2013’s Best Digital Campaigns



In 2013 the digital advertising space grew up. Even medium-sized brands began to wade into digital campaigns with a polish that showed a maturity in approach toward the medium. Of course, there were many breakthrough campaigns this year, and some of them made lots of headlines, like Oreo’s real-time update during the Superbowl blackout. But those were one-offs that were poorly repeated by other brands.

The following campaigns all stood out as excellent uses of their respective platforms, their understanding of how people interact online, and their inventiveness. Here are ‘Five Campaigns that Shone’ in 2013:

Hashtag Killer

One of the most overused phrases on social media is “FirstWorldProblems.” It’s so ubiquitous, there are entire Tumblrs devoted to the phrase, and a quick search of the hashtag yields MILLIONS of results.

How do you leverage something that privileged people often use to make fun of their own preciousness and turn that idea on its head in a powerful way?

People who don’t live in the First World have seen REAL tragedy take all of the power out of the phrase. This was the conceit of Water is Life’s campaign, Hashtag Killer. In the series of videos, Haitians read outloud actual tweets from the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems and “consoled” the authors while being filmed in Spartan or dangerous conditions. The result is haunting, staying with you for hours afterward and making you re-evaluate your own life. An outstanding campaign.

Brands Talking To Each Other

When you’re in a broadcast-only world, your airtime is like shelf space: you don’t want anyone encroaching on yours. In a conversation-based space, it makes sense to actually reach out. One of the more clever things Oreo did this year was to participate in an online conversation with KitKat. It evolved into the start of a game of tic-tac-toe, with KitKat represented as an “X” in the middle of the board. Oreo shot back by “eating” the X. The reaction on Twitter (and Tumblr) was one of sheer delight. Other brands soon followed suit, notably Old Spice and Taco Bell (an unlikely pairing if there ever was one) and many others since. A smart use of a medium and a respite for weary community managers.

GE On Vine

Vine was an emergent platform this year that enabled a lot of fun ideas from brands. Perhaps one of the best campaigns was GE’s Science Fair on Vine. GE launched #6SecondsForScience, a user-generated contest to show off a scientific demonstration in six seconds. The result was hundreds of videos submitted to Vine in the first few days, many incredibly professionally done (no small feat: there are no do-overs on Vine,) and an association of GE with everything that’s great about the internet: nerdy wonder and humour. Smart idea to revive a brand that wasn’t considered “cool” at all.

Chris Hadfield

If you thought that the Redbull Jump last year was the best use of social media and space, you’d be dead wrong. If I told you that a Canadian would make NASA as cool as it was back in the 60s, you’d never believe me, but that’s exactly what did happen when Cmdr. Chris Hadfield went into space, and began Tweeting and YouTubing from the International Space Station earlier this year. The result was millions of shares of his unique, irreverent perspective on a job that’s pretty much all reverence all the time. It was an absolute triumph, guided mostly by Hadfield’s own son, who deserves kudos for such a great job.

Arrested Development’s Integrated Campaign

What can you say about a campaign that you’re STILL finding Easter Eggs for, months after the campaign’s launch? Absolute genius. For the return of the show to Netflix, Arrested Development launched a game online where you could unlock clips from the show, microsites like Tobias’ “Insert me Anywhere,” Netflix’s own listings included fictional shows “Scandalmakers,” “Boyfights,” and “Girls With low Self-Esteem” with funny descriptions. Even Tobias’ blue handprints could be found on some Netflix pages. Seamless.com created a fake “Bluth Banana Stand” listing where you could pretend to buy a Bluth’s Frozen Banana. The campaign even had a fake texting service, 619-EGG-VEAL, which, if you texted, sent you messages in line with Arrested’s own canon.

It didn’t stop once the show launched either. The app that George Michael’s character creates, Fakeblock, is available on the iTunes store. This team thought of everything. It was a campaign pitch perfect for its audience.

What can we expect from brands in 2014? Hopefully even more impressive uses of platforms, and creative, multi-layered campaigns that build upon the success and buzz surrounding these five campaigns. There is a lot to learn from these excellent examples of digital marketing.


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