While many of this year's GEN WOW AWARDS winners are indeed part of broader campaigns, our picks this time out tend to either be the primary channels used in the campaign, or are standalone efforts.
In fact, some of the most interesting entries this year were little more than simple tweets, even one-offs, that made an impact in the social media year that was.
#10 OLD SPICE: 'Simu-Date-Her'
This is the Facebook Live campaign your Facebook Live campaign would be—if it was Old Spice. In honor of Valentine's Day, Old Spice enabled Facebook users to control a real man and interact with a real woman on what passes for an almost life-like date in the social media age. Hilarious and sad at the same time.
#9 KFC: 11 Herbs & Spice (Girls)
KFC's Year of Major Madcap Marketing Stunts is coming to a close—and what a year it was. From a creepy animatronic drive-thru robot to a Mother's Day romance novella that helped boost sales 40%, the Colonel has been flying his freak flag with pride - helping the brand extend 13 quarters of same-store sales growth since Q3 2014. But it may be a recent social media stunt that prompted Marketing Dive to name KFC its Marketer of the Year for 2017. In October, an astute Twitter user discovered that KFC's Twitter feed only follows 11 people—six people named "Herb" and the five members of the pop band Spice Girls. Makes you groan and smile at the same time. Kudos to KFC.
#8 WENDY'S & CARTER WILKERSON: #NuggsForCarter
KFC's not the only QSR finding social media success this year. Wendy's scored big when a 17-year-old kid named Carter Wilkerson tweeted "Yo, @Wendy's how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?" The fast fooder's response: 18 million—or roughly 6X greater than the existing record: Ellen DeGeneres's Oscar Selfie. The kid made it happen—and did something remarkable along the way. He helped raise money and awareness for both foster care adoption and breast cancer research. For that, this Gen Wow award's as much for Carter than it is for Wendy's—and he deserves it.
#7 MCDONALD'S: Snaplications
What's a year in social media without yet another fast food brand making our rankings. A perennial favorite, McDonald's earns a spot with its "Snaplications" campaign, an effort to recruit teens while turning them into free publicity machines on Snapchat. How? Through filters of course. According to the Verge, here's how it worked: Prospective employees could apply a McDonald's hat and name tag filter to their faces and record a 10-second video to pitch why they would make a great employee. Participants were then sent a link to the company's digital careers hub where they could download application form. It's unclear why anyone would go through the extra rigmarole, but it surely couldn't hurt their chances.
#6 DENNY'S: Serving Up a Modern Meme Masterpiece
Who knew Denny's could poke fun at our unhealthy obsession over each new social media sensation? In March, the restaurant chain posted one of those "zoom in" posts where you typically find some kind of banal promotional message. Only here, you got something else entirely—a scavenger hunt of sorts with a reveal that read: "Has this distracted you from overwhelming existential dread lol." As Adweek put it at the time: "Ouch, Denny's. Way to remind us that we're all just frittering away what few scan moments we have before our inevitable demise." It also generated nearly 3X more retweets than Oreo's famous "Dunk in the Dark" tweet. Definitely food for thought.
#3 ROYAL CARIBBEAN: #SeekDeeper Snapchat Scuba Goggles
As part of its #SeekDeeper campaign, Royal Caribbean outfitted three well-known divers with "SeaSeekers," custom scuba masks with built-in Snachat Spectacles. Beyond capturing footage on the migration of whale sharks, coral reef restoration and the Great Blue Hole in Belize, Adweek reports the cruise line hopes to equip its shops with these masks so guests can rent them out and instantly share their underwater adventures via Snapchat.
#5 AMERICAN GREETINGS: #GiveMeaning to Mother's Day—'Tattoo'
You're going to feel this one. "Tattoo" is a Mother's Day video that follows a young woman as she gets her first tattoo and reveals its special meaning to her. This campaign is part of American Greeting's #GiveMeaning campaign designed to help people honor those who've mattered most to them. Read more here.
#4 HEINZ: Instagram #FoodPorn
Heinz's "Irresistible Posts" Instagram series used geolocation to target local users looking for stories around lunch time. If they swiped a Heinz post featuring mouthwatering creations form a celebrity chef, it triggered the ability to order the contents of the post, which Heinz delivered in a personalized box. Insta-success. And tasty, too.
#2 HEINEKEN: #OpenYourWorld—'Worlds Apart'
The popular beer brand pulled off what Pepsi didn't seem able or well suited to do this year—mostly by not trivializing issues and by bringing people who are worlds apart a little closer. Oh, and by reinforcing the role Heineken actually plays in the world—as an ice breaker. Pretty powerful stuff, actually—meant to open up honest and open-minded online conversations instead of perpetuating partisan echo champers. We'll drink to that.
#1 AMEX: Guns & Roses Facebook Campaign
Sometimes it pays to listen. At least, that was the case with this Facebook campaign promoting a Guns & Roses concert. Knowing full well that 90 percent of Facebook users watch videos with audio turned off, AMEX snuck in a surprise. Those who activated audio got a surprise—a voice over that told them the first 50 to text in the name of the band's lead singer would win a free ticket to the concert. How might your brand incentivize people to view your video advertising?
With that, congrats to all of this year's winners. And look for social elements in other categories in coming days, as the 2017 GEN WOW AWARDS continue.
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