A(d)wards: The best marketing campaigns of 2021

    A(d)wards: The best marketing campaigns of 2021

    As 2022 is creeping up on us from around the corner, it’s time to look back at 2021 and reminisce about the best marketing campaigns of the year.&nbs...

    As 2022 is creeping up on us from around the corner, it’s time to look back at 2021 and reminisce about the best marketing campaigns of the year. 

    We have shortlisted 16 of our favorite campaigns, both online and offline, and can’t wait to share them with you – enjoy! 

    Digital marketing campaigns we loved in 2021 

    ‘#ShotOniPhone’ by Apple

    We did promise you a list of the best marketing campaigns of 2021, but this one only checks off half the boxes. It is, indeed, one of the best campaigns, but it’s not exactly new – Apple has been running it since 2014. 

    Through the years, Apple has been blessing us – the marketing community and customers – with impeccable billboards, social posts, and videos featuring content shot from their latest iPhones. 

    In 2021, to promote the latest iPhone 13, Apple turned to the video format. The brand released a video where users create a short film, with special effects, filmed only using the iPhone 13. 

    Why was it cool? A whole lot of reasons, really! Apple managed to both show off their newest product and its astonishing features (you can’t argue with this one, it does look professional!), and humanize the brand by using user-generated content. The campaign screams, “you can do it too!”

    ‘Wrapped 2021’ by Spotify

    Just like the Apple one, this campaign by Spotify isn’t exactly new. Spotify has been highlighting its users’ “Year in Music” since 2015. But it’s still a cool one, so we thought it deserved a mention in this article.

    In 2021, Spotify mixed the good old top artists, genres, songs, podcasts and minutes listened with some brand new features:

    • 2021: The Movie that pairs your songs of the year with classic scenes from the movie that’s #you. 
    • Your Audio Aura presents Spotify users with a picture of their aura based on their top two music moods (Spotify claims they’ve worked with an aura expert to develop this feature). 
    • Playing Cards – Spotify’s spin on the classic “Two Truths and a Lie” game that you could share with friends to let them guess your listening habits. 
    • 2021 Wrapped Blend lets Spotify users see how their 2021 music taste matches up with their friends.

    Why was it cool? Spotify hit all the good spots with their Wrapped 2021: they tapped into personalization, gamified the experience, and let people find even more common grounds with their mates. 

    ‘Made Possible by Hosts’ by Airbnb

    During the pandemic, Airbnb spent a lot of money on their marketing strategy, and… Saw little impact on traffic. So, they decided to drastically change their approach to marketing. Instead of throwing money on performance marketing, they decided to invest in brand building and educating customers. 

    We take a very different approach to sales and marketing than our competition. PR, in addition to word of mouth, is the thing that built our brand over the last 10 years. And because of that, Airbnb really is a noun and a verb used all over the world.

    Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb

    And that’s how the ‘Made Possible by Hosts’ campaign was born. Airbnb produced a series of short videos using real photographs from guests staying in Airbnb-listed properties around the world. They did this to both educate customers on the benefits of being hosted, and inspire more people to become hosts. 

    Why was it cool? The campaign made great use of user-generated content and made customers feel appreciated. While being far from flashy, it still did a great job in terms of bringing Airbnb the desired brand recognition and revenue they deserve. Over the third quarter of 2021, following a 136% increase in year-on-year sales and marketing expenditure, Airbnb recorded a 15% increase in overall traffic in the countries where the campaign was running, in comparison to pre-pandemic times. And… The dog is adorable, we would’ve featured this campaign in our list just for the dog 🙂

    ‘John Lewis Parody’ by Iceland

    We would’ve included the OG John Lewis Christmas ad in the list, but… It’s a best-campaign cliche – everyone and their dog knows it’s good. The story is amazing, the visuals are breathtaking, and the anticipation that builds up around the annual Christmas ad adds a special flair to the campaign. 

    But we couldn’t leave John Lewis out entirely… So, here comes Iceland’s version of the story about an alien named Skye, who learns the traditions of Christmas after crash-landing on Earth and meeting a young lad.

    Heinz, too, has pulled this stunt. Though, their platform of choice was TikTok. On November 5, the official Heinz UK account on TikTok posted a John Lewis ad parody video that amassed 30 thousand likes. The Heinz SMM manager added, “We spent nothing on this Christmas ad. Enjoy 🎄”


    We spent nothing on this Christmas ad. Enjoy 🎄 #ChristmasAd #Christmas #FakeAd #Christmas2021

    ♬ original sound – Heinz UK

    Why was it cool? The execution might have not been the best, but both Heinz and Iceland got their share of hype. They used something that was actively discussed at the time and put a smile on their viewers’ faces – who doesn’t love a good giggle?

    Duolingo on TikTok, all of it 

    Since we’ve already touched on the subject of TikTok, it would be a crime not to include Duolingo in this list. 

    In 2021, Duolingo went all-in on social media marketing and employed a Gen-Z SMM manager. The results were… Peculiar. 

    Since their first hit video back in September, the official Duolingo account on TikTok has been shaking the digital world with viral videos, gathering millions of views, likes, and comments. There were thousands of headlines in all major online media, talking about how the Duolingo mascot, a green owl, went viral on TikTok by ‘twerking on tables’, ‘sending death threats’, and ‘simping over Dua Lipa’.


    PR team really think you can lock me in a closet and I won’t break out? no one’s safe #run #bescared #Duolingo #comedy

    ♬ helllp the killer is ey scape ing – abi

    Why was it cool? Duolingo plays into current trends, listens socially, and takes advantage of the image it already has among its target audience, further personalizing the brand. Besides, the use of TikTok, one of the most popular platforms of today, gives the brand free exposure. Win-win!

    ‘Reverse Selfie’ by Dove

    Moving away from humorous campaigns, and closer to the more serious ones, Dove is next with their ‘Reverse Selfie’ campaign. Created by Ogilvy, it’s truly a piece of art with a deep message behind it. Powerful and beautiful.

    The campaign aims to bring awareness to the fact that by the age of 13, 80% of girls distort the way they look online, and change this heartbreaking reality.

    Why was it cool? Because it appealed to an important social cause and was empowering.

    ‘Feed Parade’ by Mercado Livre

    Brazil is home to the largest Pride parade in the world, but in 2021, it was canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions. But… It didn’t stop people from attending (safely, of course – in the digital plane). 

    Mercado Livre, a traditional sponsor of the Parade, turned 2.5 meters of the avenue where the parade usually takes place into an Instagram feed. Via influencers, people who wanted to attend the parade digitally could tag themselves on it. In just 15 minutes, the venue was jam-packed. 

    Then, Gloria Groove – a legendary LGBTQIA+ singer and activist – released a music video with every single attendee’s IG handle in it. 

    Why was it cool? It created an unforgettable moment for millions of people around the world to share.

    ‘Keep Only the Best of France’ by Le chocolat des Français

    Le chocolat des Français is an established brand of natural, hand-made chocolate made in France. Usually, brands like this play it safe – they pride themselves on their traditions, and always have a ‘touristy’ feel to them.

    Le chocolat des Français decided to break the boundaries of traditional chocolate. And did so successfully. The brand invited more than 500 artists to collaborate on the project. Together, they created more than 1000 different bar wrapper designs. They deliberately opted for bold and unconventional colors, as well as funny and provoking illustrations of France.

    Why was it cool? It offered a new look at old things, it resulted in creative, fun designs, and it introduced people to a bunch of talented artists. 

    ‘Play New’ by Nike

    Nike’s ‘Just do it’ is consistently good. But it looks like in 2021, the brand has managed to outdo their famous campaign with a new iteration of the slogan. 

    Instead of focusing on professional athletes with the bodies carved by Greek gods, Nike decided to show real people in their ‘Play New’ campaign. People who try new sports and… Fail at them. Fail, yet still find joy in them, because that’s essentially what sports are for.

    Why was it cool? A simple message, but, indeed, one a lot of people needed to hear. Experience new things, go through changes, fail, and succeed. Just do it, for you.

    Offline marketing campaigns we loved in 2021

    ‘Morty’s’ by Wendy’s

    In 2021, Wendy’s had a Morty-centric makeover. The brand’s running partnership with “Rick and Morty”, an adult cartoon show, inspired a pop-up. 

    An immersive drive-thru in California featured a lot of references to the hit show, including Pickle Rick Frosty and the diner’s menu staples; all rebranded to fit the vibe of the Mortyverse. 

    This campaign was a hit as the wait times to get into “Morty’s” stretched for hours.

    Why was it cool? Wendy’s hopped on the re-emerging trend of experiential marketing and clearly knew their target audience – they offered them exactly what they were looking for.

    ‘Jacquemus 24/24’ by Jacquemus

    To celebrate the latest addition to the family of Jacquemus accessories, the Bambino Long bag, the brand opened a ‘Jacquemus 24/24’ pop-up store in Paris.

    It’s open 24 hours a day, it’s all-pink, it resembles a chick vending machine, and it’s filled with exclusive Jacquemus pieces. Target audience reached!

    Why was it cool? It gave their target audience exactly what they wanted, and it’s pink. We think they did more than enough to deserve a spot on our list.

    ‘The Home Alone House for Rent’ by Airbnb 

    Another honorable mention of Airbnb, but now in the offline marketing campaigns category. All for a good reason, though! 

    Early in December, Airbnb added a very interesting listing, Kevin McCallister’s home. A few fans of the ‘Home Alone’ saga were able to spend a night at the famous house near Chicago. Well, in theory. There was a single one-night stay for up to four guests at the McCallister residence on Dec. 12 for only $25 per night, and just a few moments after the announcement, the listing was completely booked. 

    Why was this cool? C’mon, do we have to explain this one to you? It’s the Home Alone house, the OG one, and you could stay there! Wow!

    ‘Lights On’ by McDondald’s 

    Once again, McDonald’s shows the importance of branding and logos. In their ‘Lights On’ campaign, McDonald’s doesn’t state their brand name, nor do they even include their full logo. Just the curve of their famous “M” in its signature color. 

    The main idea of the campaign is to remind customers that McDonald’s delivers: ‘We deliver.”

    Simple, effective, and genius!

    Why was it cool? Minimalism is a bang on-trend. McDonald’s takes minimalism to the next level and still remains perfectly recognizable.

    ‘The Wheel of Time 3D’ by Amazon Prime

    Another example of a beautifully executed OOH campaign is ‘The Wheel of Time 3D’ by Amazon Prime. 

    In November, the streaming service looked for a way to promote the launch of its new epic fantasy series, and wouldn’t settle for anything less than magic. So, they opted for an impressive live-action 3D illusion billboard. A perfect blend of technology and creativity. 

    Why was it cool? First of all, it was impressive. Second of all, Amazon Prime tapped into a rapidly growing trend, Augmented Reality, to attract pedestrians – and they succeeded.

    ‘Endlich Zu Hause’ by IKEA

    Simple, elegant, and effective – just like everything IKEA does. This campaign is the brand’s farewell to Angela Merkel, who has recently resigned from the German government. 

    A full-page newspaper ad in Germany featured a Merkel look-alike, comfortably sitting back in an IKEA chair, as she deserves after being the Chancellor of Germany for 16 years. Finally home. 

    Why was it cool? A wise wordplay, a very convincing Merkel look alike, and a timely nod to current affairs. Why wouldn’t it be cool?!

    Domino’s supports local businesses

    Not a full-blown marketing campaign per se, but a nice initiative by Domino’s. The pizza brand decided to give a helping hand to small local businesses by buying out  $50 gift cards from local restaurants. They then randomly gave them out to Domino’s delivery customers. 

    This was done to support local businesses and help them avoid delivery fees from UberEats, Deliveroo, and Postmate. 

    Why was it cool? Helping small businesses is always cool. 

    Here at VistaCreate, we encourage you to shop small, too. Make sure to check out our list of the best local brands according to the VistaCreate team!

    Valerie Kakovkina

    Content marketing manager at VistaCreate. Valerie loves all things marketing, with her favourite areas being email marketing and social media. When out of the office, Valerie loves travelling, going to parties, and helping her friends with their art projects (oh to be surrounded by artists).

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