Best Campaigns of 2021

After last year, 2021 seemed like it might be more “normal” by comparison. Instead, the challenges facing us all seemed to persist and more or less evolve into another shitstorm. For many brands, they continued to struggle with the state of the new world order, but those with the brass to take chances and face things head-on or completely move past it for fear of looking like an opportunist gave us a new era of creative. Here’s a look at a few of the best campaigns that stood out for their brass or their refusal to conform. 

Pepsi: Better With Pepsi  

The soda war between Coke and Pepsi continues in the fast-food market. While the fight to gain sole brand supremacy continues within each franchise, Pepsi takes on the “ask for me” strategy, encouraging consumers to help bring the brand to these chains. We’re used to seeing big-budget spots from Pepsi, but this print and social push really stood out last year for the simplicity of its message. The simple message reminds consumers that its soda brand goes well with fast food. The ads carefully reference what appear to be wrappers and brand mascots of the top burger chains, along with the message: “Better With Pepsi.” Each of these fast food chains happen to serve competitor Coca-Cola. 

Pfizer: #InGameVaccine 

To help spread vaccine awareness and encourage participation, Pfizer showed up of all places—in a video game. The pharmaceutical brand took to Grand Theft Auto RolePlay, one of the most-watched GTA RP games to connect with players. The brand worked with the gamer to create a special mission that included players posting proof on Instagram of at least one real-life dose. Doing so allowed gamers to get a virtual vaccine in-game that granted extra protection for their characters. Any true gamer knows that extra health in the form of a pack or protection is the key to happy, healthy life. 

Guinness: Welcome Back

The Guinness beer tagline: “Good things come to those who wait.” refers to the mind-numbing amount of time you have to wait to enjoy — while it settles after the pour. But, in this campaign welcoming the reopening of bars and pubs, it takes on another meaning. Set to the song “Always on my Mind,” it shows that when you miss something so badly, suddenly you see it everywhere. I see this concept working well shown isolated in a print campaign, but it may be tougher to see within these environments and not quite as blatant in the spot. As an ad man, I love this subtle nod to “subliminal” advertising, but after reading this, the imagery will be obvious to you since you will now be looking for it. Everything resembles a pint of Guinness—snow on top of garbage cans, socks on a clothesline, a black trash can topped with plastic white trash bags… This is a great use of a longstanding brand message reworked to comment on unparalleled times. 

Heinz: Draw Ketchup

Commodities are generally thought to be difficult to brand because they are so standard and boring. In some cases, a brand like Kleenex can become referred to when referencing all facial tissue. This doesn’t necessarily relate to top-of-mind purchasing. Brands must be careful to not push their brand into this category and associate themselves with a commodity by name. The more effective, better direction is to get your brand to stand out as the standard in your category. This is why I was drawn to this campaign for Heinz Ketchup. It hinged on the simple idea that when the world thinks of ketchup, there’s one brand that commands top billing. Heinz proved this by asking everyday folks to “draw ketchup”—with amazing results. 

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