SHOOT’s Selections For The Best Work Of 2019
A scene from Johnson & Johnson's branded documentary "5B."
Mix includes a branded film that made its mark at two Cannes Fests, a pair of Super Bowl spots, and inclusiveness-driven fare

With 2019 about to fully enter the proverbial rear-view mirror, it’s time for reflection on varied fronts, including assessing what work was among the year’s most worthwhile creatively.

Determining any year’s “best” is a highly subjective proposition so SHOOT staffers looked to at least narrow the field by first culling through our weekly Top Spots as well as our “The Best Work You May Never See” gallery entries throughout 2019. We then added to the field select pieces of work that might have fallen through the cracks and not earned weekly Top Spot (perhaps beaten out by another piece in a given week) or “Best Work” distinction yet which we had covered extensively in other stories during the course of the calendar year.

We also reviewed our quarterly Top Ten Tracks and VFX/Animation charts, ultimately choosing a Top Five from each.

So here are SHOOT’s selections for the Best Work of 2019 divided into Top Spots, The Best Work You May Never See, and our Top Music/Sound Tracks and Top VFX/Animation entries.

Top Spots of the Year
SHOOT’s pick for the number one content slot of 2019 goes to a piece of branded content for Johnson & Johnson which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival as part of its Special Screenings lineup. The next month the film won the Entertainment Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The film is 5B, named after San Francisco General Hospital’s ward which opened in 1983 as the first full-fledged hospital unit dedicated to treating people with AIDS. Directed by Dan Krauss and Paul Haggis via Saville Productions, the moving documentary tells the stories of caretakers, patients and others--showing the positive power of nursing, continuing a theme which Johnson & Johnson has championed over the years. 

A pair of Super Bowl spots took second and third place--for dramatically different reasons--in SHOOT’s rundown of the year’s best work. Earning the number two slot is “Changing the Game” promoting Microsoft Xbox’s Adaptive Controller, introducing us to kids who are avid gamers but have had to compete at a disadvantage because controllers didn’t account for players who had but one hand or fewer fingers. We meet these young gamers and in some cases their parents as we see Xbox afford them the ultimate gaming inclusiveness with the development of accessible technology that levels the playing field. Directed by Bryan Buckley of Hungry Man for agency m:united//McCann New York, the spot ends with the line, “When everybody plays, we all win.”

Third place went to “Joust.” During this year’s Super Bowl, agencies Droga5 and Wieden+Kennedy, along with production house O Positive, delivered a Game of Thrones-twist ending to Bud Light’s series of “Dilly Dilly” commercials. What starts as a Bud Light Super Bowl ad featuring the King and Bud Knight descends into chaos when the menacing Game of Thrones character the Mountain makes a surprise appearance, defeating the defender of the “Dilly Dilly” kingdom in a jousting contest. The ad--which promoted Game of Thrones’ final season-reunited people from the HBO series’ crew, including showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, under the aegis of director David Nutter. The first half of the spot, with Bud Light material, was directed by  Spencer Riviera. The reveal of the Super Bowl commercial was intentionally left to in-game to maximize the surprise for fans and viewers alike.

Droga5, this time as the lone agency, also garnered fourth place with its ongoing “The Truth Is Worth It” campaign for The New York Times. Given today’s tumultuous times, with journalism under attack from the highest (and/or lowest) places, this campaign affirming the importance of journalists to a democracy and society at large looms all the more significant. In “Fearlessness”--directed by Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin of Furlined--we follow Times’ reporter Rukmini Callimachi, exploring the constant risk, fearlessness and instinct she requires to follow the truth from home soil to war zones, on the ground and in life-threatening situations--in order to give us a better understanding of global terrorism and the caliphate of the Islamic State.

Rounding out the top five is an IKEA Israel campaign, “ThisAbles” from McCann Tel Aviv, which won a D&AD Black Pencil as well as the Cannes Lions Health & Wellness Grand Prix, among other honors in 2019. Per the “ThisAbles” initiative, IKEA created add-ons for existing products to make them more accessible for people with disabilities. Custom special-needs furniture is generally twice as expensive as regular furniture. IKEA Israel launched a line of add-ons free of charge that are available in-store and downloadable via 3D printer--like larger sized couch legs that help people to more easily lift themselves off the couch, and a special handle that allows a wardrobe closet to be more easily opened and closed. 

    Click here to see our Top Five of the Year Top Spots Chart.

“Best Work” gallery
Hungry Man director Buckley and McCann NY come up in this year’s best countdown as well, topping The Best Work You May Never See entries with March For Our Lives’ “Generation Lockdown,” in which a major company seeks training for employees in the event of gun violence at the workplace. The expert they find to instruct adults on how to survive an active shooter event is none other than Kayleigh, a young girl who’s experienced this trauma already at school.  

Nestled in second place in our year rundown is a U.K. spot, “The French Exchange,” for the brand new Renault Clio. Directed by Frederic Planchon of Academy Films for London agency Publicis•Poke, the commercial shows us how the car model has evolved over the years. But that’s just the backdrop as more front and center is how a loving relationship develops over that same time span. Two girls meet in a foreign exchange program, become friends and much more over the years.

Taking third place was Gillette’s “First Shave” from Grey Canada. The film captures the moment when trans advocate Samson Brown first used a razor to shave himself, all under the watchful and caring guidance of his father. Samson’s story recognizes that having the confidence to express one’s true self can be a journey--one that Gillette fully supports. Angie Bird directed the film through Toronto-based Skin and Bones (she is handled stateside by Chelsea Pictures).

Finishing fourth was “Politics Tamed” for U.K.s The Times newspaper in which the British House of Commons is populated not by politicians but by a host of wild animals. Framestore London’s William Bartlett directed the tongue-in-cheek social commentary on chaotic politics--chaos which The Times makes sense of--for agency Pulse Creative, London.

Rounding out the Best Work top five is “Billy’s Lemonade,” a video which takes a humorous, self-deprecating look at the ad industry, in this case the subject of holding companies and what happens to an ad agency after being sold. The piece tells the story of a young boy who sells his thriving lemonade stand to a holding company from New York. Billy is forced to make a slew of compromises. The film is Toronto-based Zulu Alpha Kilo’s salute to all independent agencies.

    Click here to see our Top Five of the Year Best Work You May Never See Chart.

VFX/Animation
The aforementioned Bud Light/Game of Thrones’ Super Bowl spot “Joust”--with The Mill New York and Pixomondo, L.A., as the VFX houses--tops our 2019 lineup of VFX/Animation Chart entries.

It is followed by an animated music video, “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow,” which pays tribute to not only Queen’s Freddie Mercury--who died of AIDS-related causes in 1991--on what would have been his 73rd birthday, but also the charitable Mercury Phoenix Trust. Universal Music Group released this music clip as a visual accompaniment to Freddie Mercury’s 1985 track, “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow.” 

Directors Esteban Bravo and Beth David teamed with Germany-based production companies Friends Electric and Woodblock along with animation studio Studio Seufz on the video which tells the story of two white blood cells that fall in love. However, one of the cells has become infected with HIV. The microscopic lens perspective of this tale provides a direct visual representation of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. 

Taking third place is Born Free Foundation’s The Bitter Bond from Blinkink, London, and Zombie Studio, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Set to the Oscar-winning song “Born Free” performed by Matt Monro, this film out of U.K. ad agency Engine titled tells the story of a lion keeper and her cub that ends in the ultimate betrayal. Zombie Studio combined the richness and beauty of hand-crafted sets with 3D animation for the film. The piece raises awareness of a predatory industry where cubs are raised to become trusting, the real intent being to set them up for staged hunting which results in their death.

Earning the fourth slot is “Crocodile Inside,” a brand film for Lacoste out of agency BETC Paris which introduces us to a couple whose relationship has hit a rough patch. They are arguing and on the verge of breaking up. Words that can’t be taken back are said and a metaphoric gap is created between the man and the woman. As their apartment and the entire multi-story building housing it collapses around them, they suddenly realize that they have gone too far, and they take a brave leap back towards each other. 

Directed by French collective Megaforce via production house Iconoclast, “Crocodile Inside” was driven in significant part by visual effects from Time Based Arts, London. 

And finishing fifth in the VFX/Animation countdown is I Am With You, an animated short promoting Chanel Miller’s moving book, “Know My Name,” in which she reclaims ownership of her identity and her story.

Miller is a sexual assault victim who initially went by the name Emily Doe as a means to deal with her trauma. She was raped by Brock Turner at Stanford University. Turner served only 90 days in prison for the brutal attack on an incapacitated Miller. 
Now she is speaking out in her memoir and with this book trailer.

This short film was written and voiced by Miller with animation created from her originally drawn illustrations. Miller teamed with producer Emily Moore to direct the short, with animation by Norma V. Toraya, a.k.a. Crankbunny. 

    Click here to see the fab five in our best of the year VFX/Animation Chart.

Music/Sound
The number one entry in our Music Tracks Chart for 2019 is Dos Equis’ “Hit Single” directed by Wayne McClammy of Hungry Man for Droga5, New York. In this spot, a loving tribute to timeless summer jams and ‘80s’ MTV Spring Break live performances, Bonnie Tyler’s 1982 hit single “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is transformed into another kind of emotional ballad, this one about the trials and tribulations of ordering Dos Equis and appetizers at a crowded bar.

This tongue-in-cheek predicament is charmingly absurd, with Venice, Calif.-based Beacon Street Studios bringing its musical chops to the proceedings. 
Finishing second in our Top Five rundown of 2019 is “Bounce,” a spot in which the routine, sometimes mind-numbing morning commute becomes anything but routine--and a lot of fun--thanks to wireless charging Apple AirPods.

Our protagonist dons his AirPods earbuds--plugging into a catchy tune--and hits the sidewalk. But instead of his feet hitting the pavement, they instead get some spring from a trampoline-like effect. Seemingly every surface he touches puts a bounce--literally--in his step, propelling him along. He bounces about in the urban setting, making for a memorable joyride, accompanied by a soundtrack titled “I Learnt Some Jazz Today” from up-and-coming producer/composer Tessellated. Oscar Hudson of Pulse Films directed “Bounce” for TBWA\Media Arts Lab.

Nabbing third place is this current quarter’s Top Ten Tracks Chart leader, “Llama Drama” for Bosch car windshield wipers. In this spot a man is being trailed by a llama who has a penchant for spitting. The llama is finally thwarted when it spits at the man while he’s behind the wheel of his car. Bosch wipers clean the slate, making all right with the world again. Yessian Music’s Hamburg office and INFECTED GmbH, also in Hamburg, handled music and sound design, respectively, for the ad which was directed by Matthew Swanson via Markenfilm for agency Jung von Matt/Next Alster, Hamburg.

Director McClammy and Beacon Street Studios pop up again as the number four entry--Jif’s “Bunker from Publicis NY in which a woman runs for her life as a town feels the onslaught of a cataclysmic extraterrestrial invasion. She spots refuge, a bunker in which townsfolk are nestled.

What a relief--until some of the food provisions are revealed, including jar upon jar of generic peanut butter. The woman then scurries away, back into the danger above to reunite with Jif.

And rounding out the Top Five is “Storm the Court,” a Reebok commercial from San Francisco agency Venables Bell & Partners. The piece features an unexpected, and seemingly uninvited guest, a girl with an other worldly vibe, who interrupts a pick-up basketball game--stopping street smart male players in their tracks. 

This lass clearly travels to the beat of her own drummer--but in this case, it’s an offbeat beat we can literally hear as she unfurls a bit of inspired, strange choreography. A basketball player has stopped his shot in mid-release and eventually starts to move to the beat of the girl--as do game onlookers, even extending all the way to a guy in his apartment looking out of his second story window.

The film showcases the Reebok Aztrek Double. Tom Noakes of PRETTYBIRD directed and Larkin Seiple lensed “Storm the Court” with music supervision, sound design and audio post from Barking Owl in West L.A. The music track was “Prayer Hands” by A-Trak and YehMe2.

    Click here to see our best of year Top Five Tracks Chart.

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