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2018 Creativity Worth Celebrating: Laura’s Picks

London, UK
LBB’s editor in chief Laura Swinton shares her favourite work from across APAC, MEA and CEE
It’s not been the cheeriest year for the international ad industry, has it? The drama. The high profile decapitations. The byzantine business decisions. The shameful revelations. The encroaching threats. And that’s before we consider poking our heads out the door and engaging with everything that’s going on out in the real world. Perhaps that’s why my selection of work from the regions I cover lurches from the absurd to the sentimental and back again? But at least it shows that, despite all that’s happened in 2018, there are still creative people doing work capable of making us feel something other than existential dread. Uh… Merry Christmas?

It’s an unapologetically subjective selection of some of my favourites from Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa and Central and Eastern Europe.


Wu Fang Zhai - The Story of Sticky Rice 

A spiritual epic that’s also very, very silly. Very. Silly. Social Lab Beijing and Stink director Nieto followed the journey of a anthropomorphised grain of sand through a stunning painted landscape that conjures up fantasy novel covers and classic works of literature like Journey to the West. I don’t know how they sold it to the client. But I’m glad they did.

Apple – Three Minutes

Longer online films bursting with sentiment play well in the Chinese market, and this movie from acclaimed Hong Kong feature director Peter Chan is a lovely example, blending emotion with realism. Released in February for Chinese New Year, it cleverly taps into the mass migration that happens across the festival period while singling out one contained by powerful tale of reunion.

Shisheido – The Party Bus

Far be it for me to start repping directors but it continues to baffle me that European and US agencies are not falling over themselves to spam Show Yanagisawa, the director behind Gravity Cat and High School Girl? with scripts. The colour, the fantasy, the artistry. I can’t get enough. This autumn he turned his exquisite eye to a ghoulish romance for Shisheido. Lush. 

Sakeru – Long, Long Man

I don’t care. I just want a man with soulful eyes, his own theme tune and an endless supply of chewing gum. Is that really too much to ask? This veritable saga of a campaign – 11 micro episodes in total – surprised agency Hakuhodo with its success outside of Japan. Director Wataru Sato has been on a brilliant, if truly weird, roll this year; I also enjoyed his Nissin Noodle spot from September but I can barely explain it, so I went with the love story.


OK, if I can’t have my very own long, long man, then can I have a friend with transcendent life coaching skills? FRIENDSHIT from GREYnJ United in Thailand clocked up a million views in three hours when it launched in February and no wonder. The campaign for Kasikornbank’s K Plus app is both soul-rattling and compelling. And if you can’t get enough of K Plus’s disturbing comedic style, check out the sequel Face/Off. That spot introduces the concept of a partner that constantly upgrades themselves  which, come to think of it, doesn't sound like a bad shout either.

Australia & New Zealand

Berlei – The Best Support for Sport

A someone who once tried to exercise, this spot spoke to me. The Monkeys and director Leilani Croucher (at Revolver/Will O’Rourke) managed to trigger, shall we say, a visceral reaction with the ad that replaces sport balls with squishy, silicon boobs. Wince-inducing doesn’t even cover it – and that’s exactly the point. And it’s refreshing to see an underwear campaign that’s less about objectification of the female body and more about the subjective experience of being a female body. And it looks beautiful. For Leilani and The Monkeys creative director Barbara Humphries it’s, well, a slam dunk. Youch.

ALS Foundation – Project Revoice

Crying? No. That’s just a bit of indoor rain on my face. The teams at BWM Dentsu and Finch combined ground-breaking technology with deep empathy when they used artificial intelligence to give Ice Bucket Challenge co-founder Pat Quinn his voice back. They also built a platform to allow people suffering with degenerative illnesses to record and archive their voices for future use. – Autoads

So, here’s a thing. LBB’s founder, Matt Cooper, is obsessed with buying and selling second-hand cars online. Read into that what you will. But it means I’ve witnessed up close the intense emotion that goes into flogging motors in the information age. CHE Proximity helped owners inject their sales pitch with a bit of va-va-vroom by allowing them to create their own, personalised blockbuster ads.

 Speight's - The Dance

Oh damn. That indoor rain's back. Or maybe this campaign for Kiwi beer brand Speight's by DDB New Zealand and director Steve Ayson is hitting me repeatedly in the feels. Eschewing the typical beer cliches, this is an incredibly touching story about a group of workmates learning to dance and it's a positive, supportive depiction of male friendship. 

Central & Eastern Europe

Burger King – Whopper No Show

“We have only one Burger King in Romania… and that’s in the bloody airport”. The pain in his voice says it all. Mate. I feel you. Publicis Romania turned Burger King’s rather inconvenient footprint in the market into a positive, encouraging locals to buy bargain plane tickets in order to get past airport security and get their hands on a Whopper.  The activation triggered an 18% increase in sales at Bucharest’s only, lonely Burger King concession. 

Women’s Rights Centre - #Unwanted

Eurovision is no stranger to transgression and political protest, wrapped up within the camp and glitzy event. But McCann Belgrade and MCann Podgorica decided to hack the competition and leverage to raise a difficult topic in a conservative country. Together with the Women’s Rights Centre of Montenegro they wanted to tackle the shocking problem of sex-selective abortion which is prevalent. So they came up with #Unwanted and entered it into the local heats. The song reached the national final and came second – the agency say they reached 80% of the population.


Coca Cola – Ramadan 2018

In the Middle East, Ramadan is fast becoming a major event for brands. In their 2018 Ramadan campaign Coke got as close as it ever has to commenting on fraught social issues. It’s not hard hitting - after all it’s a brand identified by a thick, syrupy coat of optimism  - but this spot from FP7 UAE tackles Islamophobia and cut through.

Nandos – More South African Flavour

‘Is this just how we sell things now?’ M&C Saatchi Abel takes aim at the culturally non-specific Afrofuturism trend that’s been sweeping South African advertising over the past few years. The pan-African, fashion-forward aesthetic may be celebratory and chiming with international audiences thanks to the success of Marvel’s Black Panther, but the brand makes the case for an approach that’s a bit more real and a bit more authentic. And it’s funny.

OMO – Book of Dirt

Ogilvy Cape Town spent two years in research and development to produce these books that encourage children to play in the dirt and connect to their culture. The stories only become visible when the pages are smeared with muck thanks to an innovative ink. The books were launched in July and Unilever’s OMO team is investigating the possibility of creating the books for children in other countries. The agency is also in talks with the South African government about getting the books into schools. And if we deploy the technology on Little Black Book, maybe we can coax the world’s cooped-up, overworked creatives out of the office for a bit of outside play. 

Work from LBB Editorial
Brunch Buffet 2
Brunch Buffet 1