Without a doubt, the United States represents the largest advertising market worldwide. In 2016, marketers spent an estimated $190.84 billion on ads in the U.S. -- a figure that is higher than the next four largest ad markets (China, Japan, Germany, and the U.K.) combined.
So yeah. It's not surprising that U.S. marketers think that the advertising world revolves around them. It pretty much does. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some exceptionally cool and sophisticated campaigns coming out of countries all around the globe. In fact, some of the most refreshing work out there happens in nations where the ad machine isn't quite the unwieldy behemoth that we've come to accept in the U.S.
This article represents only a small sampling of recent international campaigns that have amused, captivated, or otherwise impressed me. Take a look, and feel free to add your own favorites in the comments.
Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA): Testi-Monials
OK, look. This campaign features talking testicles. There's no way for me to sugar-coat that. The stars of the campaign are rumply little flesh sacks covered in pubes. But please don't stop reading. This campaign -- "Testi-monials," of course -- is more than just a silly gimmick. The execution of this one is everything.
The campaign, created by FCB Cape Town for the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), seeks to alleviate the awkwardness around talking about testicular cancer. It leverages the clever hashtag #HaveTheBalls to drive awareness about the importance of self-examinations and active monitoring of your testicles.
The campaign features testicles giving their own "testi-monials" about cancer, as well as information and advice on testicular cancer. Watch the below video. By the end, you've almost completely forgotten that you're listening to a talking ballsack. If that's not impressive, I don't know what is.
Sweden's Elkjop: A gift can say it all
The holidays bring out some of the best in advertising not just here in the States, but around the globe as well. This past holiday season, one of my favorites came from Swedish electronics retailer Elkjop. Rather than your standard holiday jingle and fast-cuts featuring the latest video game console or other tech gift of the season, Elkjop went straight for the heartstrings to demonstrate the power of a gift. The spots feature no dialogue because, as the tagline notes, "a gift can say it all. For example, in the case of a gift from a son to his mother who is battling cancer:
Or from a father to his son who struggles to fit in with the crowd:
Or from one lonely soul to another:
Uber in India: Move Forward
As a part of its third anniversary in the country, Uber India launched its first branding campaign with a surprisingly sentimental play. The campaign, "Move Forward," features real stories of Uber's driver partners and the ways in which the service has improved their lives. Its tentpole piece of content is a short digital film called "The Test," which features a well-executed father-daughter dynamic with an effective brand reveal at the end. The takeaway is that Uber is helping its drivers in India to provide better educations and lives for their children.
This emotional play is particularly wise for the brand in India, where Uber has faced regulatory challenges with state governments as well as protests from traditional taxi drivers.
Spotify in Japan: New Music, New Me
As illustrated in the Uber example, the same service will often require a different marketing tact in international markets. Spotify, believe it or not, didn't enter the streaming music market in Japan until 2016. That seems like a pretty notable tardiness when you consider that Japan is the second-largest music market in the world. But it's a little less surprising when you consider that other streaming music services like Apple Music and Amazon Prime have yet to really take off. By and large, Japanese music listeners are still rocking (gasp!) physical CDs.
Spotify has a lot going for it in terms of its freemium model, but it still faces the challenge of essentially having to retrain its prospective customer base. And so, it's no surprise that Spotify's Japanese marketing campaign is focused less on competitive differentiators in the streaming arena and more on the core aspect of what makes any streaming service so great -- the ability to "discover new music you didn't know you'd love."
The idea behind the "New Music, New Me" campaign is simple. The charm is in the execution.
Xbox in Japan: Women-only gamer event
Speaking of Japan, Xbox gets a brief honorable mention for taking a unique approach to the under-targeted contingent of women gamers. Last summer, Microsoft hosted a "girls only" Xbox gamer party, complete with -- of course -- adorable Xbox-themed pastries. I love the simplicity here. A unique made-for-social-media extravaganza.
Aldi in the U.K.: Kevin the Carrot
And finally, I give you Kevin the Carrot. It's possible that the U.K. needed a reprieve from some of its post-Brexit realities, and Kevin the Carrot gave it to them. Whatever the reason, the popularity of Aldi's adorable holiday spokes-vegetable has been remarkable, and the brand capitalized on every second.
Over the course of the 2016 holiday season, Aldi and agency McCann evolved the Christmas adventures of Kevin the Carrot from an initial TV spot to a series of social and online spots. They even took us behind the scenes with the casting of Kevin's role:
Aldi even released Kevin the Carrot toys, which caused a holiday craze of their own that required the brand to "grow" more stock of the coveted little plushes.
Most of all, I love that Aldi knew better than to ride its success into the ground. At the height of Kevin's popularity, Aldi gave his fans closure by helping Kevin to discover the true meaning of Christmas: