a deep dive into the very best ad land had to offer in 2023. What the creative landscape will look like this time next year is anyone’s guess (on that note, be sure to check back next week for mine) but for now, let’s do what Creativepool does best – celebrate creativity!

Benny Bentham, Creative Director, Waste Creative

‘Tis the season for debate as punters - and the industry - line up with sharpened knives to carve up the deluge of Christmas ads. Some have been great (TK Maxx: funny, current, charming), some have been forgettable (M&S: where celebs can’t overcome the blandness) and some left me surprisingly cold (John Lewis: where was the heart and story? Why that song?). However, one stood out as a clear winner for me. KFT: KFC’s anti-Christmas Christmas ad - a welcome diversion from the ‘do Christmas your way’ trend. It was playful, cheeky and enjoyably hoodwink-y.

With online communities louder than ever, and brands falling over themselves to show they listen to the fans, this one was a lovely subversion. It has swagger: bold enough to lead you up the garden path while still showing that the brand is listening, but then confident enough to tell them they’re wrong - and the customer isn’t always right. It’s a great antidote to the excessive tinsel we’ve seen elsewhere this season. The endline “we ignored you” had me chuckling, too - a surefire winner amongst a fair few turkeys.

Gary Jacobs, Creative Partner at

The recent launch of the new EE brand has been a remarkable stride in the telecom industry, emphasising a customer-centric and culturally resonant approach to British life. As a Creative Parent at Live & Breathe and a parent of two kids, the rebrand struck a personal chord, particularly with the EE Learn TVC and the simultaneous release of the EE Switch Off. Drift Off advert.

The EE Learn TV advert, with its honest depiction of the realities of mobile ownership, resonated deeply as my daughter embarked on this transformative journey. The campaign's transparency in showcasing both the positive and challenging aspects of having a mobile device mirrored the ethos of the rebrand, making it a standout and relatable piece of communication.

Adding to the sweet spot of a good campaign where viewers see themselves in a similar scenario, the EE Switch Off. Drift Off advert was perfectly timed during my attempts to pry my kids away from their devices for our bedtime routine. The use of the Faithless track not only added a nostalgic touch for parents but also resonated with the target audience. I could almost hear a collective 'tune' from parents reminiscing about a time before our little ones filled our homes with so much joy (said through gritted teeth).

Hats off to Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, Digitas, Boomerang, Publicis - Poke, Zag, and Prodigious, the masterminds behind the multi-channel customer communications. Their collaborative effort shines as a stand-out piece of creativity for 2023, showcasing not only technical prowess but a profound understanding of the human experience.

It's a testament to how, through collaborative and innovative efforts, we can break through the noise and forge meaningful connections with our audiences. The success of this endeavour demonstrates that being honest in our storytelling not only resonates but also establishes a genuine and lasting bond with consumers.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of marketing, let EE's rebrand and campaigns serve as an inspiring benchmark for elevating creativity, honesty, and connection in our industry.

Ann Wixley, Creative Director at Wavemaker

There seemed to be fewer of the ‘big traditional’ headline-grabbers with the most striking point being the range and diversity—a fitting reflection of the audiences we serve and fragmentation of how and where we reach them.

British Airways’ ‘Take your holiday seriously’, which used out-of-office messages contextually placed in multiple media, tuned in to customers’ inner-voice in a year where stress and burnout have taken over the cultural zeitgeist. Quite a pivot from the nation’s airline to a down to earth champion of holidays and all those good feelings that come with them, deftly executed with the best of British humour in full flight.

Cadbury’s consistently moving ‘There’s a glass & a half in everyone’ big idea showed up with a charming role-reversal in Dad’s First Day’ and Cadbury’s Fingers gets the purpose oh so right with their Signing for Small and Big Fingers partnership.

It is impossible not to mention Specsavers and their “Should’ve gone to…’ beautifully simple billboard blunders playing on one of the longest-running-in jokes, trumping Maybelline’s buzz-generating faux OOH mascara tube in my book.

However, the most inspired marketing move must go to the ‘Barbenheimer’ pairing to create a cinema content binge event of two cinema opposites. The tactic served not just to get bums on seats but to get bums on seats twice in short succession.

Keeping with the box office, Taylor Swift shaking things up with her record-breaking Eras Tour turned into a cinema feature for weekend viewing only, was a second reminder of how powerful the medium is, and as fragmented as our audiences are, how much a collective shared moment is valued.

Finally, looking further afield, one of my favourites was P&G’s innovative ECOCLIC packaging that’s easy for older or less nimble fingers yet impossible for small children to open. It hit the trinity of safety, sustainability, and inclusivity; and breaks the mould with packaging driving brand love. I cannot not mention Mouthpad, a life-changing innovation that enables people with limited mobility to connect with their favourite devices with ease.

Creativity in its broadest sense and innovative thinking that defies traditional boundaries, should top the chart.

Jose M. Sanchez, Head of Creative at Tactical

In 2021, Coca-Cola went through a major repositioning, introducing the "Real Magic" brand platform celebrating the genuine magic of human connection. This philosophy emphasises unexpected moments of connection that elevate everyday experiences. The platform includes a new design identity, featuring the "Hug" logo, and involves a diverse group of creatives to visually represent the brand in its most diverse visual representation to date.

In 2023, Coca-Cola continued its creative momentum under the "Real Magic" platform with innovative and creative campaigns. The "Masterpiece" integrated iconic Andy Warhol paintings with classic and contemporary artworks, showcasing Coca-Cola as the central element uplifting moments that matter. Additionally, its series of "Create Real Magic" campaigns explore artificial intelligence, inviting digital artists to use an AI platform for creative experimentation, bridging the gap between technology and human creativity.

These campaigns collectively reflect Coca-Cola's ability to evolve and remain relevant in a rapidly changing world and how well it’s executing under the platform it launched just two years ago.

Adam Richmond, Deputy Editor at Contagious

As a platform where 1 billion videos get viewed each day, attention on TikTok is hard to obtain – and even harder to keep. Make it snappy may be the abiding wisdom for brands turning up in people’s feeds, but in February this year, premium hotel chain Hilton broke with convention to create a disruptive piece of content that really grabbed eyeballs.

The #HiltonForTheStay ad, created by TBWAChiatDay New York, is introduced by Paris Hilton, who offers anyone who makes it to the end of the 10-minute video the chance of winning Hilton Honors Points, experiences, ‘swag and more’. (You read that right, 10 minutes!)

The ad then splices together commentary-style videos, skits, reaction videos and sketches from well-known creators, each performed in the creator’s characteristic style. Crucially, it’s Hilton’s authentic collaboration with these popular TikTokers that makes the ad so enjoyable and entertaining.

Speaking about how the agency landed the right tone, TBWAChiatDay CCO Amy Ferguson told Contagious: “A mistake that a lot of brands make when it comes to creating content like that is trying to control it too much… When a brand comes into that space and changes how influencers talk, it’s cringe, it doesn’t work.”

Tom Ghiden, Managing Director atJOAN London

Apple - Mother Nature

Some may argue that this doesn’t count as it’s not a "traditional" advert, but more branded content. But this is the perfect example of advertising that stretches beyond tradition. Like a spoonful of sugar, Apple distracts from what some would find as admittedly dry statistics, with humour and energy.

While some felt wronged that this film ignored Apple’s unmentioned sustainability issues — the reality is that for most consumers the spotlight here on their continued endeavours and achievements makes them seem lightyears ahead of the competition. Once again, Apple proves they are the best (with an assist from the GOAT, Octavia Spencer).

Uber One - Best Friends

While this is a celebrity-driven vehicle (pun intended), I couldn’t have enjoyed watching this more. It’s incredibly well cast and hilariously scripted – simple but effective. Though just over three minutes long, I would have watched this odd couple for hours.

But even more impressive, is how seamlessly this simple premise allows for Uber product demos. Simply put: when you’re a company for “people who eat food and go places” surprisingly showing celebrities doing only that in an engaging and uncomplicated way, makes for an entertaining film.

Kirsty Hathaway, Executive Creative Director at JOAN London

McDonald's - Raise your arches

I don’t think that we can talk about great work in 2023 without mentioning Mcdonald's ‘Raise your arches’. And yes, I know everybody will be saying this, but this is just a stand-out campaign.

It has fun, humour, energy, wit, irreverence and achieves something near impossible - influencing consumer behaviour. Because I have no doubt we will all be raising our eyebrows to cue a cheeky McDonald’s trip for years to come. Bravo McDonalds. Bravo Leo Burnett.

Channel 4 - the idents

Channel 4 set the bar pretty high for themselves. As a young consumer, I can still remember the Channel 4 idents. They felt relevant. But nothing is as relevant as what Channel 4 created in 2023. I just BLOODY LOVE IT.

It encapsulates Britain perfectly with numerous vignettes. But I love the seamless shot. Simple effective and immersive. But the craft! Chefs bloomin’ kiss. And you know, it worked as I check out what they have on OD more than I did before. Just saying.

Barbie

Can you talk about 2023 without talking about Barbie? It was entirely Barbie’s year. The year the world was painted pink. Literally, physically and metaphorically. And ad land waited with bated breath. A brand, a product foraying into entertainment (can you call what they did a foray? Feels like dominance).

I don’t think any of us expected what came. Fashion Collaborations, interior collaborations, tech collaborations, propetly collaborations, OOH teasers, branded content, CGI, TikTok activations. Breadcrumb after breadcrumb. I mean, love it or hate it (I love this kind of smart and multi-dimensional marketing) I challenge you to find someone who didn’t know there was a Barbie movie this year. Kinda the point, no?

Heinz and Absolut

I think we can all confidently say, I didn’t see this coming. But there is everything to love. Driven by a cultural moment that had people talking, two iconic brands managed to move quickly (which isn’t always easy) to tap into this moment in time to not just make a campaign but to make a product.

And then the imagery. Two iconic brands with enviable brand recognition from simple cues allowed them to create something chic, impactful, simple and… instantly recognisable. So much to love here.

Surreal’s favourite cereal

This campaign put this disrupter brand onto my radar - and into my house. Creating high impact as a challenger brand is no mean feat, but the bold palette, big typography, huge claims, small Asterix did just this. While I know it’s received some criticism for no mention of product RTB’s, but I think it portrayed the brands tone of voice perfectly.

And a great funny workaround for the budget challenged. Watching them take this onto social in their funny tone of voice and then respond with a legally verified execution was great. Love disruptor brands for breaking the rules.

Uber eats - eat food and go places

This campaign got everybody talking. It is so wonderful to see Uber Eats leaning into branded entertainment as the three-minute spot is just that - so so entertaining. Wonderful comic script, casting perfection, spot-on direction and all with branding that was entwined throughout the storyline, but not taking away from the entertainment of it.

And the matter-of-fact line of ‘for people that eat food and go places’ is so simple and perfect that it can be executed with just the line across other ad placements.

Rachna Dhall-Haasnoot, Creative Director & Partner at Made in Amsterdam

Possibly one of the more polarising ads of the year, Apple’s ‘status update’ on it’s dramatic report in 2020 to become completely carbon neutral by 2030 was met with “Steve would’ve never…” to “Woke Different” to “Virtue-signaling at it’s best” amongst some other reactions.

A report on CSR or sustainability is hardly what the audience is waiting for, even if we will happily hold a mirror to a company if they went quiet on a lofty promise. But to deliver dry, cold facts and figures in such an entertaining way is what makes this ad work.

Advertising performs many business functions, and one of the more simplistic ones is to just inform. Whether or not you agree the company’s agenda or choice to glorify its credentials with a noteworthy performance by the CEO, you are compelled to watch through the 5+ minutes of drama. And that’s a job well done.

Apple has been leaning into long form storytelling in their films since their unskippable Apple at Work series at a time where every other piece of branded content is trying to get shorter and snappier to win the algorithms. What’s working with their approach is the oldest trick in communication – storytelling.

Time just flies when you’re watching this sustainability report.

Kat Roseby, Creative Director atACNE (part of Deloitte)

Who decided that adverts should be so serious all of a sudden? What happened to funny, laugh out loud, spit your cereal out ads? Now I’m not talking about stupid ads, any Tom, Dick or Wieden’s can write those. I mean ads that make you belly laugh and think f**k that’s good, I wish I’d written that. So I thought I'd focus on that and it turns out some do exist, funny that.

Funny, honest and gross. A winning combination. This ad ‘Get’s me’.

Annoying, yes. Mildly amusing, also yes.”

Nick Sadeghian, Campaign Director at Ingenuity

If a campaign can lead to you into having several serious conversations about whether or not Snoop Dogg is giving up smoke (who, for the record, debuted on an album literally called The Chronic), then in my opinion it’s job well done.

Snoop Dogg’s ad with Solo Stove is without a doubt my favourite of the year, and between this and the work he did a few years ago with Just Eat and the team at McCann London, it’s clear Tha Doggfather never misses.

The response The Martin Agency got from the public was incredible, and my personal favourite comments included the sincere condolences people were giving his full-time roller who would have been out of the job. I just hope Solo Stove are happy they’ve been able to take us on such an emotional rollercoaster this close to Christmas.

Bronwyn Sweeney, Creative Director at MullenLowe

When I was asked to reflect on the most creative campaigns of 2023, I baulked at the question. Is it the end of 2023 already? I still think there’s time to achieve my new year’s resolutions.Through the fog of Christmas ads, here are some of my favourite creative campaigns of the year.

NORWICH CITY FC

This ad tackles the topic of mental health in such a sensitive way it really stuck with me.

Apple RIP LEON

Of all the ways to tell people you can now erase sent messages (what took them so long?) a dead lizard is certainly not the first thing that comes to mind.

Orange - The Bleues

The French women’s football campaign demonstrated the incredible imbalance between how we advertise men’s football versus women. A great use of special FX and something that was all over my socials when it launched.

EE INSOMNIA

I really enjoyed this spot from EE. Not just because it’s a break from Kevin Bacon but everything from how it’s shot, to song choice is such a compelling way to answer the brief.

TIKTOK BEST OF

I’ve really enjoyed watching brands get unhinged on TikTok. Special noms go to the brands that embrace the unfiltered, weird world of this platform like Quechua, Duolingo and Ryanair.

I think 2023 will be remembered as the year joy came back into advertising. It was a return to a new normal and brands having fun again and saying goodbye to manifesto advertising (phew!).

Matt Charlton, CEO at

The first one I’m going to choose is Airbnb’s Voicemail which was brilliant in its simplicity: pictures of everyone having a great time on holiday with the sound of their answerphone playing because they’re not in. I saw it on TV for the first time and it cut right through. I love that campaign.

I love it when a brand creates a bunch of memory structures and hits you with it repeatedly. The Apple iPod’s famous dancing silhouette ads are one of the greatest examples of this type of campaign, so are the classic Gap ads, all shot on a white background with amazing models and music. Airbnb feels like a campaign that has this great idea, owning still pictures of great holidays, but keeping it cool and fresh.

The second one is the Norwich City Calm ad. As a lifelong Norwich fan this has extra meaning but the reaction to it everywhere shows how a really huge rug pull that nobody sees coming can generate a lot of success. Again, it’s so simple, but well enough made to work really well. It made me proud to wear the Norwich shirt.

Dom Sweeney, Head of Creative, at Innocean UK

Last year the question of which piece of work made me the most jealous was an easy one. CALM’s ‘Last Photo’ was, to my mind, head and shoulders above everything. Great idea, brilliantly made. I hate everyone involved. There are ad campaigns we’re supposed to like and ones that we actually like. And CALM was both, which is why I immediately shared it with as many people as I could.

And it’s shareability, rather than jealousy, that should really be the only criterion for how we separate the annoyingly brilliant from the irritatingly ok. A quick look in my outbox reveals two pieces of work that I shared far and wide. One that’s entirely predictable and another that’s anything but.

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The most creative campaigns of 2023 #YearInReview (2024)

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