The Year’s 23 Best Media Plans Sparked Conversation With Next-Level Innovation and Creativity

Brands used audacious tactics to effectively reach consumers

Starcom, PHD and Wieden + Kennedy (with Wingstop, Old Navy and Chiquita, respectively) are among the 2018 honorees.
Sources: Wingstop, Old Navy, Chiquita

In this ever-expanding brand marketing ecosystem, the challenge for advertisers to effectively reach their targeted audience calls for an audacious media plan. Sometimes it’s a simple execution with a powerful message, and then there’s a need for an off-the-wall, completely bonkers campaign to cut through the clutter. This year’s crop of Media Plan of the Year honorees celebrates 23 winning teams that check those boxes and everything in between with extraordinary campaigns that sparked national conversations. From Droga5’s quiet, yet impactful “The Free Press” campaign for The New York Times to MullenLowe MediaHub’s creepy, futuristic “Altered Carbon” bus shelter campaign (see the full story here), agencies’ next-level innovation and creativity continued to shine bright in 2018. —Lisa Granatstein

The Judges
Many thanks to our esteemed panel of jurors who carved out time to judge another record year of Media Plan of the Year entries (Check out these interviews with some of our judges about the challenges facing the brand-agency relationship). If you’re interested in serving as a juror in 2019, please contact Jemima Mendenhall at

PHD | Google, ‘Celebrity Voice’
Category: Campaign ($10+ million)

Going into the 2017 holiday season, Google and PHD knew that 60 percent of U.S. consumers didn’t yet see the need for a smart home device like Google Home to assist with personal searches, questions and playlist requests, and help with things around the house.

So the tech giant and its agency decided to highlight the features and utility of the device and voice assistance in general to audiences by weaving the voice assistant directly into key entertainment events from Halloween to Christmas. The two-month marketing blitz keyed on some unique media and celebrity-driven integrations tied to the tried-and-true scaled reach of network TV.

High-profile product placements in TV shows like NBC’s Will & Grace, The Ellen Show and ABC’s Modern Family saw celebrities like Eric McCormack, Sofía Vergara, Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler addressing the device during episodes and around events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting.

“We had so many of our favorite TV personalities and characters saying ‘Hey Google’ and using the Google Home in a wide array of situations,” says Nick Vernola, global media strategy director at PHD. They “showed just how amazing, magical and useful Google Home can be.”

And overall, they helped Google sell more than 7 million of its Home devices, increasing its market share from 23 percent to 31 percent.
Gabriel Beltrone

Initiative and Droga5 | IHOP, ‘Flipping to Burgers’
Category: Campaign ($5 million-10 million)

For a few weeks in June, it seemed “IHOb” was a social obsession: Was IHOP becoming a burger joint?

Coming into the campaign, Initiative managing director, client advice and management Robert Holtkamp says, IHOP had positive brand recognition but was pigeonholed as a weekend breakfast destination. It needed to convince audiences to consider IHOP for lunch and dinner. With a series of mysterious social media posts, Initiative sparked conversations in the lead-up to the big reveal.

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Recommended videos