The Best of Chicago Advertising in 2021

(The best of Chicago advertising)

So, here we are at the end of another year. In 2021, we experienced more freedom from the pandemic during the spring and summer as cases lowered, but here we are, back in a kind of partial quarantine as the omicron variant spreads.

While many businesses asked their teams to return to the office, advertising agencies encouraged their teams to work from home.

Smart and thoughtful.

There’s a lot to be said for working from home especially during winter where there is snow and rising COVID cases. We’ll go out on a limb and say that it does help the creative to create work in a relaxed setting rather than in an office where everyone is begging for an overlong meeting. We can support this theory with the creativity that Reel Chicago covered this year. From Highdive’s Rocket Mortgage to Leo Burnett’s stunt “The Lost Class,” we saw a real uptick from Chicago creatives.

The campaigns we covered made us laugh. Others made us cry. And there were a few poignant submissions that made us do both and above all – think about the product or service. You’ll see in many of our articles we refer to agencies not as just their names, but as “our friends at…” That’s because many of the agencies – Highdive, Burrell, Ogilvy, OKRP and EnergyBBDO to name a few, became our friends.

It made us happy and proud to support the agencies and their creatives work throughout such a wonky year. Reel Chicago saw our coverage grow substantially in the international arena and we were thrilled to bring that work to our outlet.


The curated work below is a testament to the long hours dozens of copywriters, art directors, creative directors and clients have spent huddled away in mostly isolated home offices :

Reel Chicago’s Top Advertising Campaigns for 2021

1. Rocket Mortgage “Certain is Better”

Highdive once again landed atop of USA Today’s Admeter and deservedly so. The agency’s two 60-second Super Bowl LV spots for Quicken’s Rocket Mortgage were ranked number one and two.

CLIENT: Rocket Mortgage | AGENCY: Highdive

2. Change the Ref “The Lost Class”

3,044 students did not graduate this year due to gun violence. Working with Leo Burnett, Change The Ref made sure these victims were not forgotten, and forced pro-gun legislators and proponents to face the consequences of their policies by creating “The Lost Class.”

To pull this off, a graduation ceremony was held to honor The Lost Class – led by the most unlikely commencement speakers.

CLIENT: Change the Ref | AGENCY: Leo Burnett

3. UU4VE Vaccination PSA “Reflections”

In the ongoing effort to get more of the nation vaccinated, a group of urologists banded together to try a completely different approach. Urologists United For Vaccination Education, a newly formed collective of over fifteen of the brightest minds and biggest voices in the field of urology, focused on studies that men who’ve had COVID, discovering they are 6X more likely to get Erectile Dysfunction.

The concept was developed by Quality Meats, a boutique creative advertising agency who not only wrote and produced the PSA, but also conceived the entire organization.

CLIENT: UU4VE | AGENCY: Quality Meats

4. Miller Lite “The Shoezie”

To celebrate Father’s Day (June 20), Miller Lite and New Balance have collided to create the first-ever beer shoe, the Shoezie from DDB North America. Coming together the Father of Light Beer and the originators of the Dad Shoe crafted the shoe-meets-koozie to keep your beer cool in a fatherly fashion.

CLIENT: Miller Coors | AGENCY: DDB, Chicago

5. “It’s Mathical – Everywhere”, a leading digital automotive marketplace and solutions provider,   announced the launch of its new nationwide brand campaign from O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul, “It’s Matchical.”  The new integrated initiative, “It’s Matchical” is an evolution of the successful themes of’s 2018 “We Met on” brand campaign.

In a series of video ads, car buyers wonder at the out-worldly way in which they were matched with just the perfect car on the app. Shot by director Tarsem, one ad has a car buyer wondering “Did I find my car on or did it find me?” Shot in low light with a light musical backdrop, the ads evoked a mystical feel which Reel Chicago liked.


6. Old Forester “Kentucky Turtle Derby”

While no fan can ride a horse during the real Derby, Old Forester fans were given the chance to “ride” a turtle during the 2021 Old Forester Kentucky Turtle Derby

In partnership with creative agency Energy BBDO, Old Forester searched for real fans to turn into custom, digital jockeys who appeared atop the turtles as they raced. The winners of the competition were chosen the week of the race and their faces were 3D-rendered over the turtle they were chosen to ride. The jockeys were also asked to provide real, fun facts about themselves that were incorporated into the 11-minute film.

CLIENT: Old Forester |AGENCY: Energy BBDO

ALSO READ: 2021 in Review: The best ad campaigns on Reel 360

7. Jeep “Wildly Civilized”

Created by Highdive, the ‘Wildly Civilized’ campaign for the all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L encapsulated the perfect center of gravity of the upscale SUV,” said Olivier Francois, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Stellantis. “It reflects the balance of sophistication and ruggedness, of craftsmanship and capabilities, that only the Jeep brand can own. With the Grand Cherokee L, you don’t have to pick one over the other, you have the freedom to choose both.”

CLIENT: Stellantis AGENCY: Highdive

8. Toyota “Bold”

The adventurous life awaited us in 2021! “The Sienna Life” campaign welcomed a refined and versatile minivan featuring bold design, available all-wheel drive, and enhanced fuel efficiency: the all-hybrid and all-new 2021 Toyota Sienna.

The fully integrated campaign, created by Burrell Communications, was developed against Toyota’s long-standing Total Toyota (T2) marketing model, fully considering the transcultural mainstream audiences across America. Toyota campaigns are integrated through one strategic brief, creative idea, and media plan – and create a cohesive marketing approach inclusive of multicultural marketing and the total market model. 

CLIENT: Toyota | AGENCY: Burrell Communications

9. CDC “The Bums and the Bees”

Tim Roper of F. Yeah & Associates directed and 11 Dollar Bill provided editorial and post-production services for the spot which encourages Gen Xers to be screened for colorectal cancer.

The spot appropriately titled “The Bums and the Bees” uses humor to raise a subject many men would like to avoid as a man sits down with his 45-year-old son and the son becomes increasingly uncomfortable over what he fears is his father’s determination to school him in the facts of life. He squirms when dad offers, “Your mother and I have done it,” but is relieved when the older man hands him a pamphlet on cancer screening.


10. Champion “Reverse Weave Week”

Reverse Weave Week was created to recognize one of the most famous fashion items that has not gotten the attention it deserves. In 2017, the Reverse Weave was included in the MoMA’s “Is Fashion Modern” exhibit as one of the 111 items that have shaped the history of fashion. Today, you see Reverse Weave on just about every celebrity and consumer of the past couple generations. Champion is now reversing everything, to celebrate the brand properly.

As an extension of reversing things, Champion teamed up with the creator of the famous “Renegade” TikTok dance, Jalaiah Harmon, to create a “reversed” version of the viral sensation.

CLIENT: Champion  | AGENCY: Energy BBDO

There are at least 10 more we could easily list here, but we have to stick to a number. That’s what happens when you continue to celebrate the wonderfully talented people in Chicago advertising, production and post-production who do wonderful work.

Happy New Year!

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1