Spend on digital ads worldwide is forecast to rise 15.7% to $17.1 billion this year, according to media agency Carat's forecasts.
But how many did you remember? And how many of them encouraged you to buy a product, change your behavior, or have a different opinion about a brand?Click here to skip straight to the campaigns>>
US trade body, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, asked a panel of marketing experts to take a closer look into the most successful online ad campaigns of 2014, dishing out "MIXX" awards to those which really captivated their audiences and drove business results for brands. Gold-winning brands included Coke, Chipotle, Nike, and some other lesser-known companies from across the globe.
While the ads succeeded for different reasons, a common theme tying them together was interactivity, and campaigns that sought to tackle huge issues, not just push product.Chipotle — "The Scarecrow"
To help raise awareness of its sustainability commitments, Chipotle and its ad agency Creative Artists Agency created this stunning, poignant 3-minute animated film about a scarecrow that escapes an oppressive, "1984"-esque food regime to seek out a fresh product. It's all set to the theme tune of "Pure Imagination" (made famous by the 1970s movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.)
The video acted as a companion for an app-based game, which offered users free food in exchange for helping the scarecrow character on his mission.
Why it worked
Chipotle's "Scarecrow" was awarded "Best in Show" for "branding beyond the campaign."
The video was watched on YouTube more than 5 million times in its first week and has now racked up more than 14 million views. The mobile game was downloaded some 650,000 times. And the entire campaign was said to have sparked 18.4 million conversations across 17 social platforms.
Why so successful? MIXX Awards judge and global chief creative officer at R/GA Nick Law said: "[It] combines the best of Hollywood and the gaming industry. An intriguing story and a compelling game experience, which are both beautifully crafted with a rare sensitivity for their respective mediums, deliver the brand's powerful message with equal weight."
Inkadate Village — "Rice-Code"
Inkadate, a small village in north-east Japan, has long-depended on rice as its main source of income. But Japanese people are consuming less rice each year and action needed to be taken.
Working with Japanese advertising agency Hakuhodo, Inkadate's farmers began growing extremely detailed works of art in their fields using different colors of rice.
An app called "Rice Code" let visitors scan the fields like a QR code to buy the rice, and people could also make purchases through rice art in posters, and via Facebook photos.
Why it worked
What better marketing success metric than this: Inkadate began to attract so many tourists — more than 250,000 in total — that the government had to build a new train station.
Marla Skiko, EVP and director of digital innovation at SMG Multicultural, said the campaign was a perfect blend of art and science, using digital not as an advertising channel, but an engine to power interaction.
Skiko added: "The campaign worked because the team allowed audiences to seamlessly admire, capture and buy a beautiful product entirely through their mobile devices.”
Nike — SB App
Nike and its agency R/GA created the SB app to reach a notoriously insular community: Skateboarders.
The app centers around the "Trick Tee," which basically acts as a taxonomy of almost every-known skateboarding trick, with videos — shot from four different camera angles — of pro boarders executing them.
Users could also upload videos of themselves attempting the tricks in order to take part in challenges set by the app, or to take on their friends in a "S.K.A.T.E." game.
Why it worked
In the first four months of the app going live, users uploaded 60,000 videos and played more than 10,000 games of S.K.A.T.E. It was a gold-winner in the "Branded Utility" category of the MIXX Awards.
Michael Lebowitz, founder and CEO of Big Spaceship, said of the app: "What they've created is essentially a comprehensive compilation of skate tricks with an instructional aspect that lends context and purpose to the whole platform. By building a special rig to film these moves, they've given skaters valuable insight into how the tricks work. So it's this combination of an educational platform and cultural anthology that results in something really special."
Coca-Cola — "America is Beautiful"
"America is Beautiful" acted as Coca-Cola's 2014 Super Bowl TV campaign, but it started its life online with a video that showed how "moments" are shared across the US, uniting people of different cultures.
The centerpiece of the campaign was a controversial video which depicted "America the Beautiful" being sung in seven different languages.
As social media was exploding with reaction to the campaign (both positive and negative,) Coca-Cola sent tailored versions of the video (LGBT, Native American, interracial parents, and other categories) to Facebook users, depending on their user data.
Why it worked
Coca-Cola sent out more than 87 million personalized videos in total, helping lift positive chatter about the brand and driving it to become the top trending topic on Facebook during Super Bowl 2014 and for the next two days.
David Roman, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Lenovo, said the campaign worked because it caused controversy yet was "completely in-line" with Coke's brand position of driving happiness.
"Best of all, Coca-Cola didn’t have to defend itself online — Coke’s fans did that for them. The work not only sparked a positive conversation about the values of the brand, but it also drove up sales by resonating deeply with young Americans, a generation that is the most multicultural ever,” Roman added.
Giraffas — "The Goal Screen"
Giraffas is one of Brazil's largest fast-food chains, and it wanted to do something special for the football fans flooding to the country for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Its agencies TBWA and Mood came up with "The Goal Screen," an app which uses the features found in any smartphone — such as the microphone, front camera, and accelerator — to create a football game you can play by lining up your phone with tray liners designed to look like a soccer pitch.
Users got to test out their striking prowess using their fingers to kick a virtual ball past a digital goalkeeper.
Why it worked
The game sparked a 13% spike in Giraffas' sales nationwide, after the app was downloaded more than 40,000 times.
Ciro Sarmiento, executive creative director at Dieste, said: "The 'Goal Screen' is one of those rare cases of a QSR brand enhancing customers experience beyond fast food. It redefines the way you use a tool and keeps an audience entertained."
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