When I was a kid, I always paid attention to the commercials. What made them funny? What if I remembered the spot but not the brand? Was that still a good use of their money?

These are kind of odd questions for a 12-year-old to be thinking about, but that was me. Eventually, I grew up and started doing this stuff (communications / advertising / marketing) for a living.

In that time, I’ve never stopped ogling at well-done campaigns, particularly because now I think about how I can apply their awesomeness to my own work.

These are my favorites from 2016.

(And for the record, I think it’s a lot harder for enterprise brands to produce memorable campaigns compared to consumer brands, so kudos to you Slack and Twilio. You’re killing it.)

Lyft — Friends with Transit

Lyft’s Friends With Transit campaign might just be my favorite of all time. (Sorry 1984). It nailed “right message, right place, right time” with the added benefits of a slick design, witty headlines, and (my favorite) puns.

Lyft was targeting city dwellers who usually take the bus or other forms of public transportation. The ads spoke directly to a pain point the target customer was experiencing AT THAT MOMENT. Damn, I wish this bus would take me right to my apartment. And, I wish I didn’t have to wait here for it. Plus, the design—an inspired and magical transit map of the future—offered a striking, visual element to drive (get it? 😉) the point home.

The campaign was also hyperlocal. “AFTER BARTY” is an inside joke with San Franciscans and their sad, often abandoned East Bay-dweller friends. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) stops running at midnight (#srsly?), rendering folks who live in the East Bay our own modern-day Cinderellas. However, if they take Lyft, they can go to the after party after BARTy shuts down and still get home. 🎉

Slack — Waging war on meetings. Upholding productivity.

First off, Slack is so cool we often forget it’s an enterprise company. That’s impressive. It’s a company that, in my humble opinion, shows the incredible power of good design. Many companies do or did what Slack essentially does. None have reached peak Slack hype cycle.

And while I might be in the process of breaking up with Slack myself, I’m still impressed with their marketing efforts. Exhibit A: this ad campaign. The first time I saw it I was browsing the news and clicked-through on their sidebar display ad. I’m guessing they were retargeting me.

Now, let me take a moment to say it’s REALLY hard to get anyone to give a shit about your display ad. Seriously. Those bad boys only get 0.06% click through rate on average.🙅 But when you see a pony on a rainbow talking about how much you hate meetings, it’s kind of hard to look away. (These also appeared in magazines and airports.)

When you click through on the digital ads, you are taken to this crazy compelling landing page including customer testimonials (social proof) plus data (more “trustworthy” proof) that don’t just continue the message started in the ad, but back it up. This is marketing 101 executed beautifully.

Also noteworthy: Slack makes communicating with colleagues fun (though occasionally overwhelming), like chatting with friends, and I think this is a huge secret to their success. From their ads to their 🙌 worthy Twitter feed, they talk to people like people, and that comes through consistently.

Twilio — Ask Your Developer

The message is simple. Twilio is for developers. This campaign is unique because it focuses on defining their audience much more than driving home the value Twilio provides.

The ads do have the ethereal positioning “Cloud Communications Platform,” but that’s clearly a secondary point. (For those who need a buzzword decoder, that means they help app makers send text messages and calls. Also, I relate. Naming elusive API company categories is hard.)

But back to the point. I love this campaign for two reasons. First, because the message is so simple. It’s very easy to remember. Twilio = developers. That’s it. That’s what they want me to know. They won.

The second is that it plays two ways. 👯 It appeals directly to developers because it’s saying, “Hey! Twilio is for you! We won’t give up on you as we move up market.” They are clearly committing to building documentation, community, and support for developers. If you’re a software engineer and you haven’t heard of Twilio, you might want to look it up after seeing this ad, since it’s saying most of your peers know about this thing already.
What’s more impressive to me is that this ad ALSO appeals to developers’ bosses like heads of engineering, product managers, and engineering managers. Literally, the ad is talking to them. Ask YOUR developer. If Twilio comes up in conversation or if they’ve already heard of it, they know who to talk to for more info—their developers. And, because Twilio commits to so many developers already knowing about the service, the company slyly demonstrates market traction and reliability to those decision makers. Bravo. 👏

This campaign is only possible because Twilio already has a lot of awareness in the developer community. They couldn’t have run it when they were just starting off. Also, it’s best suited for San Francisco because we have such a high concentration of tech companies and developers in the market for Twilio. Nice job.

Android — Be together. Not the same.

Take a minute to watch this ad.

Now, I’ll give you a second to get a tissue. Yeah. It’s that good. I saw it air on the Oscars, and at first, I had no idea what it was going to be for. I was thinking it might be some kind of PSA for anti-bullying.

When the Android logo appeared, I had to stop and think. Here’s what went through my head:

Why is Android behind this? Well they must care about anti-bullying and diversity. That’s cool. And, it kind of is a metaphor for their product. They are different than iPhones most people have. And, they are an open platform. There are all different types of Android phones and operating systems and setups. Android is also kind of the underdog in this (the American) market. But seriously that was an adorable video, and, yeah, bullying is not cool.

Now I know I think about ads more than the average person, but the fact that I had all of these thoughts—cutting way into the following commercial—gives Android my seal of approval for this campaign.

This ad gets storytelling right. You find yourself caring about what happens to the rock, paper, and scissors even though you’re a grown adult! The campaign not only advocates for a good cause but it also ties Android to their preferred positioning of “different.” Win. Win.