It’s fitting that in a year that closes out a decade, marketers were more creative, ambitious and outlandish than ever with strategies to build brand buzz beyond the traditional ad. While we already ranked our 25 best ads of the year, we’d be remiss not to highlight some of the most culturally impactful stunts and innovations of 2019.
From a one-night Broadway show to dating app adventures and Twitter storms, here’s a look at 15 campaign-related stunts and creations that took brand engagement to new, innovative heights this year.
15. Burger King | Silent Drive-Thru
Burger King Finland catered to Finnish introverts with a drive-thru that required zero verbal communication. The fast food company worked with Superson to create the stunt, which promoted the Burger King app in Finland. Drivers could order via the app, and then wait in the parking lot for their meal to be delivered without exchanging words with employees. According to the brand, the stunt doubled sales through the mobile app within a month of launch and continued to double month over month.
14. Tinder | Swipe Night
Tinder gave its users a new way to connect on the dating app with Swipe Night, a dark, choose-your-own-adventure series targeting the Gen Z crowd. Each Sunday in October, the app gave users a chance to participate in five-minute installments of friends at a party turned apocalyptic mayhem. Players were then given seven seconds to use the swipe feature to choose what comes next. After each installment, Tinder users could display their three choices as conversation starters in their profile, matching them with others who also played the experience.
13. St. Petersburg Dalí Museum | Dalí Lives
Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was brought back to life 30 years after his death, thanks to a partnership between the St. Petersburg Dalí Museum and Goodby Silverstein & Partners, along with some help from artificial intelligence. The agency used machine learning to resurrect the artist for the museum’s spring exhibition, Dalí Lives, which featured audio with his voice and interactive screens with his likeness. GS&P teased the exhibit by releasing three digital shorts on Jan. 23, the 30th anniversary of Dalí’s death, one of which shows the AI creation discussing his philosophical relationship with death.
12. Vita Coco | Vita Coco’s Piss Jar
Agency: Interesting Development
Brands can either be hilarious or have their responses to consumer complaints on social media completely backfire. Vita Coco took the clapback art form to new heights on Twitter. In reply to Tony Ponanski, who tweeted he’d rather drink their “social media person’s piss than coconut water,” Vita Coco offered to send him a jar of a social media staffer’s urine—complete with a picture of said staffer holding a branded jar of what appeared to be her urine.
The Twitter exchange came about after Vita Coco launched the campaign “Impossible to Hate” created by agency Interesting Development, which used a custom algorithm to find the most negative people on the Internet and see if they’d want to try the brand’s Vita Coco Pressed Coconut product. The exchange with Ponanski came after his expressed disdain for the beverage. The idea to respond with the piss jar was from community coordinator Lane Rawlings (pictured here), who had full support from the brand (which neither confirmed nor denied if the jar contained actual urine).
11. Volkswagen | Abbey Road
Agency: Nord DDB
To mark the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Abbey Road on Sept. 26, Volkswagen worked with Nord DDB to release a new version of the album cover, which moved the iconic Beetle to a legal parking spot (on the original cover, the white car is illegally parked on the curb). The photo stunt was designed to highlight Volkswagen’s Park Assist technology, which makes it easier to parallel park by identifying spots large enough for your car, and then automating the steering to park. Volkswagen Sweden sold the Reparked Edition of Abbey Road online and at Pet Sounds Records in Stockholm.
10. Tide | Laundry Night
Agency: Saatchi NY
Tide worked with Saatchi & Saatchi New York to create a four-week campaign with spots across NBC programs and NFL announcements, kicking off with Peyton Manning suggesting America’s official laundry day be moved to Tuesday, with Sundays reserved for NFL: “not for laundry.” Following spots starring Gwen Stefani and Kenan Thompson, the campaign ended with a surprise collaboration with Wieden + Kennedy New York’s “Dilly Dilly” Bud Light campaign. The final spot didn’t actually mention Tide, but depicted the Bud Knight getting ghosted by friends.
9. Gazeta.pl | “The Last Issue Ever”
Agency: VMLY&R Poland
Twój Weekend, Poland’s longest-running erotic magazine, was known for spreads that objectified women. But after it was bought by Polish newspaper Gazeta.pl, the magazine shuttered this year with an ironic mic drop. Timed to International Women’s Day, Gazeta.pl worked with VMLY&R and Wavemaker to publish a final issue which, instead of nude women, focused on cultural matters like sexual education, gender representation and sexism to promote more progressive ideas of femininity. The final issue of the magazine won the Glass Lion at Cannes.
8. Deutsche Bahn | No Need to Fly – Around the World in Germany
Agency: Ogilvy German
Ogilvy created a social campaign for Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s rail system, which encouraged Germans to stay in the country for their next trip. Deutsche Bahn used an algorithm and Getty Images to compare photos of landscapes and sites in Germany with international tourist attractions that look remarkably similar. The company then placed the similar images side-by-side with real-time travel prices for both locations, demonstrating that it’s less expensive to take the train to the German destination. The campaign won the digital Grand Prix at the Epica Awards in November.
7. Burger King Mexico | The Traffic Jam Whopper
Agency: We Believers
Being stuck in traffic is a little less terrible if you’re delivered a burger through your car window—according to Burger King Mexico. The brand worked with agency We Believers to create “The Traffic Jam Whopper,” a stunt where motorcyclists delivered Whoppers to consumers stuck in gridlock. Consumers could order with voice commands on the Burger King app, while roadside ads informed how long drivers could expect to be stuck in traffic, and also showed personalized messages letting certain customers know when to expect their burger. The brand used real-time data to target areas where traffic was the most congested, with deliveries coming from the fast food chain’s locations within three kilometers of the driver.
6. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | “Sometimes, Darkness Comes From Unexpected Places”
Agency: AKA NYC
Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tapped entertainment ad agency AKA NYC to promote the show’s international markets and new tagline, “Sometimes, Darkness Comes From Unexpected Places,” with a literal Times Square takeover. The promotion spread across 51 screens in the area, providing a 360-degree panorama of visuals that included Harry Potter, dementors and Death Eaters. The announcement, which stretched four blocks, also revealed a new poster and a dark-themed logo.
5. Dagoma | “Harmless Guns”
Dagoma, a French 3D printing company, worked with agency TBWA\Paris to launch a campaign that raised awareness around the accessibility of downloadable firearms—and disrupted the illegal spread of 3D printed gun designs. The company tampered with the designs of 3D printed weapons found online and re-uploaded them to websites where people could search for them. People who printed out the guns found they didn’t actually work. The campaign won a Black Pencil from ad awards program D&AD.
4. Skittles | Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical
Agency: DDB Chicago
Skittle decided to forego running a TV spot on Super Bowl Sunday and instead created a one-night-only Broadway musical. The candy brand worked with DDB Chicago to launch “Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical,” a live ad starring Michael C. Hall. It was performed on stage in front of 1,495 people at The Town Hall theater in New York. The project, which took six months to execute, featured the Dexter star singing original songs, including one where he dressed as a cat and contemplated whether starring in a Skittles Broadway show was a good career move.
Ian is an experiential marketing reporter for Adweek where he covers brand activations and experiential trends. Previously, he was an editor for BizBash where he covered events such as CES, Sundance Film Festival, NYC Pride, and C2 Montréal. Originally from Maryland, Zelaya also was a reporter for Baltimore Style magazine and Washington Jewish Week. He has a degree in mass communication from Towson University and lives in Brooklyn.