Under excruciating circumstances, creative teams around the Asia-Pacific region continued to put out impressive work this year. Of all the campaigns that flowed through our inboxes and across our screens this year, these 10 stood out to our editors—and our chief campaign reporter/critic/cashew addict Ad Nut (right)—as most worthy of praise. Seeing as Ad Nut alone wrote up 215 campaigns this year (squirrels sure are industrious!), deciding on 10 was not an easy task. So we're also including five near misses and five more that simply provided a smile when we needed it the most.
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2020: The year in review
Creator: Thasorn Boonyanate, ECD at Wunderman Thompson Thailand
The first ad in the list technically isn't an ad at all. It's a personal film posted on Facebook by Thasorn Boonyanate, ECD at Wunderman Thompson in Thailand. What starts out as a lament about the Covid-related cancellation of a big campaign turns into a touching look at what really matters. The work therefore perfectly encapsulates the early pandemic experience for many in this industry. It also ends up being, as Ad Nut observed at the time, a pretty good ad for the client after all. By the way, our post about the video was—by a significant margin—the most-read page on this website this year.
Client: Indonesian Family Planning Association (PKBI)
Agency: M&C Saatchi Indonesia
This is an absolutely brutal 30 seconds—as it should be given the topic. A breathtakingly powerful idea in service of addressing an unspeakable injustice.
Client: United Commercial Bank
Agency: Grey Dhaka
This campaign included social-media images done in a style deeply rooted in Bangladeshi culture, plus a video that repurposed a patriotic song from the 1971 Liberation War for a new kind of struggle against a very different kind of enemy. "Even with no connection to the cultural backstory, Ad Nut finds both the images and the video quite moving, and can only imagine how rousing it would be for real Bangladeshis."
Client: RHB Bank
Agency: FCB Malaysia
"For this Deepavali film, RHB Bank and FCB Malaysia found an uplifting story—and a great parable—in Vikey (Vikneswaran Allagu) a well-known magician. Titled 'Light in a time of darkness' the film shows how Vikey had to shift gears when the pandemic made his former career disappear (at least for a while). To continue supporting his family, he finds a way to use his magic skills to sell, of all things, durian."
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo
This film garnered international attention (and a spot on our list of the best ads about diversity, equity and inclusion) for shedding light on racism by way of depicting the ‘real life experience’ of a mixed-race teenager. While some praised Nike for shining a light on racism in Japan, others were upset that an international brand waded into a local discussion and chose to depict the country poorly. "Even if Ad Nut cannot coherently comment on systemic discrimination in Japan, Ad Nut is of the opinion that the ‘real life experience’ of a teenager should never be invalidated." Plus, "the writing, the music, and the editing are mesmerising from start to finish".
BONUS: FIVE NEAR MISSES
These campaigns tempted us to make this a top 15 list.
Desperate search for food in Bangkok finds meaning instead
Sentosa adopts a Moana vibe for holiday campaign
Avon Philippines ditches professional lingerie models for ‘real women’
China campaign positions adult diapers as a caring purchase
Client: The Women’s Foundation Hong Kong
Agency: Wunderman Thompson
"An affecting three-minute video which journeys the life of a woman whose self-worth diminishes after twice being sexually assaulted. It’s a sensitively written and universally relatable story, one that left Ad Nut with a lump in the throat."
Client: B Honey (Bega Foods)
"The project took 18 months to come to fruition, according to Thinkerbell's chief thinker, Adam Ferrier. That's the kind of effort Ad Nut likes to hear about, because it shows this isn't an empty ploy. As one who lives directly off the land, Ad Nut perhaps appreciates the crucial role pollinators play more than you city folk do, and therefore applauds this project. It's a fine example of a company not merely branding itself in a cloak of concern about an issue, but earning its right to 'own' the issue by, you know, actually doing something significant about it."
Client: Tourism New Zealand
Agency: TBWA Sydney / Eleven Sydney
"Before any gamers get too excited, you can't really play Play NZ. Instead, it's a fun campaign that packages the country's many charms into an appealing whole constructed out of gaming tropes. All roads lead to an online hub where people can watch 18 different 180-degree videos that are presented as quests across the magical land's various realms. In reality they present the country's sights, activities and culture. Ad Nut finds all of this most impressive."
Client: The Royal Australian Mint
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Melbourne
"This is brilliant. The 'Donation dollar' is an absolutely legit, legal-tender dollar coin created by The Royal Australian Mint. But it's also a powerful idea, developed over the last two years along with Saatchi & Saatchi Melbourne, to encourage charitable donations. The mint plans to mint one of these coins for each of the 25 million people in Australia over the coming years, and hopes that when they find one in their pocket, they'll consider donating it."
Clients: NZ Department of Internal Affairs, Netsafe, the Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Ministry of Education
Agency: Motion Sickness
"This smart campaign, titled 'Keep it real online', makes online threats to the wellbeing of kids seem more real by having those threats show up at the front door. Ad Nut likes how the work smoothly uses humour without making light of these serious topics. Plus, the parents/guardians in the films, when presented with some fairly horrifying news, keep their cool rather than losing their shit on their kids. That's good behaviour to model."
BONUS: FIVE JUST FOR FUN
These ads provided much-needed smiles in a difficult year.
Hugh Jackman transitions from villain to hero in hilarious coffee ad
SPCA hijacks video conferencing backgrounds to promote pet adoption
Cold remedy prescribes a healthy dose of the 1980s
A 'Loo jam' sounds disgusting, but you have to see it