A year ago, all anyone could talk about was Nike and Colin Kaepernick. While that campaign was considered a breakthrough on just about every level possible, Wieden + Kennedy, in 2018, was hardly defined by one piece of work. Still, it was an undeniable calling card for an agency that takes a great deal of pride in work that impacts culture. Around that piece of seminal creativity lived an abundance of stellar work from other brands.
In 2019, one of the critical reasons that W+K repeated as Adweek’s U.S. Agency of the Year was creative work the world has yet to see. Earlier this year, W+K New York was named U.S. creative agency of record for McDonald’s—a massive win that made the industry stand up and take notice of the independent creative powerhouse.
The narrative of that significant development could seemingly swamp the story of some memorable creativity. But that’s the thing about W+K: a relentless focus on successful and unique work that builds brands is their true calling card—and has been for almost four decades.
Momentum is a valuable currency for any agency. And the following campaigns from W+K show how even more life was breathed into some of the world’s most prominent brands.
Bud Light (With HBO) | Joust (W+K New York)
Super Bowl advertising can follow a predictable formula: Set the thing up, wait for it, and punchline. As viewers watched a wretched Super Bowl (though the league’s ad was very good), no one could have expected to see a hookup between Bud Light and HBO’s Game of Thrones. The collaboration between W+K and Droga5, an exceedingly rare phenomenon in the agency world, resulted in an incredible crossover of two brands that was a legitimate surprise.
While that ad was a standout, the agency and beer behemoth rolled out another Super Bowl campaign focusing on the fact that Bud Light doesn’t brew its beer with corn syrup—which ended up ruffling more than a few feathers. It was a bold move to poke at competitors, and one that took on a life of its own.
HBO | The Inspiration Room (W+K New York)
Celebrating Women’s History Month, this experiential campaign collected journal entries from women across America—including the network’s stars like Lena Dunham, Issa Rae and Lisa Joy—and built a public space for their authentic, unedited voices to be heard. In addition to nightly discussions, spoken word performances, podcasts and other events, some of the journals were turned into videos read by other HBO stars like Susie Essman, Dominique Fishback and Poorna Jagannathan.
“HBO has always had strong female characters,” said W+K New York creative director Jaclyn Crowley. “We wanted to give women a place where they could bring their stories as dark, complex or as interesting as they may be. If you were in that room, it was positive and felt like the right thing for the brand to do.”
Earlier this year, the agency and network addressed another topic with a video spotlighting characters from its shows—including Euphoria, Girls, Succession and The Sopranos—struggling with mental health issues. Additionally, shows that address mental health topics now air with bumpers warning about their content.
“It’s a little different than what other brands do, which is basically running spots,” Crowley said. “And we’re figuring out what role we can play in those conversations.”
Nike | Dream Further & Never Stop Winning (W+K Portland)
This year’s Women’s World Cup stopped the sports world for a month. Most Americans, even casual fans, know about the likes of Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan. But Nike and W+K Portland introduced the tournament with an electrifying film that featured some of soccer’s biggest stars. A continuation of the “Dream Crazy” campaign, “Dream Further” is 3 minutes of adrenaline and inspiration, no matter one’s gender.