Compiled by Laura Barns, Frances Church and Chelsie Tang


One brand that admitted its failings particularly admirably this year was KFC. Faced with a major crisis when the fast food chain ran out of chicken and instead of issuing a serious corporate statement, it apologised to customers in a witty print ad saying “FCK” – we messed up.

There’s no surprise that the ad won silver and three golds at Cannes Lions festival. The campaign worked because it humanised the brand.



Consumers increasingly expect companies to take a position on the day’s issues especially in a year shrouded in so much political and societal unrest.

With J.D Wetherspoons engaging its pub regulars into politics by printing pro-Brexit manifestos on backs of beer mats and Iceland teaming up with Greenpeace to highlight the damaging effects of palm oil – brands got political this year.

Nike also used San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaerpernick, as the face of it’s 30th Anniversary #JustDoIt campaign. The player sparked controversy in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem to protest against US police brutality and racial injustice.



Quality prevailed over quantity, with brands no longer concerned with getting the highest levels of interaction, but instead prioritised ‘meaningful’ interactions.

Leading the pack was Twitter, with CEO Jack Dorsey annoucing that the platform was searching for ways to root out trolling, bullying, hate speech, and political manipulation. His way of addressing it? Asking the user. In an unprecedented move, the company put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for “Twitter Health Metrics” asking for user input into the how best to tackle the issue. Whilst the results of this have yet to be officially announced, it shows that for the first time, social media companies are looking to improve and protect the integrity of user interactions on their platforms.



Order came to the sometimes chaotic and controversial world of data collection after a year of scandals following GDPR implementation. Social platforms came under intense scrutiny and all actions, both past and present, were examined in microscopic detail.

In March, news broke that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had sold Facebook data which had been used to influence the result of the 2016 US Presidential Election. Following this, Facebook and all other major platforms were forced to revisit their privacy policies, with many people’s perception of social media companies changed drastically.

Brands were also forced to rethink their targeting strategy in light of GDPR. Whilst many brands sought to drive customer opt ins by bombarding their inboxes with pleading emails, beer brand Brewdog took a somewhat alternative approach. Known for its somewhat ‘unusual’ campaigns, the beer company gave away 1 million bottles of its IPA for those who signed up to its mailing list. This worked not only to increase brand and product awareness but also allowed it to capture customer data in a legally compliant way.




‘Body positivity’ isn’t particularly new but this year we really saw women’s ‘real-life’ bodies being championed in a myriad of ways, from realistic mannequins, to leg hair and even period blood.

A brand regularly praised for paving the way in this area is teen store Missguided, who launched two empowering campaigns this year; #MakeYourMark and #InYourOwnSkin.

The first was launching a diverse range of mannequins, including women with different ethnicities as well as stretch marks and vitiligo. The latter celebrating ‘skin positivity’ and the acceptance of common skin conditions. The brand’s decision to stop retouching model’s stretch marks has received a strong social media support with more than 122,000 Instagram likes and 3,040 retweets in response to their posts. Calling on their followers to join the #makeyourmark movement, the brand has already seen 3,374 uses of the hashtag across their social media channels.



2018 was the year of hard-hitting campaigns showcasing the devastating reality of the topic that is finally getting the attention it deserves.

Our favourite campaign of the year, CALM’s Project 84 was the perfect reflection of this. It placed 84 lifelike mannequins on London’s ITV buildings to raise awareness of male suicide. Every two hours, a man in the UK takes his own life, equating to 84 deaths per week. A stigma around men’s mental health still shrouds it, and not enough has been done to normalise asking for help.



We witnessed a surge in live streaming and video content, to the point where platforms introduced channels solely dedicated to it. Polished content became a thing of the past, and spontaneous, of-the-moment videos came to the forefront.   

With diminishing attention spans and need for bite-size content on the go, brands began to move away from carefully curated video content, and started to turn their attention to live, of-the-moment videos. This year saw Instagram announce IGTV, a standalone app for watching long-form vertical video. Despite a slow start, both brands and influencers began to adopt the new format, using the platform to publish content that was less curated than that which appeared on feed or on YouTube.

Known for its multi-million dollar ad campaigns fronted by famous faces, Serena Williams and Cristiano Ronaldo, to name a few, Nike recognised that IGTV served its own purpose – presenting the stories of real people and their journeys. The ‘My Crazy Dream’ series sought to highlight the inspiring stories of everyday athletes – be it documenting their quest to lose 500lbs or a Paralympian training for their first triathlon. With this, Nike sought to experiment with how to connect with people by leveraging fresh mobile video platforms while demonstrating how a brand can expand its visual storytelling beyond the confines of a traditional 30-second ad spot.