Advertising is controversial.

In most cases, ads are annoying and salesy and have nothing to do with what we understand about good advertising. In some rare cases, however, ads appear to be heartbreakers in the most positive way.

Geniusly well-crafted, such ads are hard to find and even harder to forget. This type of commercial sets the bar high, making it even more difficult to deal with trivial and usually aggressive ads on a daily basis.

As we’re well into the last days of 2017, it is time to take a step back and reflect on all things beautiful that happened on the ad scene this year. After all, isn’t it what you need after reading about the worst brand advertising.

Let’s see who in the ad world finished the 2017 race as champion. Meet the list of the seven best advertising cases of the year.

Netflix Hiring Obama’s Photographer to Promote House of Cards

If you’re a fan of Netflix (and who isn’t?), you have surely heard of House of Cards and likely seen the commercial promoting the new season earlier this year.

In case it doesn’t ring a bell, here’s all you need to know. House of Cards features the story of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a democratic Congressman making his way towards presidency. As the story approaches its culmination and the time of election comes, House of Cards’ producers of hire Pete Souza—a famous photographer to Barack Obama—to shoot “candids” of Underwood.

Genius? Indeed.

This story, however, does not end happily.

Followed by a sexual harassment scandal that made the headlines for weeks, the production of the drama series was suspended. As of today, shooting for the final season is planned in early 2018 without Spacey on board. This sad reality, however, does not change the fact that the idea of hiring a former president’s photographer to shoot a fictional president is exceptionally smart.

What makes it so good?

The trick producers of House of Cards relied on is old but gold. Basically, they crossed the line between the fictional and the real life thus making the audience feel like everything happening on a screen is more realistic. Good job, whoever is in charge of the idea. Good job!

Airbnb Raising Its Voice for Acceptance and Belonging

Airbnb has always been good at their marketing solutions. Think of their city hosts feature that took the form of movie-like posters on their website. Or take a look at their “Don’t go there. Live there.” campaign that makes you wanna pack your stuff and “airbnb” the world—immediately. When it comes to all things creative, Airbnb is doing well.

This year is no exception.

Triggered by social protests in Australia (75 percent of citizens supported marriage equality, but the government blocked the legislation anyway), the “Until We All belong” campaign is a global flashmob, a social initiative, and a creative promo rolled into one.

Here’s what Airbnb did.

The company partnered with Australian designer Marc Newson and created the “Acceptance Ring” engraved with the words “Until We All Belong” on its interior. The ring is missing a part but, as the officials explain, it should only be this way “until we all belong.”

The goal of the campaign was to put the question of marriage equality back on the Australian political agenda. The idea to create a symbol of acceptance resulted in a viral marketing campaign to benefit both Airbnb and those standing up for acceptance and equality.

The result? On average 1,700 acceptance rings per day were ordered while the campaign was active. Some biggest brands, including eBay, Google, and ANZ supported the initiative. The campaign garnered two Cannes Lions awards. Most importantly, the idea worked.

What makes it so good?

Ok, this one is obvious. Neither street protests nor long-term political negotiation, but rather a peaceful social movement initiated by a home-sharing platform is what made the Australian government change its mind regarding the same-sex marriages issue. This case is unique as it showcases how powerful brands are and how inspiring it is when this power is used for the common good.

Heineken Connecting People

Do you remember that slogan Nokia used for their mobile phones when the world was not yet obsessed with iPhones? Nokia’s “Connecting people” were the two words most people associated with the Finnish brand.

It seems like Heineken is taking on the job of Nokia with its recent campaign entitled “Open Your World.” As the commercial plays, you have to remind yourself you’re watching an advertisement for a popular beer. What happens on screen looks more like a social experiment (and that’s why we loved it!).

In almost empty space, two strangers are left with one task and instructions to complete it. As time goes by and the strangers talk, they realize they have a lot in common and actually enjoy working on a task together. Once the task is completed (a piece of furniture is assembled as per instructions), the two strangers are shown a short video from which it becomes apparent they have colliding views on one of the controversial topics such as climate change, feminism, or transgender rights.

Then the most interesting part happens: the participants are given a choice—either to discuss their views over a bottle of Heineken beer or to say goodbye. Of course, all choose the latter.

What makes it so good?

It might be true that being social is the new black in marketing, but isn’t it something to celebrate rather than criticize? Big names like Heineken have a large audience and this fact brings power into their hands. That is why when such brands choose to send a positive message alongside promoting its product, maybe we should just let it be.

New York Times Admitting the Inconvenience of Truth

The topic of fake news has been the talk of the town in 2017, and we’re happy to see the world’s top news tabloids speaking up. This ad released by the New York Times is simple, brave, and straight-forward.

There are no public figures starring to trigger emotions, no high-cost visual effects applied, no VR or IoT used. The ad is just a white screen, simple black font, and words that matter. This is what makes this TV commercial so worth watching.

What makes it so good? It is brave and straight-to-the-point.

McDonald’s Playing Association Games

If you had a chance to read our post featuring the worst brand ads of 2017, you know about the big ad failure McDonald’s had with its “dead dad ad.” Fortunately for McDonald’s, the fast food giant actually released something that is worth our attention.

Famous under the name “Quiet Mac”, this campaign is a series of short video ads featuring an actress Mindy Kaling who encourages people to use Google to find that place where Coke tastes especially good.

What makes this ad interesting is that the actress does not mention McDonald’s directly in her speech. However, she is wearing a yellow dress while standing in front of a red backdrop and this color mix makes us think of McDonald’s without even realizing it.

This simple psychological trick is cool whatever way you slice it. On the one hand, it makes the ad less annoying and salesy (which is a good thing for us potential consumers). On the other hand, the message McDonald’s sends is still pretty clear (which means the ad works well for the brand too).

What makes it so good?

The ad is short, concise, and is spiced up with a tiny portion of intrigue. Well done,to the brand selling Coca-Cola that tastes especially good.

Procter & Gamble Being So Attractively Social

While an increasing number of brands go social, the soap giant Procter & Gamble keeps up and succeeds. A short video commercial called “The Talk” shows a series of tough conversations that mothers of color have with their kids about racism. The ad shows how the issue continues to be relevant throughout decades, no matter how much time passes.

Released as a part of a long-term marketing campaign “My Black is Beautiful,” this provocative commercial sparked some controversy in media but overall was perceived positively.

What makes it so good?

Touching and simple, this ad is not about an outstanding creative idea or exceptional visual design—or even celebrity endorsement. “The Talk” feels like a short movie you are likely to see in the Manhattan Short festival, and this simplicity is what won this ad a place in our list.

Microsoft Using Virtual Reality (VR) to Inspire Girls

We won’t surprise you by saying that VR is slowly but surely is becoming the new normal. A recent social (yet again!) commercial from Microsoft is living proof of the trend gaining momentum.

Released shortly before International Women’s Day, the commercial was meant to inspire girls to pursue a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Each girl featured in the commercial has her own idea of making the world a better place, and Microsoft uses VR to show girls how inspiring their chosen careers could be.

Then the voice behind the screen shares some bad news: to make it happen, girls will have to pursue a career in STEM. By sharing this message, Microsoft hopes to raise the awareness of gender inequality in STEM fields.

They say a picture is worth a thousand of words, so you’d better see it for yourself:

What makes it so good?

This ad kills a few birds with one stone. First of all, it appeals to gender inequality in STEM. Second, it mentions a few global problems related to medicine, climate change, etc. Third, it showcases the role VR can potentially play in education and science.

Time to Come Clean

As you probably know, here at StopAd, we believe that ads bring unnecessary disturbance and annoyance, which affects our mental health and online experience.

Nonetheless, we admit that not all ads are equal. Truth be told, some ads are so smart, ethical in nature, and beautiful in design, that we can hardly resist falling in love.

If we were to make a corporate wish for the upcoming year, it would be to make the world free from negative, aggressive ads, where brands understand the importance of ethical advertising and use their voice not just to sell but rather to speak up on what matters.

Read more: How Google Awards Social Particpation