Creative review of the year: The ideas that shaped 2023

Creative review of the year: The ideas that shaped 2023

Relatability, empathy and practicality are the themes dominating 2023’s advertising landscape.

As brands adapt to a post-Covid, inflationary, geopolitically tense world, 2023’s campaigns are notably absent of ‘the big sell’, instead appealing to people’s everyday problems, while referencing shared contemporary experiences.

The use of celebrity appeal, while still present, takes a more down to earth tone. While in latter years fame was used to convey aspiration, in 2023, actors and sportspeople are depicted more ‘like us’.

Championing righteous causes is another theme, with successful campaigns offering active engagement and support, rather than ‘virtue signalling’.

Let's begin.


The new year kicked off on a humourous note. 

Reese’s played on the simple yet irresistible joy of peanut butter, inviting the general public to explore this impulse for themselves showing something as simple as a shoe made of chocolate and how lovely it would be to put peanut butter in it.

Accompanied by an evocative voiceover, provided by comedian Henry Paker, he says: “Look at that. An exquisite high-heeled shoe. I know what you’re want to put peanut butter in it, don’t you? It’s ok. That’s what we’re into too. In fact, that’s our whole thing.”

Take a look at the full story behind the work from Mother here.


Making an effort to connect with the genuine day-to-day experiences of consumers has proved a hit for advertisers, and it’s a focus Specsavers has always excelled in.

This time, the adorably clunky risk of glasses getting in the way of your intimate moments was explored. SHOOK's co-founder Gemma Moroney loved this and lauded the advert as: “a deftly executed campaign based on a functional insight that sparks many more - and it’s delivered with real heart.”

Gemma's full review is here if you want to read more about this one.


Swapping celebrities with everyday people plays into the levelling theme of 2023, as culture brands are choosing to collaborate with ‘authentic influencers’, people who are more unique in personality, usually have niche interests, are of any age and often with smaller followings. (Check out the now infamous ‘veg king’ Gerald Stratford, who appeared in Gucci’s Off Grid).

PHA's Mike Chivers wrote all about it the surreal work here.


There’s been no escaping AI this year—and hopefully, that’s not too sinister a prediction. 

However, positioning the technology’s practical real world benefits is a challenge. In April, hot off the launch of Chat GPT, ASICS revealed how AI technology is distorting the real benefit of exercise through images that portray “healthy exercise” as extreme physical transformation.

This focus on exercise purely for aesthetic gain is putting millions off exercise and leaving people feeling insecure. In response, ASICS has launched an AI Training programme to help teach AI that the real power of exercise is to transform the mind.

Delving deeper, a recent survey, conducted on behalf of ASICS, uncovered that seven in 10 (72%) say AI-generated images could cause people to develop worries about their bodies. When asked how AI exercise images made them feel, the most common responses were ‘unfit’, ‘inferior’, ‘unattractive’ and ‘insecure.’

Check out the full article here, including a behind the scenes look at the work with Omar Karim, AI creator who partnered with Asics to create the world's first AI training programme. 


Relatability was once again stamped onto a campaign, this time by Heathrow Express, who used the medium of printed passport adornments to evoke nostalgia and storytelling.

The campaign marked the high-speed rail link’s 25th anniversary and was created with bespoke passport stamps that highlight how Heathrow Express has started customers on their journey to some of life’s biggest milestones.

Created by St Luke’s, the unique stamps feature stories of big birthday bashes, defining career moments and a beautiful Italian wedding. To give the stamps an authentic look, the agency handcrafted them individually before stamping them on paper to get the texture and look of the ink.

The full feature can be found here if you want to know more.


Once seen as cumbersome and uncool, Volvo Cars repositioning as understated, practical, eco friendly and reliable lands well in the current year.

The brand’s new, small, fully electric SUV is designed to have the smallest carbon footprint of any Volvo to date. Teaming up with agency AKQA, production partner Mill+ and directed by Joshua Stocker, Volvo rolled out this hero film - powered by a “Small is Mighty” philosophy - in which Volvo Cars CEO Jim Rowan introduces the new SUV in a play on “unboxing” videos.

Beginning with Jim Rowan wheeling a tiny box into a beautiful white studio space, he places it on a table and lifts the lid to reveal a pint-size version of the EX30.

As the film continues mini, regular and giant Jim Rowan playfully highlights the key features of the EX30 in equally proportioned models of the car.

Here it is in full on Creative Moment.


Lucky Generals and Yorkshire Tea have taken a holiday from Yorkshire to go and do Ibiza “proper” by writing and producing a proper summer dancefloor banger, and released it alongside a brilliantly realised music video. It is all about the massive trend of people taking Yorkshire Tea on holiday so they can get a proper brew abroad.

The advert appeals to the defining life moments of regular people, with Yorkshire Tea being well-placed to pull off this sort of alignment.

Take a look at all the details for this work here.


The rise and rise of women’s football continued in 2023, and Saatchi & Saatchi’s campaign for EE aptly provides a number of touchpoints to connect with the World Cup sporting event.

Ahead of the Lionesses face-off against Australia in the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final, lead partner of the Home Nations Football Associations EE issued invites to a Team Call. This was a new series of interactive social executions offering the perfect cover for those wishing to watch the game during their working day.

The creative - developed by Saatchi & Saatchi - went live across social media and featured the Lionesses alongside a calendar-inspired invitation entitled “JOIN ENGLAND TEAM CALL’. The work also included clickable links across its social executions, ensuring fans could add the fixtures to their real Outlook and Apple calendars.

More details here.


Creatives once again sat back to witness McDonald’s latest creative campaign. The brand’s campaigns have celebrated the small moments of joy in everyday life. 

This time, the advert celebrates the irresistible joy of the shared order moment. Anchored around a 60-second film directed by Ninian Doff, it highlights how one family’s McDelivery order ends up spreading excitedly across an entire block of flats.

In the film, we see each neighbour confidently fire off their orders without even looking at the menu, each driven by their own McDonald’s craving. The campaign idea is rooted in the insight that when ordering a McDelivery, fans already know their favourites and can order for themselves and their loved ones without looking at the McDonald’s menu.

The whole story is here.


Celebrities were once again given the human touch in October, when, in an advert directed by David Shane, De Niro and Butterfield form an unlikely friendship after bonding over their uniquely shared passion for eating food and going places.

The campaign showcases fun and heartwarming vignettes of the two stars bonding while getting Uber rides around London and enjoying dishes from Uber Eats. The commercial will be featured across TV, BVOD, cinema, and digital, featuring cuts ranging from six seconds to longer formats.

The campaign will also feature tongue-in-cheek poster ads, highlighting that Uber One is a membership for everyone who eats food and goes places. The poster headlines speak in a disarmingly obvious and humorous tone, with a design language that echoes the same simple, matter-of-fact style.

All you need to know about this work is here.


Tis’ the Christmas season once more, and there’s no bigger deal in the Yule Tide advertising market than the phenomenon that is John Lewis. Spoiler alert, they succeeded.

For years we watched adam&eveDDB hit and rarely miss. With the account switched to Saatchi & Saatchi this year, its latest campaign has had more scrutiny than probably ever before, if only from an industry point of view.

When it was ‘leaked’ that Megaforce was taking the reins, then you knew it was going to be visually striking with a healthy dose of absurdity. With its grand unveiling in November, that expectation has been met with joyful glee. The Little Shop of Horrors inspired ‘Snapper’ has hit our screens and the switch to Saatchi’s seems to have paid off.

The craft is impeccable. The story simultaneously tugs at your heartstrings whilst shaking you wildly with the frenetic excitement of Christmas being just around the corner.

Enjoy the full review from Dark Horses' Steve Powell in our Creative Director's Cut.


And finally… Dove’s long history of socially-focused campaigns lends it a gravatas, authenticity and market clout. In 1969, real women’s testimonials were used in Dove ads for the first time. The company has a long-standing commitment against animal testing, and since the mid-1980s, non-animal methods have been used to ensure the safety of Dove products.

In-keeping with its mission to challenge stereotypes, Dove’s latest campaign attempts to increase digital representation by launching an ‘open source Black hairstyle library’.

Dove's Code My Crown project is a free online resource that aims to be inclusive to Black gamers by bringing more realistic hairstyles to the space, following criticisms that existing afro hair options were “limited” and “highly stereotypical”.

Here's the full article on Creative Moment. 

And there we are, another year has gone by!

It only seems like yesterday when we were writing about our most notable ads from 2022!

So, that's 2023 wrapped for now, but we are certain 2024 will bring with it a creativity-packed 12 months for us to review next year. 

Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our weekly email alert and receive a regular curation of the best creative campaigns by creatives themselves.

Published on: