The top advertising campaigns of 2023 according to Australian creatives

By AdNews | 30 November 2023
Credit: benjaminmuntz via Unsplash.

Some campaigns in 2023 broke the internet with their virality, while others reminded Australia and the rest of the world to embrace creativity, celebrate women's sport and that "almost anything" is actually enough.

AI has been an industry-wide hot topic this year and the Women’s World Cup’s twisted commercial that spun gender using AI was no exception. 

Created by Publicis using its custom-made AI platform Marcel, the commercial garnered global attention with a compelling statement on gender in sport.  

Uber Eats sparked much engagement this year with its ‘Get Almost Almost Anything’ platform. Created by Special and supporting agency village, EssenceMediacom, Hello Social and H/Commerce, the campaign explores the chaos that would ensue if Uber Eats was actually able to deliver anything. Reminding Australians that almost, almost anything is actually enough. 

In celebration of 50 years of the iconic landmark, the Sydney Opera House released a musical tribute to mark 50 years of bravery, creativity and wonder.  

'Play It Safe' was written and composed by Australian singer Tim Minchin as an ironic salute to the bold, visionary experiment that became the Opera House. 

Made in partnership with creative agency The Monkeys, part of Accenture Song, directed by filmmaker Kim Gehrig and produced by Revolver x Somesuch, the music video features a collection of Australian artists and arts companies who share an enduring connection with the Opera House. 

Australian creatives and their top two campaign picks of 2023:

Toby Aldred, GM of Saatchi & Saatchi, and chief client officer of The Neighbourhood, says he thoroughly enjoyed the campaigns to come out of Avocados from Mexico this year.  

Long-term brand platform – tick. Branded codes ahoy – tick. Product written into story – tick,” he said. 

“And I’m pretty sure it works in real life. As the creative director said to me last night, 'Did you just tell me we’ve got more changes, reduced budget, and you need it overnight to the Avocados from Mexico jingle?'."

For Aldred, the winner of the 2023 FIFA Women’s Football Advertising World Cup is Orange. The Orange - la Compil des Bleues ad was an idea that clearly was born out of strong brand intent towards the national French football team.

“It’s magnificently executed; you can almost reach out and feel the trust between the client and agency to get this over the line,” he said. 

Like a fine bottle of French red, it’s an advert that will age even better over time, a beautiful foretelling of the success of the tournament in celebrating women’s football as brilliant if not better than the men’s, Aldred believes.  

Richard Williams, executive creative director at Clemenger BBDO, agrees.  

The Orange Women’s World Cup film for France’s national team was also a highlight creatively this year, he says. 

“It was wonderfully and painstakingly crafted to deliver an exceptional level of production that refused to reveal the twist,” said Williams. 

The messaging was powerful yet ultimately divisive. Many criticised the film for once again comparing women’s sport to men’s instead of celebrating the nuance and uniqueness of women’s football, notes Williams. 

This criticism is fair but given the film was trying to convince fans of the men’s game then I believe it was justifiable. The results were spectacular with the film shared around the world and undoubtedly dramatically boosting audience and viewership of the World Cup in France and beyond,” he said. 

For Wiliams, the Channel 4 station idents are a wonderful collision of creativity and humanity.  

A celebration of what being British means today, brought to life in a technically perfect and visually progressive execution. 

The repetitive, yet hypnotic movement of the idents make them infinitely flexible yet strangely no less compelling to watch, says Williams. 

“They are a diverse representation of British society and an example of British creativity at its best,” he said. 

For Jeremy Hogg, executive creative director at Howatson+Co, this year presented many pieces of great work 

Hogg doesn’t feel as an industry that everything needs to be big and worthy and awardy”. 

“We all need little moments of delight,” he said.  

The work by the Monkeys, part of Accenture Song, for the Sydney Opera House Play it safe showed scale, pride and craft, believes Hogg. 

I love this. It feels like a film that befits the stature of the Opera House and the creativity that happens with in. It’s obviously got spectacle, but to me the joy is that the film remains strangely intimate and honest, and never drifts into tricks over substance,” he said. 

So many good choices throughout, even a really simple thing — I like that the song lyrics are advocating the absence of creativity rather than singing its praises, which feels far less on the nose and choiceful. Bravo. 

Another top campaign of the year for Hogg was Honest Eggs CO 'FitChix' via the agency formerly known as VMLY&R. 

This idea probably doesn’t need his endorsement, says Hogg, given that it’s already been handsomely awarded all around the world by every single jury at every single show.

And justifiably so. We talk a lot about distinctive brand assets. Well this is a real one. A tangible change for the company that gives added value to the message their business communicates far beyond their ad layouts,” he said.  

A highly commended to Sunday Gravy for their work on Hunt and Brew 'Always Hunting'. Great insight, ads and tone. So refreshing and enjoyable to see something smart that still maintains joy and a bit of silliness. 

Justin Ruben, ECD Havas Host, liked a lot of work that came out of 2023.

"But as I’ve been asked to choose only 2 pieces I will abide by the rules. Sorry to all the great work I have had to leave out," he said.

"One of my favourite pieces was The Monkey’s Telstra Country footy spot. It was a beautifully crafted film with great performances. The casting was spot on with talent I’ve never seen before and have never appeared on Home Away or Neighbours. Great script well directed and produced."

Ruben's next pick was 'The Last Performance' from Special NZ. As they say, he says, the hardest challenge is doing good work in a very boring category and life insurance falls into this.

"It is fantastic brand integration for the right reasons and gives life insurance a life of its own," said Ruben.

"Even though I said I would only choose 2, I just saw that great Uber One ad with Robert De Niro from Mother London. So I’m going to throw that in as well and break the rules."

Catherine Tubb, creative director, at Chello, said the Uber Eats Period Romance campaign was a funny and original ad which had a great use of celebrities, with Nicola Coughlan riffing on her Bridgerton fame and feeding the fans a tasty morsel during a long wait for the next series. 

The ad, says Tubb, (along with the Tom Felton ‘magic’ spot) plays on the idea that ultimately instant gratification isn’t always satisfying. 

“Though it still delivers on the line that you can get ‘almost, almost anything with Uber Eats’,” she said. 

“I loved how the insights are squarely targeted at a female audience (Periods, Bridgerton) and the great comic moments created by bringing the dated and sexist attitudes of the male suitor to modern day Australia where women (gasp) work and rice cookers don’t make for great chamberpots.” 

It’s a suitably nice touch that the campaign also partnered with not for profit organisation Share the Dignity offering a one-for-one donation with every period product sold to help end period poverty, notes Tubb.  

Briggs - Far Enough campaign, written by comedy duo Jenna Owen and Victoria Zerbst, and directed by Nash Edgerton, was another of Tubb’s favourite campaigns of the year.  

“I’m sure everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock this year is familiar with rapper Briggs’ viral video,” she said. 

“Looking at this with the benefit of hindsight, what I found really interesting is while there were some really stirring, emotive, and great ads in the early run-up to the referendum, it was this responsive and timely lo-fi video that simply asked ‘Have you Googled it?’ that really got traction.” 

With more than five million views and some influential shares thanks to Taika Waititi, Jason Momoa and Celeste Barber, says Tubb. 

“In the wake of the vote, it’s a sobering reminder that the battle for hearts and minds requires every type of campaign possible, from mass awareness at launch, to timely and tactical responses throughout,” she said. 

Simon Lee, CCO & partner at The Hallway, says choosing "the best” two campaigns from 2023 from anywhere in the world is a big ask, but there are a couple of pieces of work that have caught his attention over the last few months.  

Are they 'the best?' I don’t know, but I like them," he said.

Uber One: A membership for everyone who eats food and goes places. I’m not always a big fan of celebrity driven advertising; it far too often feels like an exercise in making a brand “cool by association” rather than creating a compelling connection between celebrity and brand,” said Lee.  

This film puts the product heart and centre with the wonderfully dryly performed realisation that Robert de Niro and Asa Butterfield both like “eating food and going places, he notes. 

The casting is genius and director David Shane does a brilliant job in exploiting the understandable awkwardness that a younger actor would no doubt feel in trying to connect with a star of de Niro’s stature.  

The journey of this unlikely duo “eating food and going places” (I love how the campaign line is unashamedly repeated throughout the spot to matter-of-fact comic effect) makes for a genuinely entertaining piece of film. I have no doubt that, along with the accompanying OOH elements, this campaign is working its socks off. It better be, I’m sure neither Robert nor Asa come cheap! 

Lee’s other favourite campaign of the year was Dat Bike Vietnam’s Fast Charging Stations.  

As an EV owner, one of the comments I frequently get from people is that it must be a pain trying to find a charging station,” he said. 

Lee’s first hand experience supports the data that shows that perception of a shortage of charging stations is a barrier to EV adoption. 

The truth is of course that you don’t need a "special" charging station to keep your battery charged. You can just plug it into a normal socket. It’s this simple but compelling truth that Happiness Saigon brought to life brilliantly in their campaign for E-bike brand, Dat Bike,” said Lee. 

The creative agency basically "branded" regular electrical sockets as 'Fast Charging Stations', turning office buildings, shopping malls, cafés, all into Dat Bike’s own personal charging network, notes Lee. 

The billboards are ok, but it’s the extent of the contextual media opportunity of this idea that excites me. I’m not sure how far they got with it, but there are apparently 2.558.914 power outlets in Ho Chi Minh City - that’s a lot of opportunities for a small e-bike brand to show up in a meaningful way! 

Julian Schreiber & Tom Martinpartners and chief creative officers at Special, pointed out David Madrid's 'Ghost Campaign' for Halloween where they announced they were putting up "ghost" ads in out of home and in other media channels. 

“And if you spotted them you could redeem them for Burger King,” said Schreiber and Martin. 

The twist was that the 'Ghost campaign' was actually blank spaces on walls and places an ad wasn't appearing but was the right kind of space to be for an ad, they noted. 

A brilliant use of using nothing to create something fun and playful for a brand," said Schreiber and Martin.

The creative duo's second favourite campaign of the year was Adam&Eve DDB's Lover or Hater - what are you expecting project where they in true ad science fashion humourously tested foetuses to see if they adore or despise Marmite.  

The seriousness of the parents and doctors involved in the testing is a pleasure to watch. Another great example of a brand embracing their truth, in this case that Marmite has a polarising taste,” they said. 

Adam Wise – co founder and ECD at Jack Nimble, has loved seeing the emergence of fake stunts this year. 

His favourite was from Maybelline, when the company ‘installed’ giant mascara wands around London, with the best one in the London Underground.  

I must admit I fell for it at first. My mind instantly went to the logistics of it. Surelyit’s not safe? How much would that have cost? How did they get that through Transport for London? By the time I’d asked myself 21 logistical questions, I’d watched it 21 times,” said Wise. 

The VFX is amazing, but the way it’s been shot to feel like user-generated-content is what really sells it for me. That’s social-first content at its best. They did such an incredible job of selling this as a real stunt that it essentially did become a real stunt, just on social media. It went crazy viral, and they didn’t even need to liaise with Transport for London for permits (which I imagine would be a nightmare). 

Wise’s next favourite campaign from the year was another fake stunt and also train related. 

“(Maybe I have a thing for trains). It’s a bit of a shameless plug, but it’s the Spotify Carriage - a fake OOH ad that we created for April Fools Day,” he said. 

Much like the Maybelline stunt, this was designed to feel just real enough for people to believe it, says Wise. 

We also wanted it to feel like user-generated-content. And, it went crazy viral. From a humble post in Spotify’s jam packed social content calendar, the Spotify community shared the ‘Spotify Carriage’ on Reddit, created TikToks about it, made memes about it on Twitter, made playlists for the carriage, and mainstream media were writing about it. No media and no PR push. 

Matt Geersen & John Gault, creative partners at Connecting Plots, say there is only one campaign this year that was a culture-defining, zeitgeist-creating, social-feed-hijacking behemoth, that delivered more than $1.44 billion dollars in sales.  

“Barbie. There were fashion partnerships with everyone from Prada to Crocs, activations that included staying in Barbie’s Dreamhouse through Airbnb and that’s before we even get into #kenergy. Sure the budgets were huge, but no-one can argue that the ROI wasn’t massive,” said Geersen and Gault. 

And it’s worth remembering that all this success was ultimately for a pro-feminism movie from a female indie director - not your typical ingredients for box office success. Five out of five Mattel toys. 

The pair also commended the campaign by Special New Zealand for Partners Life - The Last Performance.

It’s hard to imagine a tougher brief than selling life insurance, says Geersen and Gault. 

So to pull off this Houdini-esque piece of creative magic makes it all the more, ahem, Special.  

Bringing characters back to life from the show we’ve just seen and using their hindsight of death to sell life insurance is not only smart, original and entertaining, but more importantly, highly effective, as seen from the results of this campaign and its Effie recognition. Five out of five magician’s wands. 

Uber Eats’ Almost Almost Anything by Special Group also topped the list for Rees Steel – creative director at BMF. 

2023 was the year that a once scrappy startup called Uber finally turned a profit, he says. 

“And with a campaign this good, I'm almost - almost - happy for our gig economy overlords,” said Steel. 

It’s hard to believe this first launched in January, and has already turned out a strong second iteration. Whether it's the big films with celebs, the hardworking 15s or the OOH, every execution is consistently entertaining and ruthlessly simple. That’s a hard line to walk, particularly at this scale. Admirable stuff. 

Steel also enjoyed the Let Them Eat Cake NYD campaign by Studio Hi Ho Videos.

Look, this one's a little under the radar, but bear with me,’ he said. 

This was literally the only campaign in 2023 that I saw both ad dorks and non-industry people share. 

Steel notes that the satire is razor sharp, it's impeccably cast, and it’s so niche it's almost impenetrable.  

But, he says, it proves one of comedy’s great truths - that nothing's funnier than specificity.  

"In a year when advertisers in Australia tried to be all things to all people, it took hyperlocal Melbourne scene bitchiness to win over this in-bed-by-10 Sydney dad. Love it,” he said. 

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