Ad rewind: 2021’s memorable marketing moments

From facemask-induced eyewear fog-ups to vaccination campaigns, the effects and challenges of the pandemic remained prominent in Richmond’s ad output this year. But COVID-19 wasn’t the only story told by the area’s creative scene in 2021.

Local work ranged from a “poo for brew” campaign promoting colon cancer screenings to a series of homegrown ads promoting downtown businesses. A political advertising agency contributed to the election of Virginia’s next governor, and The Martin Agency repeated as Adweek’s U.S. Agency of the Year, capping off a year that kept those Geico ads coming.

Here are our picks for this year’s standout locally produced ads and memorable marketing moments, in no particular order, pulled from The Pitch and other BizSense coverage:

Venture Richmond – ‘Faces of Downtown’ campaign

Following 2020’s civil unrest and a pandemic that rocked urban centers across the country, city booster group Venture Richmond launched this promotional campaign highlighting the people and places keeping downtown open for business. Tied to the nonprofit’s #MeetMeDowntown initiative, the series of ads and business profiles featuring photos by Jay Paul were produced in-house and ran in local print and digital publications.

Elevation – Give a Crap Challenge

The downtown agency brought together toilet stool company Squatty Potty and Unicorn Farts beermaker DuClaw Brewing for this pro bono campaign to benefit the Colon Cancer Foundation. Offering a limited-edition beer called “Thanks for Giving a Crap” and a Squatty Potty toilet stool to promote colon cancer screenings, the campaign raised more than $20,000 for the New York-based nonprofit and received more than 3 million views through earned media placements.

The Martin Agency – Geico ads

Martin’s ubiquitous ads for the auto insurance company kept coming this year, with new spots featuring Animal from The Muppets, Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo, and this clip with characters from mobile game Angry Birds. The agency started off the year tag-teaming with hip-hop group Tag Team on a spot that Adweek credited in naming Martin its U.S. Agency of the Year for a second year in a row.

VCU Health – ‘This shot matters’ campaign

This in-house public health campaign promoting COVID-19 vaccinations used the slogan “This shot matters,” with a heart symbol in place of the “o” in “shot.” Targeting younger Virginians and aiming to increase vaccinations across population groups, the campaign featured testimonies from various Richmonders and included print, television and digital advertising.

Fable Branding + Advertising – ‘She’s a Real Hero’ video

Fable’s pro bono video for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation featured actual breast cancer survivors, presenting them as superheroes before transitioning to show their roles in real life. The 90-second clip was shown at VBCF’s “More Than a Pink Ribbon” virtual event and via broadcast, online and social media. Alice Blue Studio and Rainmaker Studios contributed to the clip, which was directed by Tom Maher and filmed by Julian Ashbee.

Poolhouse – Youngkin for Governor ads

Poolhouse served as media consultant for the Youngkin for Governor campaign and several GOP House of Delegates campaigns for this year’s elections. This TV spot is one of 40 the agency produced for now-governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s campaign over the GOP convention and general election campaigns, as well as radio, digital and design ads.

Familiar Creatures – Crunch Fitness ads

These pandemic-themed spots for the national gym franchise stood out among Familiar Creatures’ output this year. The Scott’s Addition-based agency worked with Spang and Overcoast on this 30-second clip, called “Pants.” A second spot, “Leave Your Worries Behind,” was directed by Craig Brownrigg.

The Martin Agency – ‘Achieving Ball-ance with Hans’

Martin’s campaign for clothing brand Hanes promoted the brand’s Total Support Pouch product launch and included this 30-second spot starring actor Tony Cavalero. The campaign also included social media content.

Spurrier Group/Work Labs – Showerspecs/Clearspecs campaign

Spurrier Group and Work Labs developed this campaign for anti-fog eyewear lines launched by agency CEO Donna Spurrier. Using the tagline “Don’t Live Life in a Fog,” the campaign included copywriting from local freelancer Maryann Neary-Gill, and Hofbauer Consulting developed the brands’ e-commerce websites.

Yebo – ‘The Holidays are Everything’ campaign

Yebo’s latest campaign for the Virginia Lottery highlighted holiday game offerings with scenes of revelers embracing the spirit of the holidays after 2020’s quieter celebrations. The campaign included two TV spots, four radio spots, and digital video, social, digital display, out-of-home and point-of-sale print ads. The TV spots were directed by Chicago-based team Kipp and K.C. Norman, with production and post-production by Richmond’s Mad Box Made.

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