10 Best Ads of 2013

As a marketing professional, I probably notice good (and bad) advertising more easily than others. I guess that could be considered a curse to some, but I personally appreciate a well-constructed ad with a clear message and a strong focus on its target audience.

What are the criteria that make a good ad? There are plenty of professional opinions, of course, but in my mind there are just a few:

  • Be memorable.
  • Make a strong tie to the brand.
  • Appeal to a target audience.

This past year had some awesome commercials, marketing campaigns, and digital executions. In my opinion, these are the 10 best ads of 2013, although feel free to debate with me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Something set these apart and made them special to me.

10. Honda — “Hands”

It starts with Garrison Keillor making an alluring statement: “Let’s see what curiosity can do.” And then through technical trickery we’re taken on a jaunt through Honda’s many business arms as someone constructs each invention in their hands. I think this ad is brilliant at showing the breadth of invention that Honda has managed to produce over the years. We think of their engineers as tinkerers, thinkers, dreamers, and creators, and this persona is then subconsciously applied to their cars, motorcycles, and engines.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dxy4n0UT82o

9. Kmart — “Ship My Pants”

With a clever play on words, Kmart managed to make everyone feel a little guilty for watching this in a public setting when others mistakenly heard another word besides “ship.” But because of the cheeky play, this ad was shared everywhere, driving up brand impressions for Kmart. In fact, the ad was so popular that they issued a follow-up, Big Gas Savings. You might also enjoy the wildly popular “Show Your Joe” ad for Joe Boxer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I03UmJbK0lA

Agency: Draftfcb, Chicago
Director: Zach Math, Bob Industries

8. Chipotle — “The Scarecrow”

Paired perfectly with a Fiona Apple cover of “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” this Chipotle ad features a computer animated scarecrow discovering the seedy underbelly of mass food manufacturing. The good news: there is a healthier way to feed people, and Chipotle is working hard to be that alternative.

Agency: CAA Marketing, Los Angeles
Animation: Moonbot Studios

7. Guinness — “Wheelchair Basketball”

Many a man has brashly brushed an embarrassed tear from his face after watching the twist at the end of this ad for Guinness beer. And I was most certainly not one of them. Really, I wasn’t…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au8Y98Rgxbk

Agency: BBDO, New York
Director: Noam Murro, Biscuit Filmworks

6. Nike — “Just Do It: Possibilities”

This ad is so perfectly Nike: quick, witty, challenging, and smashmouth. If you can do this, then try something harder. Don’t settle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPkyPdubqDs

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Oregon
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig, MJZ

5. Tullamore D.E.W. — “The Parting Glass”

With absolutely stunning cinematography shot entirely in Ireland, I think this ad for Tullamore D.E.W. paints a picture that most men will remember as they enjoy a good whiskey with friends.

4. LEGO — “Let’s Build”

Appealing to both the desire to build within children and the inner child within young parents, LEGO nailed the feeling of camaraderie of mutual accomplishment through shared creation. Plus, who doesn’t like children with British accents?

3. Dove — “Real Beauty Sketches”

What hasn’t already been said about this heartwarming ad from Dove? The message resonates with women from any generation: you are more beautiful than you think.

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Brazil
Director: John X. Carey, Paranoid US

2. Apple — “Misunderstood”

My friends know how far-reaching my love for Apple extends, but how can anyone question this? Most people portray teenagers as selfish technology-addicted me-machines, but as a past youth leader I’ve seen them as more than that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhwhnEe7CjE

1. Ram Trucks — “Farmer”

I remember watching the Super Bowl with friends and the entire room coming to complete silence when this ad for Ram Trucks started. The unique combination of poetry and silence is haunting. And the tone of the ad is truly American, which is perfect for the intended audience of truck owners. This ad is groundbreaking.

Agency: The Richards Group, Dallas

Other Great Ads from 2013

KitchenAid — “So Much More”

OK, I guess I may be biased. (Full disclosure: I am an employee of Whirlpool Corporation, which owns KitchenAid as part of its family of appliance brands.) But I find our new “So Much More to Make” campaign so ingenious and fun. In each ad is featured “the maker” who delightfully challenges herself (or himself) to new recipes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tr9KQQL5lgQ

Maytag — “Maytag Man: Laundry”

Maytag is also a brand owned and operated by Whirlpool Corporation, but I just can’t help myself because I’m very proud of my colleagues for this new campaign. The Maytag Man is a relaunch of an iconic character which many people easily identify with the brand. And this time, his dry wit and strong demeanor are a perfect fit to carry Maytag into the future. Well done.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-eqCdedq_Q

You can also watch a complete back-to-back YouTube playlist of my favorite ads of 2013.

So what do you think? Did I miss any good ones?

Organizing Browser Bookmarks

I like to keep track of good websites and good people. When I find something worth keeping, I’ll add a bookmark so I don’t forget to check back often.

There are many ways to organize bookmarks; I’m sharing my own method openly so that I might get a glimpse into yours. Share with me on Twitter or Facebook.

Overarching Principles

These are my self-ascribed rules of the road when it comes to bookmarks.

  • Only use the bookmark bar.
  • Keep folder names to one word.
  • Default to HTTPS when possible.
  • Rename page titles to be quickly readable.
  • Within folders, alphabetize.
  • Don’t bury a bookmark in a folder if it’s accessed frequently.

Bookmark Folders

Folders are a good way for me to keep tabs on tons of websites without cluttering my bookmarks bar. I keep restructuring these, so you’re seeing a point-in-time compilation.

Brands
I either appreciate or closely follow (or both) each of these brands. They are interesting, important, forward-thinking, or influential.
Google
Google is a brand, a tech behemoth, a newsmaker, and a services company. I access a Google-made product nearly every hour of the day, which is why it deserves a folder for itself.
Great
These sites are useful and creative. If I’m looking for inspiration, I go here.
People
In this folder I compile the websites of “cewebrities” and friends. These may or may not be blogs, so they’re usually dually-present in Google Reader, too.
Retail
Some of these could be moved to the Brands folder, but in general, these sell stuff from lots of brands in one place.
Social
I should probably cut back on these. Regardless, I think they’re all interesting and each has its own particular culture.

Bookmark Taxonomy

Here’s how the bookmarks play out:

Brands

  • Apple — Iconic, sharp, clever, simple; I am bewildered by the quality of products that churn out of this Willy-Wonka-like tech company.
  • byrd & belle — Beautiful carrying cases for laptops and digital devices.
  • Camelbak — I drink more water when it’s in one of these.
  • Field Notes — Small and simple, easy to carry, great for lists.
  • Gregory — Lots of pockets and completely comfortable for backpacking.
  • Herman Miller — They make the best chairs you can buy, and they’re from Michigan.
  • Incase — Well-made and stylish bags for digital equipment.
  • J.Crew — Good clothing and a step up from my teen brands. I think this contributes to my “chipster” label.
  • LAYERxlayer — Handmade bags from New York that remind me a little of The Village by M. Night Shyamalan.
  • TOMS — Interesting and comfortable shoes with an ethical cause.
  • Trek Bicycle — Sturdy and well-respected bikes from a reputable and USA-based company.

Google

Great

People

Retail

Social

And here are the bookmarks that deserve to be unhindered by a folder:

So, what do you think? Am I a mess? Could I do this better? How do you organize your own bookmarks?

Blogs are not Dead

With the recent addition of Reeder to the Mac App Store, which in its own right deserves much rejoicing, I noticed that my blog reading has substantially increased lately. Some have proposed that Twitter could be slowly killing extended-length written posts on blogs. And while that may be true, there is no shortage of great writers online who carefully cultivate online readerships with wonderful writing and targeted topics.

If you’ve been away from the blog scene for awhile or are simply looking for new material to digest, here are some of my favorite blogs as of late.

  • Oat and About Chicago
    Written by an anonymous and prolific amateur food critic, I have never seen so much attention paid to lowly oats. And the posts are chock-full of hilarious one-liners to boot.
  • American Drink
    Here you will find anything related to classic drinking culture including snarky comments on fancy establishments and expletive-laden attacks on marketing gimmicks. Cheers!
  • Daring Fireball
    Expertly researched, cross-referenced, proofed, and linked, this Apple-slanted blog boasts one of the highest readerships online—and for good reason. John Gruber is a pro at finding newsworthy snippets before anyone else. And goodness gracious, his analysis of the inner workings of Apple are usually spot-on.
  • Subtraction
    This blog will be especially interesting to those grid-based-design nerds. Written by Khoi Vinh, a former New York Times Design Director, you should always expect a precisely written post on current technology and its design choices.

I hope you like some of these sweet blogs. Feel free to send me some of your own in the comments or on Twitter @RyanRicketts. I’d especially like to see some good blogs on hiking…

Forward-Thinking Websites

I have a propensity for creating lists. It’s a curse and a blessing, and every so often it benefits my friends. I’ve been stumbling upon some interesting websites lately, many of which are forward-thinking and quite compelling.

http://designers.mx
Beautifully designed mixes. It asks the question: “what music fuels your creativity?”

http://bagcheck.com
Started by three geeks who love their gear, Bagcheck allows users to share their favorite items for doing what they love. (Let me know if you want an invite.)

http://quora.com
Quora is a continuously-evolving wiki-like system of questions and answers. The more people participate, the better the source of information.

http://unsuck-it.com
What terrible business jargon do you need unsucked? Somewhat of a backwards-translater for terms like “thinking outside the box.”

http://www.google.com/think/insights/
The Google Think Insights team believes that “data beats opinion,” and their new website graciously shares industry studies and learnings with the public—for free.

I hope everyone is having a great Saturday—wherever you may be!