Contagious Team

18 November 2021

The Most Contagious Campaigns of 2021: part 3 

Every year the Contagious team reviews thousands of campaigns in search of the best examples of commercial creativity from around the world. This list represents the best of the best – the 25 most innovative, effective and attention-grabbing campaigns that we encountered in 2021.

KFC / Backdoors / PS21, Madrid 

Inviting the employees of your competitors to try your product for free doesn’t sound like a winning tactic, but creativity is rarely logical and KFC needed something standout to launch its Double Down sandwich in Spain.

The QSR has a fraction of the budget of rival chains, and while the Double Down had proved popular elsewhere, product testing in Spain had suggested people there were unconvinced. So the thinking was, if competitors found the sandwich too good to resist, then so should everyone else.

With the help of PS21 Madrid and guerilla tactics such as hangers draped on delivery scooters, notes left on online orders and an AI-powered hotline, KFC lured competitors’ employees to the backdoors of their restaurants to try the newly-renamed ‘La Infame’.

The left-field thinking earned the brand attention beyond its modest budget and a 24% uplift in sales, proving just how irresistible La Infame was.

Elena’s / Bye Love Bye / VMLY&R Commerce, Cleveland, Chicago and Mexico City 

Lockdown was a disaster for family-owned ice cream brand Elena’s, which conducts most of its sales in-store. The brand lost almost all of its revenue overnight and knew that if it was going to survive it had to ramp up its online presence. Working off the insight that people turn to ice cream in times of emotional distress, Elena’s created a one-litre tub of ice cream divided into the five stages of grief.

Each stage was represented by a different flavour, selected according to research that shows how the different ingredients impact your mood. The fun, PR-worthy campaign increased mentions of the brand on social media by 420%, led to a 230% increase in visits to its ecommerce site and was followed by a 160% sales increase for Elena’s other flavours of ice cream.

Oatly, Help Dad, Oatly Department of Mind Control 

People complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that Oatly’s first ever TV ad was ageist, sexist and offensive to dairy farmers.

None of that is a good reason to celebrate a campaign (although the farmers thing is kind of funny) but in this instance we don’t feel it was cause to dismiss one, either. 

Sometimes it is smart for a brand to draw battle lines. Conflict can be an effective way for a brand to win attention and communicate what it stands for. And as long as they can defend their position, brands shouldn’t fear causing small amounts of offence along the way.

Oatly’s January 2021 campaign, in which teens despair at their dads’ addiction to cow’s milk, was punchy but bang on-brand for a product that is marketed as a challenger to the dairy industry. And the ASA eventually declined to investigate the ad.

Vans / Vans World / Gang, Stockholm 

You might be tempted to dismiss Roblox – which hosts all kinds of user-generated games – because of its infantile blocky graphics and young-skewing fanbase, but the platform has more than 46 million daily users. It’s also now working hard to court a more mature audience and has this year partnered with some decidedly grown-up brands, from Hyundai to Gucci.

Vans’ virtual skatepark might not necessarily be sophisticated, but it is one of the best branded experiences we’ve seen on the platform. Nick Street, vice president of global integrated marketing at the apparel brand, described Vans World as ‘bridging the gap between virtual and real-world fashion and sports in an accessible, inclusive way’. Players can compete in challenges and practice skating tricks, but, from a marketing perspective, the smartest part of the experience is how it familiarises them with Vans products by letting them customise their Roblux avatars with branded virtual accessories.

Channel 4 / Super Human / 4 Creative 

In the run up to this year’s Paralympic Games, Channel 4 launched another evocative and motivating film showing disabled athletes preparing for and competing in the competition.

Channel 4 has broadcast the Paralympic Games since 2012 and its Superhumans campaigns promoting the event have been widely praised for changing attitudes. But its previous ads also encouraged ‘Terminator-like’ stereotypes of paralympic athletes, according to 4 Creative’s executive creative director, Eoin McLaughlin, which many disabled people found unrelatable.

To rectify this, Channel 4 focused on the human side of these superhumans for its 2021 film, reflecting a more raw side of their struggles in training but delivered in a humorous and accessible way for mainstream audiences.

As well as being a great ad, it reflects Channel 4’s founding objective of taking bold risks and creating content that other organisations wouldn’t. That’s why we’ve given Channel 4 a podium finish in the Most Contagious campaigns of the year 2021.

Learn more about this campaign at Most Contagious.

Most Contagious 2021: Get Your Passes 

Want to learn more about world-class commercial creativity? At our virtual Most Contagious events, we distil a year’s worth of advertising trends, topics and campaigns into a week of meticulously curated talks to help you steal a march on your competition.

Join us at Most Contagious UK & Europe between 29 Nov–3 Dec, or for Most Contagious USA between 6–10 Dec.

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