Nolan's - Seriously Strong
This little ditty dropped in January '10 and had me laughing for months so it has to top my list this year. Points for a wicked simple idea and great execution. Surprises are awesome.
Frito Lay - And then there was Salsa
I can't think about salsa without thinking about Seinfeld, but anyway... Frito Lay took over vimeo quite literally with this vid back in the spring and it was the first time an interactive immersive video took over your screen by your own invitation - before this, ads had to unsuspectingly ambush you with a full-screen takeover. Here it was packaged as an entertaining and beautifully-put-together video that was gorgeous enough to be impressive, not annoying. Head to Vimeo to see the effect.
edit: if you missed it, sorry, but Frito deleted this on Jan 7, presumably because there was an ongoing cost to maintain the effect, saw-ry!
FCUK - This is the Man
You May think no one really paid attention to the French Connection's 'Man' [or to his counterpart 'Woman', who granted wasn't actually nearly as good], but the spot's reverent and Christoph Waltz-esque voiceover and amazing self-indulgent self-winking tone has already been completely ripped off more than once (like in Summit Beer's 'Man Like Natural'). The Man is basically my imaginary boyfriend.
Twistos - Woodpecker
Out of BBDO Argentina [and a South American advertising climate that's been marking a new and totally hilarious fuck-subtle/weird-for-the-sake-of-weird direction in comedy], you have to admire the woodpecker's ridiculous earnestness (and what they had him shouting). This is funny intelligent humour that hits the mark. Deserves repeat viewings.
Kia Soul - Soul Streets
Kia played it fast and cool with a timely nod to the Back to the Future franchise that balanced fun and wtf. It also marked the move 'viral' videos made in my consciousness from the ol' is-this-actually-real? attention/hit-seeking youtube crap, to short films as 'branded' entertainment you can watch while you're having your morning muffin.
Lego - Cl!ck
In a year that saw stop motion everything (to the point where I'm almost getting really tired of it), Lego took the branded entertainment/short film model and made a stop motion piece that stopped the show single-handedly visualizing childlike wonderment and creativity with a touch of magic - the same embodiment as their little ubiquitous lego pieces. It's a beautiful short that goes way beyond as it explores an explanation for imagination. Sheer delight! OK let's quit with the stop motion already.
LG - Orion House
And then along comes LG and makes this sublime short in the same vein, except there's next to nothing in the film to tip you off to the LG brand, or their washer/dryers [or to let you know that LG is even involved] - only one short cutaway to our forlorn leading female flipping the button on her LG laundry machine. It's so subtle and ridiculous, but when you think about it, that shot is a standout. Not just for its paradoxically seamless fit with the tone and mood of what comes before and after it - but for what that actually says about LG's interest in being a part of your life on the whole. What they're trying to tell you: unexpectedly awesome things happen, often after you simply flip a button on you 'life-is-good' washer. You've just been brain-washed.
McDonald's - Come as you are
Lastly, kudos to McDonald's in France for being brave enough to embrace their gay side in advertising. It's cheeky, and doesn't give with one hand while taking with the other - it's a nod to family relationships, gay teens and openness without caricature or overture. It really gave me some hope for mainstream-culture advertising to follow suit with the way-ahead entertainment world in embracing equality. Although, this is more likely to happen first in the EU and maybe Canada, fat chance you'll see this repeated in '11 in the US.