2019 did something good: it sparked a bigger demand for a new kind of advertising. 

With stricter data privacy laws and regulations coming into play, it meant careless online targeting was duly put under the spotlight, urging more responsibility, consideration and relevance. 

Many brands and agencies are now taking more strategic (and creative) approaches to reaching their audiences, and those that are using rich, ethically-sourced insight to guide that thinking are leading the way.

Our campaign of the month series celebrates originality that’s led by unique insight – ideas that don’t come about simply by making assumptions around who you’re speaking to.

These are ideas that broke the mould and gave their audiences exactly what they were looking for, by first asking the right questions.

Here are our 12 top advertising campaigns from 2019 that show us how it’s done.

1. January: We Are Social – Ask Me Anything

Around two-thirds of the world’s population either deny the Holocaust, or don’t know it happened. 

This is an insight that came from Diego Chicharro, Senior Strategist at We Are Social, who also reveals “this proportion only goes up when it comes to younger, more connected generations”.

In an effort to raise awareness around the issue, the agency formed a campaign tackling one of the most prolific conspiracy theories plaguing digital platforms.

Released ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th , the meaningful advertising campaign sought to shift perceptions among a young, digital audience.

Click to access We Are Social's advertising campaign video.
Source: Vimeo

The campaign found a unique, open and honest means of talking about the Holocaust in a way that resonated with young social media users. 

Diego offered us an exclusive comment on the message and delivery of the campaign:

“Our challenge was to use social media to get a young, desensitized and hard-to-reach audience involved in Janine’s story first hand, with a total budget of zero.” 

“The internet can be a tremendously powerful tool for change,” says Diego, “and we believe it is our duty, as the world’s biggest social media agency, to use it for good when given the chance.”

Read the full article.

2. February: The Wonderful Company – JNSQ

The Wonderful Company, a brand best known for Fiji Water and Wonderful Pistachios, built its new wine range and campaign on two fundamental truths it unearthed about female millennials:

  • They appreciate quality and beauty.
  • They prefer rosé and sauvignon blanc.

JNSQ stands for “je ne sais quoi”, translating from French to mean a certain intangible attribute of a person or object that gives it its spark. This was something the brand wanted to capture in its national launch advertising campaign.

JNSQ's advertising billboards
Source: Adweek

This advertising campaign expertly does what many new businesses struggle with: building a convincing brand story.

By forming a campaign that speaks to millennial women’s desire for luxury, craftsmanship and authenticity, The Wonderful Company has seen remarkable success.

From a sales perspective, JNSQ is three times higher than forecasted, and three times higher than that of The Wonderful Company’s already established wine brands.

Read the full article.

3. March: Shell – The Great Travel Hack

It’s no secret that people are becoming more concerned with sustainability, but what might be surprising is what role people see brands playing.

52% of consumers see brands as responsible for the environment. 

Paying attention to this fact and the trends it embodies, Shell created its five-part content series, The Great Travel Hack, challenging its target audience to rethink how they travel to be part of a lower carbon future.

Transportation makes up nearly 30% of the world’s total energy use. This finding from the IEA’s 2018 World Energy Balances Overview gave the teams an idea.

As a world-leading energy company, placing this focus on “finding ways to produce both more and cleaner energy” was a strategic move.

click to access Shell's advertising campaign.
Source: YouTube

“It’s about having more engaging conversations about the future of energy,” says Dean Aragon, Global VP Brand at Shell.

This is an apt example of an advertising campaign that’s not only driven by insight – it’s paying attention to fast-moving consumer trends.

Targeting a younger audience, the creative taps into these consumers’ interests in travel and adventure, along with their increasing concern for the wellbeing of the planet.

Following its success, Shell has launched a second season of the series.

Read the full article.

4. April: IKEA – Steps 

IKEA is working towards a big goal.

The world’s largest furniture retailer hopes to inspire and enable more than one billion people “to live a better everyday life within the limits of the planet”.

Having just opened its most sustainable store, working closely with The Royal Borough of Greenwich, the ethos was to promote sustainability on a new level.

Increased awareness about the health and status of our planet has consumers literally buying into the eco-consumerism way of life.

Not only is the trend for consumers to “go green” gaining momentum, it’s bordering on mainstream. 

Our latest research shows more than half of consumers who buy eco-friendly products do so because they want to be part of a positive movement.

IKEA, recognizing the role brands have to play in inspiring environmentally-conscious consumers, launched their ‘Steps’ campaign.

click to access IKEA's advertising campaign.
Source: YouTube

Wanting to attract foot traffic from people in the local area, IKEA chose to take a different route, using signs to demonstrate how their stores are so accessible, you can walk there.

“The store has been built with the local community in mind,” said Helen Aylett, Store Manager at IKEA Greenwich. “We know that choice, convenience, value and speed are key, and most people like to go shopping without the hassle of having to get everything back home.

Helen added that everyone arriving on foot or by public transport was entitled to cheaper home delivery services for 10 weeks after the store’s opening.

Read the full article.

5. May: Lucozade Sport – Three Lionesses

Soccer is the most popular sport to watch globally.

Despite the fact 85% of internet users watch at least one sport online or on TV regularly, the industry has seen its share of controversy surrounding gender equality. 

The FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC), one of the most hotly anticipated events in women’s sports, kicked off on June 7 in France. 

Lucozade Sport set out to inspire as much support as possible for the England team, releasing a new version of the iconic football song ‘Three Lions’, giving the song a new slant and calling it ‘Three Lionesses’. 

Click to access Lucozade's advertising campaign video.
Source: YouTube

The increasing rise in popularity of women’s sports is one of the most interesting trends shaping the current sports landscape.

More than 750 million television viewers tuned in to watch the previous FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Canada, making 2015 a breakthrough year for women’s football. 

But 83% of the audience for the championship are still pushing for greater strides towards equality.

Claire Keaveny, Head of Marketing at Lucozade, says the brand wanted to show equal support for the women’s team and help fuel what has become a “culturally relevant moment”: “I want the general public to watch our advertising, see what we’re doing and be inspired to turn on their TVs when the Lionesses are playing”.

Read the full article.

6. June: Volvo – Equal Vehicles for All

May 2019 was all about Cannes Lions. So in the spirit of celebrating creativity in advertising, we chose to recognize the most data-driven winner of the festival.

Volvo, together with Sweden-based Forsman & Bodenfors, have not only been hailed for their creative and responsible use of data in their Equal Vehicles for All advertising campaign (E.V.A.), but for their focus on a global issue: gender inequality.

Hinging their creative idea on over 40 years of research, Volvo’s Accident Research Team revealed through a compilation of real-world data what really happens during a collision. 

Click to access Volvo's advertising campaign video.
Source: YouTube

The data, reaching all the way back to 1979, proved that women are more likely to die in a car accident than men.

The reason: Crash test dummies are routinely designed based on weight and proportions of the male body.

The data was not only used to shape an award-winning awareness campaign, but it was also made available to other auto companies to help guide future car design.

Leveraging the ground-breaking findings, the advertising campaign shows how Volvo has made it its mission to “make cars equally safe”, taking a different approach to ensuring safety, and creating innovative solutions that don’t cut corners. 

Read the full article.

7. July: Pantene – Power of Grey

In June 2019, hair care brand Pantene, owned by P&G, launched a campaign asking people to embrace their grey hair.

Led by Grey London, Publicis Media and Ketchum London, the advertising campaign urged people to celebrate their unique set of traits, grey hair or otherwise.

A study commissioned by Pantene revealed that although 80% of Brits have grey hair, two in five cover it up because they feel less confident with it.

This proved to them that many women have been left feeling alienated with grey hair not being a prominent (and positive) feature in the media.

Their message was simple: Grey hair is something to celebrate.

Click to access Pantene's advertising campaign video.
Source: YouTube

A series of candid videos featuring grey-haired celebrities were released, supported by influencer activity which fueled a conversation.

A recent survey commissioned by Pantene confirms their strategy is having the desired effect:

A quarter of Brits said they felt more confident about their own hair after seeing grey-haired figures in the public eye. 

Read the full article.

8. August: Mercedes-Benz – Serve like Sloane

Understanding who your consumers are is pivotal, but when it comes to experiential marketing, knowing where they’ll be is just as important. 

Mercedes are prolific in sports, but one area they’re surprisingly active in is tennis, hosting tournaments and featuring the sport’s most famous faces in their ads over the years.

In 2019, to promote their new in-car voice assistant technology, Mercedes set up a virtual reality serving lesson at the U.S. Open, taught by Sloane Stephens, who won the tournament in 2017.

Click to access Mercedes' advertising campaign video.
Source: Vimeo

“We always try to be where customers are, and sports is a big one for us,” says Nicholas Emma, sports marketing and consumer events at Mercedes USA.

The campaign showcased its new technology alongside the GLS model (a car in which it will be featured). 

“We’re in the education phase on MBUX,” says Monique Harrison, head of brand experience marketing at Mercedes USA. “We want to make sure we are educating people on what’s in the next Mercedes they will buy.” 

From a customer perspective, Mercedes provided a tactile and stimulating experience, giving this captured sporting audience a chance to do something they’d never ordinarily do. 

This campaign is a shining example of Mercedes’ thoughtful brand positioning: to bring “the best or nothing”.

Read the full article.

9. September: Toyota – It’s Unbelievable 

Twenty years ago, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car entered the market.

In celebration of the milestone, Toyota announced the launch of its next generation, sustainably-oriented Prius.

Looking to reach Hispanic, East Asian, and Asian Indian audiences alike, Saatchi & Saatchi, Conill Advertising, Intertrend and Zenith worked in sync to ensure targeting, timing, creative and delivery was on point.

This involved delivering targeted videos to individuals based on the weather conditions at their present location.

Click to access Toyota's advertising campaign video.
Source: YouTube

In a globally-declining car market, Toyota is holding up better than most: our research reveals Toyota is a brand consumers would advocate to others.

In fact, when asked which automotive brand they would advocate to others, consumers place Toyota at the top, both globally and across the U.S.

Hispanics, the second-fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., account for a large chunk of the workforce with considerable buying power.

The Toyota Prius advertising campaign invited consumers to visit more places, in more conditions, with the energy-efficient hybrid that started it all.

Portraying stories around Hispanic consumers’ everyday lives, each video was scripted to showcase one single feature at a time, such as AWD.

What Toyota understood was that these consumers want brands to portray authentic references to their heritage, but not at the expense of cultural sensitivity, which is where other brands should tread carefully.

Read the full article.

10. October: Citi – The Moment – It’s About Time

Our data shows 57% of consumers state authenticity as the most appealing quality in a brand.

When a purpose is genuine, backed by insight and delivered with transparency, it can spark positive conversations surrounding global problems.

Released on International Day of the Girl Child (October 11), led by Publicis, the theme of this advertising campaign was focused on the gender pay gap, manifested in a video featuring young girls’ reactions to hearing about unequal pay for the first time.

Click to access Citi's advertising campaign video.
Source: YouTube

After carrying out primary research into the raw pay gap figures present in the company (claiming to be the first U.S. bank ever to do so). 

In the report, it admitted that Citi’s female employees earned 29% less than their male counterparts while minorities earned 7% less than non-minority employees.

Only 37% of women were also revealed to be in senior positions, despite making up half of Citi’s workforce.

To truly mitigate change, Citi invited young women (daughters of Citi employees) to answer questions relating to the gender pay gap, most of whom were hearing the news for the first time.

Carla Hassan, Citi’s chief brand officer, says, “Learning that women are paid less than men should shock you, but many of us adults are jaded by this reality. Children, however, have a fresh perspective. They are surprised this is even an issue. The campaign videos and photos are meant to serve as a reminder to never be complacent in the face of inequality, and to push for a faster rate of change.”

Citi’s advertising campaign showed that brands can promote societal good – even at a time when ‘brand purpose’ is under scrutiny.  

Read the full article.

11. November: Greenpeace – The Ultimate Roast Battle

Greenpeace has a mission: to promote radical changes and new solutions to the way we live on this planet – so we can all call it home for generations to come.

The need to act to protect our planet has never been so urgent, and consumers everywhere are making much-needed changes, but when it comes to making sustainable food choices at Christmas, we’re not doing too well.

In an effort to highlight the environmental implications of our food choices, they released their own take on a Christmas ad: a video, created by Nice and Serious, centering around a comedy “roast” battle between a turkey and a potato.

Click to access Greenpeace's advertising campaign video.
Source: YouTube

Greenpeace UK estimates an area of land the size of Glasgow is needed to grow enough soya to feed the 10 million turkeys eaten by Brits at Christmas time each year. 

In consequence, the agricultural industry has become reliant on soybeans for animal feed. But most of the UK’s soya isn’t grown locally, with two-thirds of supply imported from South America.

Worryingly, a report from IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative says the deforestation attributed to growing soya in the South American region is having a detrimental effect on the continent.

The food sustainability debate continues to dominate the news agenda – which makes the timing of Greenpeace’s ad perfect. 

Greenpeace says its strategy is to “intervene at the point where our action is most likely to provoke positive change”.

Media stories and documentaries are among the most influential sources impacting consumers’ views on sustainability – so it’s no surprise Greenpeace chose to spread its message via video format – and it was an approach that paid: the campaign attracted PR coverage by the likes of Creative Review, The Drum, Campaign, PR Week and MailOnline.

Read the full article.

12. December: Hotels.com – Xmas Escape

Single millennials find Christmas a little ‘extra’. At least that’s what Hotels.com discovered.

Conducting global consumer research into over 7,000 millennials worldwide, across 20 countries, the brand dug a little deeper into the funny conversations that happen within families over the holiday period.

They wanted to use research to support their hypothesis that poor, single millennials were the main victims of nagging and interrogation from their relatives over Christmas.

The result was their Xmas Escape advertising campaign, offering millennials an escape with 50% off hotels starting on the 26th December, so when the fun is over they can enjoy some alone time.

Image of family having fun, except for the millennial who's miserable.
Source: The Drum

More than a quarter of British millennials (26%) said their single status was one of the top criticisms from family members, while not saving enough money (25%) and poor job choice (25%) followed closely behind.  

Through the research findings, they were able to show this insight to be true, identify the different adulting woes that millennials were quizzed about and look deeper into the differences between countries around the world, age groups and genders. 

The message was a simple one: if Christmas gets too much, then Hotels.com has the solution. 

Emma Tagg, Senior Global Brand Communications Manager at Hotels.com offered us an exclusive comment on the campaign idea:

“Research allowed us to identify the exact time millennials wanted to escape family Christmas and enabled us to uncover the main reasons people wanted to escape family drama over the festive period.”

By choosing a different tack to most brands at this time of year, the advertising campaign struck a refreshing discord to the tired themes surrounding the holiday season.

Read the full article.

New call-to-action

You’ve read our blog, now see our platform

Every business has questions about its audiences, GWI has answers. Powered by consistent, global research, our platform is an on-demand window into their world.