Media campaigns, often understated against creative campaigns, reached new levels of innovation in 2023 with AI, custom outdoor, first-party data and unique partnership driven strategies, according to Australian media agency professionals.
Barbiemania takes the crown as this year's most loved media campaign, with $150 million marketing spend (higher than the film's production cost) that's no surprise.
Other highlights includes Jacquemus's experiments with AI to Adidas' clever partnership with Australia's most loved sports event of the century.
From Australia's most loved brands and also some favourites from NZ and US the industry shines a light on their favourite media campaigns this year.
French luxury label Jacquemus - AI activations
"They’ve had a giant book pop up in Chateau de Versailles, had bags wheeling down the streets of Paris, and even had a bag pop-up on the shores of France," says Florence Chieng, client executive at iProspect.
"It may be AI – but their ads on social media have most definitely been making a splash.”
Chlöe Cripps, communications strategist at Mediahub, also loved Jacquemus' AI campaigns.
"How do you get someone’s attention when they’re in a social media scroll hole? You’ve got to SHOCK them," Cripps said.
"And that’s absolutely what Jacquemus managed to do with their first-of-its-kind faux OOH social campaign, by making their audience think they’d been able to turn cars into handbags for Paris Fashion Week and leaving marketers everywhere thinking ‘how on earth get that across the line!?!?’."
"Little did we know, we’d all been tricked into watching and rewatching one of the best social assets I’ve seen in a while. It's a perfect example of breaking away from what’s generally considered social best practice, building creative that doesn’t feel like an ad and truly exciting your audience - causing them to stop that thumb when they’re mindlessly scrolling," Cripps said.
"The creative racked up 14.8M impressions on TikTok and 48.5M on IG, reflecting the cut-through it had on social platforms.
"Other brands have since hopped on this trend such Maybelline, MECCA and Uber."
Samsung Join the Flip Side - Digital
Pooja Aggarwal, affiliates and partnerships head at Ryvalmedia, loved this campaign because Samsung targeted tech-savvy Gen Z to hunt for cues to win a Galaxy Flip phone by typing in three specific terms into the search engine and then clicking one specific listed Samsung ad (that linked to set of 3 videos).
Whoever watched all three videos went into a retargeting pool and was served the winning ad as a YouTube pre-roll. The first person to find the ad per day won a new Galaxy Z Flip4.
They amplified via Instagram influencers (I got to know it via 'Invest with Queenie').
"I didn't win the phone (or for that matter, find all videos) but the whole campaign compelled me to take such technical steps to win the phone, and in the journey of doing so, made me well aware of the products - which is big win for Samsung," Aggarwal said.
Barbie - OOH take over at Bondi Icebergs
"Not only did this campaign take over the world with its captivating OOH, but the social media element helped to create the ultimate buzz and omnichannel experience," Tegan Salter, activation specialist at Havas Media Network, said.
"The campaign was fun, cheeky and the movie did not disappoint.
"It's a cultural moment to remember! #kennough"
Source: Caroline McCredie
Samantha Nunura, group business director at WiredCo., also loved this campaign which in her opinion was talked about more than the movie itself.
"This game changer a masterclass is brand collaborations, show stopping media (specifically OOH) - bringing the Barbieverse into the real world - and a really effective use of social - utilising AI and turning our feeds into a sea of pink and glitter. Marketing brilliance and such fun!" Nunura said.
For Rena Allain, client service director at 27 Degrees Media, this takeover was the movie's most iconic activation.
"The Barbie movie completely flooded Sydney's CBD with hot pink references, with countless brands followed suit, replicating the Barbie meme across various social media platforms," Allain said.
"The campaign's most iconic activation undoubtedly was the transformation and takeover of Bondi Icebergs pool. Illustrating its significant influence on contemporary marketing trends."
Barbie - AI
Cy Mani, head of strategic growth at Intentional, said the marketing brilliance by Warner Bros and Mattel played a key role in the movies success with an 18-month campaign surpassing the film's production cost.
"Barbie posters launched on Twitter, endless memes, an AI-Generator, and highly curated strategic partnerships fuelled global anticipation, leading to a record-breaking $1.38 billion box office success," Mani said.
"The Barbie marketing machine showcased the vital role of creative driven brand awareness for success, a lesson applicable to brands of all sizes and case study for years to come."
Barbie x Airbnb - Partnership
Shriya Tewari, client solutions executive at Half Dome, also loved everything the Barbie movie marketing campaign did from creating scented candles to Xbox controllers, but the Airbnb partnership was her favourite.
"They partnered with Airbnb, offering a free, 2-day stay in the Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse," Tewari said.
"Before dropping the movie bomb, they kept us on our toes, fueling intense curiosity. And the cast? They nailed it, bringing in big shots like Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, plus folks that look just like all of us.
"It wasn't just a movie; it was a worldwide hangout."
Michael Hill x AO - Partnership
"Without having budget for an AO sponsorship, the media strategy identified tactical ways to align with the tennis and compete for SOV," Jessica Lopez-Casas', account director at OMD Brisbane.
"Timing aligned with the Australian Open, a key event that provided the opportunity to connect with a lucrative customer.
"A first-to-market sponsorship of oOh!’s integrated billboards, focused specifically on the journey to Rod Laver Arena and national key precincts meant that it was unmissable, asking event goers – “Tennis Bracelets anyone?”. A real ‘Ace!’ of a campaign if you ask me."
Colorbond x The Block - Partnership
John Driscoll, director at Longreach Media, said the integration of the product and sponsorship of “The Block” is a great example of a perfect fit and leveraged program partnership.
"Colorbond's campaigns have on-point creative that not only inspires but has longevity that exceeds most contemporary campaigns, and has well targeted media placement across all media platforms," Driscoll said.
Dove's #TurnYourBack - Digital
Having spent countless hours scrolling TikTok this year Steph Edwards, head of creative and content at WiredCo., said Dove’s #TurnYourBack campaign stands out as the most inspiring.
"Challenging unrealistic beauty standards and promoting authenticity on a platform that promotes harmful form of digital distortion is inspiring," Edwards said.
"Partnering with numerous influencers and celebrities to shift the conversation right after the Bold Glamour filter was added, was extremely powerful and timely."
Dove’s #DetoxyYourFeed - OOH
Jim Groves, managing director of dentsu WA, loved Dove’s #DetoxyYourFeed campaign as it seamlessly blended innovation and purpose in Out-of-Home.
"By harnessing scannable tech, dynamic creative, and a custom API feed, it not only engaged audiences but also encouraged active participation on oOh!’s The Bourke," Groves said.
"The site’s full-motion capabilities maximised brand visibility, while the real-time survey engagement created social buzz. Beyond advertising, this campaign elevated public spaces, championing a worthy cause through a collaborative partnership with Dove and Poly’s tech and design expertise.”
Shop at ALDI first and save - TVC placement
Leah Cioccio, strategy director at Equality Media + Marketing, removed her industry bias and undertook some rapid-fire market research with consumers of today - asking her kids what their favourite ad is.
"I never tire of seeing their unencumbered minds in action – the little cogs in their brain turned quickly to the most memorable ad they’ve seen on TV. In a sample of three children, they unanimously voted for the Aldi ad," Cioccio said.
"They started by recalling the scene that the ad takes place in, a storm in a supermarket (which is odd!) and then how the interaction between ‘the Aldi man’ and the customer was all about how sorry he was that she couldn’t tick all the items off her shopping list at once (they know how annoying it is to go from shop to shop)," Cioccio said.
"My kids don’t watch a lot of FTA TV – but they do watch a lot of TV!
"So, in the minimal opportunity to be seen amongst this audience (which is amazingly influential if a brand can appropriately harness pester power), Aldi have been able to create an emotional connection by being brave and un-category like.
"The narrative in the commercial works for so many demographics, as an adult I could make the connection between Aldi being my first but not last ‘love’, while my kids just saw the story for what is showed on the surface, Aldi is great for most things but not everything.
"I hope Aldi continue to be brave and carry this storyline on and off the screen for years to come."
L’Or x MasterChef - Partnership
Janice Tsang, account manager at Havas Media Network, loved this partnership for its seamless integrations throughout the season.
"The tactical use of L’Or coffee amongst different recipe challenges, captivating audience engagement was really impressive," Tsang said.
"Along with paid media amplification using cobranded assets across TV, OOH, social and online video, allowed L’Or to be unmissable in contextually relevant environments to reach affluent, coffee drinking grocery buyers."
Walmart x Mean Girls - Partnership
Natalie Blazevski, activations analyst at Half Dome, said to sum this partnership up in one word: ICONIC.
"Walmart effortlessly exudes that millennial and Gen Z nostalgia by bringing to life popular moments from the film, contextualising relevancy through sale and product callouts," Blazevski said.
"All while building trust and legitimacy with viewers through the appearance of Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried and Lacey Chabert. Clever, calculated, and all around, just SO FETCH!"
Jose Cuervo x 9Honey - Partnership
Maggie Beringer-Allen, account director at Awaken, thought this partnership epitomized innovation.
"Comprising three native videos showcasing the art of pairing Sparkling Margarita with summer recipes, redefining social occasions," Beringer-Allen said.
"By amplifying How to take your next taco Tuesday to a 10 across the nine ecosystem, has allowed us to enhance our audience engagement. Extending our audience reach beyond conventional methods, setting a new benchmark for integrated marketing approaches."
NRMA Insurance - OOH cricket covers
Chris Colter, chief strategy and product officer at Initiative, might be biased on this one, but even if it wasn’t an Initiative idea this was Colter's #1.
"I love this campaign because it turned a dormant asset, untouched for centuries (pun intended), into one of the biggest and most visible brand devices in culture," Colter said.
"Such a simple idea that helped NRMA secure hours of ultra HD, in-broadcast brand visibility when all other sponsors chased sporadic spots & dots.
"Alongside the broader partnership packed full of other ‘helpful’ brand acts, immediately cemented NRMA’s right to play in cricket."
Adidas - OOH skyscrapers
Chris Colter, chief strategy and product officer at Initiative, second favourite campaign was an OOH he wished he did.
"It was a market first, impactful as hell and was perhaps the one media activation that did the significance of the WWC justice," Colter said.
"The media itself was a statement and brought an aura that a worldwide event was in our backyard.
"Also, commissioning two custom wraps so that it captured both in-and-outbound traffic was a brilliant touch."
Adidas Play Until They Can’t Look Away - TVC placement
Leveraging the hype, excitement and momentum of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sarah Browne, group business director at Ryvalmedia Melbourne, loved this campaign because it is edgy, fast-paced, nostalgic and instils a genuine feeling of excitement, for not only for the tournament itself, but also for Women’s sport and our emerging Soccer stars.
"I love that this campaign showcases the skills and passion of Women’s Soccer in a quirky, energetic and unique manner, while paying homage to past and emerging icons of the game," Browne said.
"It’s an example of brand storytelling at its most vibrant, told by one of the most iconic sporting brands."
McCafe’s 30th birthday - OOH tram wrap
Nicole Torossian, investment manager at OMD Sydney, said birthdays are a time for celebration and McCafe’s 30th birthday was no different.
"This campaign was a standout with Macca’s creating feel-good moments with their ‘Coffee fit for an Aussie’ messaging," Torossian said.
"The tram wrap in Melbourne paid homage to its birthplace, and all media placements were carefully selected to give this global brand a localised feel.
"As a daily coffee consumer, I was happy to see McDonald’s celebrate this milestone by reminding us of our uniquely Australian coffee legacy."
AAMI Comes to the Rescue at the AFL Grand Final - Partnership
Jonathan Henshaw, head of product and innovation at Ryvalmedia, loved everything about the AAMI and Network 7 brand integration with the AFL Grand Final.
"AAMI did a great job building from their 2022 Grand Final integration," Henshaw said.
"Extending the content through multiple screens and takeovers built frequency from a single TV integration and the addition of Cortnee Vine to leverage the amazing run of the Tillies this year was a lovely touch."
AAMI's RestTowns - Digital
Simon Molloy, account director at OMD Melbourne, said the campaign was a standout as it addressed road safety and drove behaviour change through an understanding of the context of driver fatigue.
"AAMI's RestTowns' success was hinged on integrating separate platforms and data points to deliver a congruent message, all the while positioning AAMI as more than just an insurance company," Molloy said.
Partners Life - TVC placement
David Kennedy, partner at WiredCo., said this is hands-down one of the best and arguably most risky content and media integrations the industry's probably ever seen.
Over six weeks, Partners Life ads aired at the end of each episode of Kiwi whodunnit drama, The Brokenwood Mysteries, using the characters and plotlines to integrate the storyline into the ads.
Following episode one, for example, before the credits rolled, the 30-second spot aired featuring Kiwi actress Meryl Main, who played Janis, the first murder victim of the series.
"You can see a lot of people involved were willing to put their heads on the line here; from the broadcaster to the brand team to the content owners – who probably had the most to lose if it didn’t pay-off," Kennedy said.
"The level of trust must have been very high. Fresh and bold stuff that works."
Tourism Fiji - Times Square OOH
Luke Vincent, associate account director at Havas Media Network, loved this campaign not only because it featured in one of the most iconic places in the world, but also because it was brought to life right here, under our roof at Havas Media Australia.
"From the breathtaking creative showcasing the rebrand of Tourism Fiji and bringing to life the Fijian spirit, right through to the amazing integration of complementary channels of CTV, OOH and Programmatic Display across 4 different markets," Vincent said.
"For me, this media campaign is hard to beat."
Telstra’s ‘This is Footy Country’ - TVC placement
Hannah Robertson, account director at OMD Sydney, said ‘This is Footy Country’ quickly stood out as one of the most engaging campaigns this year.
"The media strategy really tapped into Australia’s innate love and passion for footy, and how this can foster a sense of connection and community at a time where we feel more disconnected than ever," Robertson said.
Telstra’s ‘Hello Christmas’ - DOOH and AI
Annabel Williams, account director at OMD Melbourne, loves Telstra’s ‘Hello Christmas’ not only because the film pull on the heart strings (move over John Lewis).
"But I love the way the team hasn’t missed a detail with an integrated approach expanding across paid, owned and earned media for maximum campaign impact," Williams said.
"From unmissable large format 2D Special Builds, AI-led solutions helping to bring to life the 'Free Calls to Santa' hotline in Telstra-owned phone booths nationwide (plus adding the telephone booths to be searchable on Google Maps); and finally contextual alignment via a targeted screens approach driving high attention in key Christmas programming."
Heinz x Absolut - TikTok
Ashley Byers, head of paid media at WiredCo., might just be a sucker for Vodka Pasta but she thought the Heinz and Absolut campaign was beyond brilliant.
"A TikTok trend connecting two household brands, collaborating to achieve virality and mass reach through its earned media footprint," Byers said.
"Everything from cohesive campaign visuals, influencers and OOH, the campaign was perfectly nostalgic and novel. "
Tourism Tasmania - Platform saturation
"It's not easy to create something refreshing and authentic in the tourism space, however Tourism Tasmania has done this so eloquently that even though I have visited the island many times, I am inspired once again to come down for air," Hannah Dunlop, account manager at The Pistol, said.
Belvedere x James Bond - Partnership
"What a brilliant mix of two stars to shift perception and engagement with a brand/product beloved by all, if they can remember having it," Delana De Silva, performance director at Half Dome, said.
"An entertaining campaign with an unseen side to Bond, making it quite memorable."
BlueCare's ‘A Chorus of Care’ - TVC placement
Kaitlin Macer, account director at OMD Brisbane, loved ‘A Chorus of Care’ because the emotive campaign pulled on all the heartstrings and represented the local community.
"The creative sung across high impact large format screens and retail panels, paired with beautiful audio scripts that played out as people tuned in on their commute," Macer said.
"The long-form story was not wasted, brought to life through an integrated screens approach and supported with a targeted social strategy driving engagement over the period."
Skinny Mobile - TVC placement
Cameron Roberts, head of strategy at Ryvalmedia Sydney, loved this campaign as it combined an ingenious mechanic with precise execution in media placements.
"Creating 34 bespoke scripts, made for the channel and placement, they captured hours of everyday voice actors to be the stars in their ads," Roberts said.
"We talk a lot in our industry of making creative and media work harder together, Skinny’s Phone It In campaign has done exactly that."
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