Top 10 ads of 2023: Notable trends & learnings
The trends we saw in 2023
- Make it weird. Bizarre intros, unexpected visuals, and outlandish statements can serve as effective hooks.
- Be negative. Opening with a lament or negative review can get your audience's attention. Just make sure to let them in on the joke.
- Sensationalize with superlatives. This is one of THE BEST ways to use copy to unlock UNBELIEVABLE PERFORMANCE in your ads.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle. Follow trends on TikTok and IG (and reinvent them for your own ads). Use talented creators to blur the lines between ads and organic.
- Don't sleep on statics. You don't always have to make a video ad! Say it simply with a static to save time and money.
And now (drumroll), here are 10 ads that inspired us to try new strategies, or iterate on past top performers in 2023. May 2024 be your most inspired, innovative, and creative year yet!
We’re Holden ourselves to a higher standard after seeing this execution of the text message format. “Messages” call out USPs and available services in an engaging, non-salesy way while keeping the focus on the product. Plus, the immediately actionable CTA applies to the entire audience whether or not they’ve found their to-have-and-to-Holden. As direct as it gets.
We try not to feature the same brands over and over. That said, Hopper is the brand for which we'll always bend the rules. Their ads always communicate just enough and never too much. The visual says it all, so the copy is short and simple. The CTA doesn't need to be in your face since the app store icons tell you what to do without insulting your intelligence. We’ll say it again: if you’re involved in ad creation or testing, you better have Hopper's Meta ads page bookmarked for consistent inspiration.
Ad World Conference
Being Notes App static ad addicts, we’re ecstatic to see a dramatic… video version.
Still with us?
The copy/typography/animation combination is fantastic and on beat with the track (which sounds like it was recorded by the Lumineers’ rhythm section on Adderall). Switching into dark mode while talking about optimization was a nice touch (and meta af). Also, cutting sound right as the CTA dropped gave the copy a deafening resonance — sound designers, take note.
If cats ever developed verbal skills, you know they’d be unapologetically sarcastic. PrettyLitter’s negative reviews are written in such perfectly sarcastic prose that only a cat (or cat lover) could be behind them. We’re 99% sure that they were written in-house. Did you know you can do that? Well, you can and you should. So open a Google Doc and play around with writing negative reviews for your brand/client that you can spin into selling points… or don’t... Just stick with the old TikTok voiceovers, UGC, and native text treatments and never try anything new or risky or fun… Meow.
We talk a lot about simple and effective communication regarding the value of your product or service. This ad is exactly what we’re talking about. You’re hooked from the start and immediately invested in the customer journey. She’s not really going to go to 270°, is she?! This format is also easy to produce, assuming that you have a human rubber band in your talent network.
Disclaimer: this was an organic brand post, but we liked it so much that we gave it a feature. Product demos are always a good way in, and this one definitely makes an impact. What’s a more memorable (or cathartic) test of durability than having 3 doods smash, slam, and stomp your products on a marble floor? So good, it doesn’t even need copy.
Sarcasm... what a nice way to get people to like your brand… No, but seriously, sarcasm is one of several dialects spoken by the jaded millennial (AKA the target audience). Like cardboard, this hook has multiple layers. The absurdity of the statement gets your attention while fortifying the visuals in juxtaposition against the inferior competitive product. Taking up a full 8s, this hook is definitely on the longer side, but it gets a pass for being entertaining and original. The rest of the ad holds its own thanks to a charismatic creator, solid USPs, and a clear CTA. Stock this cereal ad in your creative cupboard.
Who Gives a Crap
You plunge into this ad from the jump (mostly to make sure the doge is alright). Then the TP brand gets on a roll by including a “free shipping” offer. Who Gives A Crap shows restraint, featuring only "no plastic" messaging rather than risking USP overflow by including a “bamboo-based” callout. It’s a good exercise in holding it in. Overall 9/10 — almost perfect, but we pooh-pooh the practice of bamboozling good boys.
They say that symmetry is synonymous with beauty, but it’s only half of the equation in this static. The headline and the equation are both symmetrical, providing an opportunity to stick the product in the geographic center of the image. Simple copy and clever use of emojis mean there’s not too much information to comb through — and that’s where the real beauty lies.
Pro tip: Before launching a static, run your static ads through 3M's VAS (Visual Attention Software App). We originally imagined that viewer attention would gravitate toward the product in dead center, though the headline was the hottest section on the heat map.
We typically feature ads that any brand could comfortably reproduce, but we couldn’t possibly ignore Hilton's 10-minute behemoth of a TikTok. You wouldn’t typically expect such self-aware content from a company with yearly revenue approaching 9B, but Hilton starts by checking in on the TikTok inauthenticity conundrum that all brands are facing.
What follows is a roller coaster of native content, creator features, brand personification, historical anecdotes, competitor attacks, a bit of humility, and an all-out assault on the fourth wall — breaking it too many times to count. It stays true to so many of the TikTok tactics we see performing, and executes on a level that only the budget of a Fortune 500 company could afford.
We’d love to get performance data on this one to see if teasing rewards actually got people to stay until the end, but that’s not gonna happen unless one of you readers has a connection. If you do, hit us up. Entertaining, ambitious, and probably (definitely) not feasible for 99.9% of companies out there. This branding TikTok has all of the amenities, but pricing options are out of just about everyone’s range.
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