You probably go for a bathroom break or a beverage when a commercial comes on. But some commercials are well worth the time you spend watching them. To underscore that point, Adweek has singled out the ads its editors found most effective and engaging in the past 12 months.

What did it take to capture their attention in 2019? An inspiring story beautifully told, as when Microsoft devoted its 2019 Super Bowl ad to the creation of an Xbox controller for disabled kids. A clever and audacious idea, such as when Apple draped one side of an entire building during the Consumer Electronics Show with the sentence, "What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone." Or, in some cases, a smart spinoff of an existing ad campaign that's gained attention -- good or bad -- in the past.

You can find the full list of Adweek's 25 2019 winners here, and it's well worth a look. Here are the top five:

1. Joust

Super Bowl viewers in 2019 were already familiar with Bud Light's medieval-themed "Dilly Dilly" campaign from previous sports events and ads earlier in the game. Then Anheuser-Busch and HBO teamed up to hit them in the gut with an ad that initially seemed like another "Dilly Dilly" spot but suddenly morphed into one for the final season of
Game of Thrones. Which was universally panned by the show's fans. Too bad it wasn't as clever as this ad.

2. The Truth Is Worth It

What some derisively call "mainstream media" has come under fire from both the left and the right, and the New York Times created an ad campaign that sheds light on just how much diligence its reporters put into their jobs, as well as the risks they take doing them. The Times showed how reporters collected and checked the facts for each of five front-page stories in commercials that Adweek described as "nail-biting."

3. Dream Crazier

Adweek declared its third-place winner to be a tie between two Nike ads, both about women's sports. Both are spinoffs of Nike's highly controversial but very successful 2018 "Dream Crazy" campaign narrated by Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49er who unleashed a firestorm by taking a knee during the national anthem. One of the 2019 ads was created to run during the Women's World Cup opening and is tightly themed to women's soccer, the other was created to run during the Oscars and takes on the double standard in sports head-on.

4. Gift Responsibly

Unless you've been living in seclusion, you're likely aware of the holiday Peloton commercial that was derided and mocked across social media. The ad features a woman first receiving a Peloton bike as a Christmas present from her husband, then taking video selfies as she uses the bike. "A year ago, I didn't realize how much this would change me," she says at the end -- and that's the problem. She started the year model-thin and ended the year the same way. Also (and I believe this is the source of the backlash) she appears timid, fearful, and self-deprecating at the beginning and exactly the same way at the end. Adweek commented that the woman's thank-you "feels more like a hostage video." (Peloton stood by its ad and said it was sorry so many people had "misinterpreted" it.)

You may also know that Monica Ruiz, the actress who played "Peloton Wife," as she came to be known, also appeared in a brilliantly subtle ad for Aviation Gin that ruthlessly mocked the offending Peloton ad without ever referring to it directly. Adweek gave the commercial its number four slot, saying "this is an ad that just plain worked."

The effort is so much more impressive when you consider just how quickly Aviation and its ad agency Maximum Effort turned it out. The original Peloton ad had been on TV for a while, but was flying under the radar until the social media backlash took off on December 2. That was the day comedian Eva Victor posted her scathing and hilarious sendup of the Peloton ad on Twitter.

Just four days later -- four days! -- Aviation Gin founder Ryan Reynolds tweeted the new ad with the sly intro "Exercise bike not included." In that brief time, Aviation Gin and Maximum Effort found and signed Ruiz, wrote a delightfully spare script, and shot a commercial that manages to say a whole lot with a very small number of words.

5. The Book of Dreams

The UK catalog company Argos created what is by now a familiar fantasy in which an ordinary guy sitting in his ordinary kitchen imagines himself into being a rock star, drumming along to Simple Minds' 1985 hit "Don't You (Forget About Me)." But the ad takes on a whole other aspect when his daughter comes down the stairs and finds him doing it. Adweek calls this commercial "a singular source of pure joy" and I agree. I might even have picked it for number one.

Published on: Dec 30, 2019
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