They say that hard times foster great creativity: so in a year of almost unrelenting doom, adland optimists were waiting for a new creative dawn. It didn't come. There were pockets of extraordinary and inspiring work, but 2009 was far from a vintage year for the ad industry. Here, though, are the 10 best ads of the last 12 months.
10 McDonalds "Just Passing By". In a TV ad world where great writing is an expiring art, this commercial by Leo Burnett for McDonalds was one of the most ambitious of the year. The agency didn't settle for a neatly turned script, it had to rhyme as well. The result was a pacy piece of poetry that beautifully captured moments in modern life and gave us a warm fuzzy feeling about the world's biggest burger chain.
9VW "Like A Golf". There aren't many years when VW and its ad agency DDB haven't made at least one of the best commercials. This ad, which subtly compared inferior hatchbacks with the iconic Golf, had the dry, wry humour that VW's commercials have become famous for.
8Evian "Roller Babies". You'll find this ad in the Guinness World Records thanks to the 45 million views the commercial's notched up online. Well, it's not every day you see a gang of break-dancing tots strutting their stuff on wheels. Freaky rather than cute, this film is simply mesmerising and the not-quite perfect post-production merely adds to the effect.
7 Honda "Iron". Honda has rarely put a commercial foot wrong in the last decade, but that didn't make it immune to the bomb that exploded under the car market this last year. It closed its Swindon factory for a few months in a bid to stave off redundancies. When the factory reopened Honda ran a bold and simple campaign through Wieden & Kennedy to celebrate.
6 Philips "Carousel". This online ad by Tribal DDB Amsterdam took some of the top ad awards around the world this year. It's a remarkable piece of film, a fantastically crafted and absorbing ad that captures a moment to illustrate the quality of Philips TVs.
5Dixons "Middle England". When was the last time you took pleasure in a Dixons ad? Well, this year the electronics retailer revolutionised its marketing with a series of superbly written and delightfully cheeky ads that also managed to irk its rivals as well as stand out. The campaign, by M&C Saatchi, pulled it all off through the sheer quality of its copywriting.
4 T-Mobile "Dance". So you thought flashmobs were old news. Maybe, but Saatchi & Saatchi used the idea to wonderful effect to create one of the most talked-about ads of the year. 350 dancers brought Liverpool Street station to a standstill by inciting a spontaneous mob dance that captured the public's imagination well beyond the airing of the TV commercial.
3Cadbury "Eyebrows". Dairy Milk's latest iteration of its Glass-and-a-Half-Full strategy was a real pleasure. Two children wiggling their eyebrows to Freestyle's Don't Stop the Rock was weirdly brilliant, and strangely compelling. If the number of pastiches posted on YouTube is any indication (and adland says it is), people loved this ad by Fallon.
Virgin Atlantic "Love At First Sight". Full marks to Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R for persuading Virgin that its 25th anniversary was worthy of a celebratory advertising extravaganza. The sheer chutzpah of the ad was a real bright spot at the beginning of the year, and those of us old enough to remember 1984 revelled in the naffness and the glamour. It captured the Virgin spirit beautifully.
1Comparethemarket.com It's hard to choose between any of the executions in this campaign, but in 12 months comparethemarket and its agency, VCCP, has created nothing short of an advertising phenomenon. Aleksandr the meerkat has become one of the most recognisable advertising icons of the decade, and has transformed the business of the brand he serves. After a year in which the ad industry has questioned itself and its role like never before, it's truly heartening to see how advertising can still cut through to the heart of popular culture and utterly change the fortunes of a brave client.
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