From fried chicken to laundry detergent, 2018 has ushered in a surge of creative and strategic advertising to appeal to consumers on every platform.

Marketers attempting to raise their brand’s profile often have to fight an uphill battle. With the rapid diversification of digital platforms that can be used to reach customers — Instagram Stories, Snapchat, Facebook, and company blogs just to name a few — it can be a challenge to put your best foot forward in a way that keeps you top of mind for your target audience.

While it’s certainly difficult, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. So far this year, a number of brands have invested in advertising that’s simultaneously memorable and effective. Whether they’re visually brain-bending or thought-provoking and poignant, these five campaigns are among the best of the best in 2018 thus far.

1. KFC Hot and Spicy

In a tongue-in-cheek nod to the “labradoodle or fried chicken” meme, KFC’s Hot and Spicy campaign meets fire with fire. In a series of images including rocket-powered race cars and space shuttle launches, the fast food chain equates the kick of their chicken with explosive firepower. For breaking the mold and stepping away from its well-worn Colonel Sanders ads, KFC deserves high praise.

best ads 2018

2. It’s a Tide Ad

From envy-inducing car commercials to funny beer ads, the Super Bowl is where major brands go to compete. This year, Tide wasn’t playing around. With a spot that poked fun at every other genre of Super Bowl commercial, the home goods company cheekily claimed that every ad featuring clean clothes was a Tide ad — whether you like it or not. In a market that sometimes takes itself too seriously, Tide’s commentary provided a much-needed breath of fresh air (and fresh laundry).

3. NFL Touchdown Celebrations

The Eagles may have won the Super Bowl, but the Giants scored big with this fun twist on traditional NFL advertisements. In a spot that felt like a mashup of Sports Center and a Sandals resort commercial, this ad features Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. executing an expertly choreographed dance that pays tribute to a classic number in Dirty Dancing. While the Super Bowl may signal to some that football season is over, this commercial effectively taps into the joy and anticipation of NFL fans for the next great matchup.

4. WWF’s #TooLaterGram

The World Wildlife Fund partnered with Instagram influencers for this thought-provoking, awareness-raising campaign. By posting doctored pictures of locations around the world that have actually been destroyed by human activity — and presenting them as they appeared before their destruction — these ads clearly lay out the stakes of runaway industrialization. After followers gushed over the gorgeous scenery, the influencers revealed the real images of spoiled natural beauty — hopefully spurring consumers to take action in the form of a donation to the organization.

best ads 2018

5. Apple HomePod ft. FKA Twigs

This HomePod ad feels more like an avant-garde short film than a commercial, and for good reason: it stars the multi-talented FKA Twigs as a burnt-out, big-city office worker who finds inspiration in HomePod-streamed music. Directed by Spike Jonze, the filmmaker behind Her and Where the Wild Things Are, the ad’s colors, music, and choreography expertly drum up the excitement of unboxing one of Apple’s newest products and enjoying it how the company intends.

Author Madeline Killen

A senior at Dartmouth College, Madeline will join L&T full-time after her June graduation but currently works remotely as a staff writer. An English major, Madeline is completing her senior honors thesis on the temporal loops in Emily Dickinson’s fascicles but, as an Italian minor, also works as a language TA and tutor. Outside of class, she just wrapped up her fifth quarter as the arts section editor for The Dartmouth newspaper. When she graduates, she’s going to miss Hanover’s fall foliage, running trails, and constant supply of maple syrup, but she’s looking forward to returning to civilization nonetheless.

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