7 of 2016’s Most Inspirational Moments in Creativity

Despite the ups and downs of 2016, adland always manages to bring a little light. Talented creatives honored legends, celebrated awesome achievements and took bold stands in defense of strong beliefs.

As we reflect on this rollercoaster of a year, we’re shining a light on just a few of the creative world’s moments that inspired us in 2016.

Girl Power Rises to New Heights 

2016 was notable year for women’s empowerment: The U.S. nominated its first female presidential candidate from a major party, Linda Kaplan Thaler became the first woman to win the coveted Lifetime Achievement Clio Award, adland released a number of ads that put female strength on display and the media even began directly addressing menstruation. One of the most notable moments came from Nike India and Wieden + Kennedy India’s “Da Da Ding,” which upends the country’s traditional view of women.

Creatives Advocate for Refugees

As the atrocities of the Syrian civil war continued to reveal themselves, the creative world advocated for the victims of war and millions of refugees in inspiring ways. UNICEF and 180LA devised a series of “Unfairy Tales” that tell the heartbreaking stories of children affected by the war. FCB Zürich and Germany’s Refugees Welcome organization created ingenious, unskippable YouTube ads that feature real refugees. And perhaps most buzzed about, Save the Children and Don’t Panic London released a sequel to its popular 2014 PSA, which brings the refugee crisis close to home.

Prince Receives the Perfect Tribute

While we said goodbye to countless influential figures in 2016 (David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Gwen Ifill and Muhammad Ali, just to name a few), Prince’s death in April was one of the most shocking. Adland responded with a deluge of tributes, but Chevrolet Corvette and Commonwealth//McCann’s homage to Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” was perfectly simple.

Wieden + Kennedy Stands with #BlackLivesMatter

With the onslaught of news about deadly confrontations between the police and the black community, Wieden + Kennedy made its opinion on the matter known. In July, the agency’s website went dark leaving only the following note:

"Why your black co-worker seems especially bitter today...

Why your black co-worker seems especially sad today...

Why your black co-worker seems especially quiet today...

We are processing.

We are asking ourselves what to do.

We are hurt because it feels like watching our own selves get gunned down.

We are telling ourselves, 'do not let this make you live in fear. do not let this make you hate.'

But we're scared for our lives, our family's lives, our friend's lives.

We're mad that the protests aren't working. Why the video recordings aren't working.

We're conflicted, in a place between crippling empathy [and] contempt at a world that seems not to care enough.

We are disgusted at police but telling ourselves, 'you can't hate all police.'

We are wondering the point of a moment of silence.

We are wondering if we ourselves will make it back home today.

We are wondering what to do, what to do, what to do.

Just an FYI, not for sympathy. Just acknowledging this because it should be acknowledged.


Just Not Sports Condemns Harassment 

Sports podcast “Just Not Sports” spoke out against the online harassment female sports reporters face everyday with this shocking #MoreThanMean campaign. Accepting the Social Good Grand Clio at the 2016 Clio Sports Awards, co-host and founder Brad Burke stated, “I’m so grateful for strong women like Sarah [Spain] and Julie [DiCaro] who are speaking out against harassment… They are working diligently to prevent the next generation of women from dealing with this garbage ever again.”

Michael Phelps Says His “Last Goodbye” with Under Armour

Just named Adweek’s best ad of 2016, this Under Armour and Drogs5 spot stunningly profiles Michael Phelps’ grueling physical and emotional regimen as he prepared for his final Olympic Games in Rio.

"This is someone everyone thought they knew, but in many ways did not," said Droga5 group creative director Tim Gordon in an interview with Adweek. "When you hear him talk about life, what it was like to be in a pool since a super-young age—the hard work, the loneliness—you sympathize with this man. It became easy to root for him, to make something that reflected everything he had gone through."

Brands Celebrate Diversity

The 2016 presidential election was emotional on both sides of the fence, and adland turned these emotions into creative action. A few standout spots include Airbnb’s “Accept” and Amazon’s “A Priest and Imam Meet for a Cup of Tea,” both of which encourage acceptance and diversity.

"There are 24 faces that only represent a sliver of the diversity we have on the platform," said Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall in an Adweek interview. "The film's power laid in the faces. It's a lot more difficult to deny to someone while looking them in the eyes."