Last week was ADDY week at Absolute, a time when we lay out all of our best creative work to submit into the local American Advertising Federation competition. After being elbows deep in print, broadcast and digital media, I had the opportunity to reflect on what I value in terms of creativity in the biz.

For the first installment of the Absolute Truth in 2010, I thought we could take a quick look back at my five favorite campaigns of 2009 to see what we can learn and inject into our future work in the Fargo-Moorhead region.

Before I immerse you in my opinions, it’s important to give you my demographic so that you can understand how these ads spoke to me. I’m 25, male and single. In addition, I have a college degree and live in Fargo, North Dakota. My income is similar to those in my area and profession.

And now, Jason’s top advertising wins of 2009:

Best Media Buy – Old Spice – “Residue is Evil”

What it was: The media campaign featured three, five-second commercials interspersed within a commercial break.

Each spot had a single screen with the words Residue is written in cartoon shaving cream. The three spots were different in that they each had a separate haunting or eerie voice on, ranging from a creepy girl to a chilling old man.

Why it’s awesome: In essence, the :05 buys served as a commercial break within a commercial break. The goal was to drive traffic to the website and generate buzz. The client wasn’t mentioned, and there wasn’t a flashy headline or famous spokes person. The message was simply delivered in :05. Anyone in the biz would call you crazy for trying it. I call it crazy genius.

Come Back Campaign – 5 Hour Energy

What it was: 5 Hour Energy is product that has seen heavy promotion in the last few years. Most people know it’s an energy drink shot. What I remembered it to be was a :30 commercial featuring cheesy acting interlaced with a hodge podge of stock video. In fact, one of the women in the stock spot was on a billboard here in Moorhead, MN. Frankly, the ads were terrible and dare I say an embarrassment to national advertisers.

Why it’s awesome: 5 Hour Energy is still finding itself as a brand. Over the course of the year, I saw at least three very different commercial styles. They first tried endorsements with Braylon Edwards of the Cleveland Browns and Osi Unmenyiora of the New York Giants. Then they tried a line animated ad, which gave a little creative flare, but didn’t resonate.

After that, we started to see testimonials and better messaging. I don’t care that my energy drink has guarana. I don’t care that I have sugar in my energy drink. I’m 25, so I only know high fructose corn syrup as a food group. I’m willing to bet the next evolutionary leap will be a larger pancreas. 5 Hour Energy started to shift from throwing every product benefit at you in ads, to a tighter message – a better message. They have a long way to go, but I can appreciate the strides they’ve made.

Best Guerrilla – Miracle Whip – “Don’t Be So Mayo”

What it was: Miracle Whip launched a new branding campaign targeted at young adults. The execution was a cliche commercial trying to make sandwich spread hip and fun. Don’t Be So Mayo? Dumb. Or was it?

Why it’s awesome: Stephen Colbert. On his wildly successful show, The Colbert Report, Stephen did a minute banter about how bad the Miracle Whip campaign was. Not only that, he then parodied the commercial with his own pro-mayo bit with clever interjections like “The Mayo-lution will not be televised”.

Here’s why it’s really awesome: On a future episode of The Colbert Report, Miracle Whip fired back with another version of the commercial firing back directly at Colbert. A playful banter began. The reason this ad is guerrilla; I’m pretty sure the back and forth was the plan from the get-go. The backlash spot by Miracle Whip forced me to look further into the product. Right off its Facebook page, Miracle Whip announced it was going to attack Colbert. The brand received a lot of airtime and became valued by me and my peers (I guess I can speak for them) because it took the joke and fired back.

Best Campaign Runner Up – Dos Equis – “The Most Interesting Man In The World”

What it was: An older man surrounded by beautiful women sits in a smoking jack at a swanky bar. He looks regal, distinguished and wise. His white beard and piercing eyes look at the camera while he says, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis”

In future commercials, the audience is told that this older gentleman is “the most interesting man in the world,” and as we see what appears to be archival footage of amazing feats, we learn about some of his talents: “He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it felt.” “He can speak French in Russian.” Special event promotions featured the most interesting stage show, which looked more like a Cirque du Soleil hosted by P.T. Barnum. Visitors to the website were encouraged to make themselves the most interesting person. The list goes on.

Why it’s awesome: Dos Equis branded itself as sexy and classy. I remember former campaigns with beautiful women having two Xs. Using sex to sell beer is okay, but it didn’t hit me at the time even though I was still in my early 20s.

What this campaign does brilliantly still maintain the highbrow, classy and sophisticated brand objective, but adds in humor that carries the idea across all media. Even the swagger of the tagline, “I don’t always drink beer…” It’s arrogant and charming and it connects. I almost want to watch a Wes Anderson film. Almost.

Best Campaign of 2009 – Gatorade – “That’s G.”

What it was: The first spot was black and white and featured a line of mainstream sport superstars mixed in with successful heroes of lesser known fringe sports. As the camera passed by each player, an adjective starting with G would be read by ‘Lil Wayne.

The first few spots didn’t even mention the product; just saying “That’s G”.

Eventually, when it became clear that “G” was Gatorade, people started flocking to the new look and feel. Packaging changed to promote big simple messages like “Bring It”.

Why it was awesome: I got caught up in the initial “What’s G?” buzz, racing to the Internet to see if anyone had any clues. When the packaging came out, it broke apart the lettering, changing up its attitude. That label switch reached me. I don’t run, but I thought about it.

The reason this campaign launches ahead of a humorous one is simple: Gatorade attempted to redefine the term athlete to broaden its reach. The black and white ads place Kobe Bryant and Mohammed Ali next to break dancers or snowboarders. Even Jason McElwain, the autistic high school basketball player who came off the bench and dropped 30 points in a game, and an ESPY for the greatest moment of 2007 was featured next to other superstars. With Gatorade, any achievement in any sport is worth noting.

Well done, G.

And that’s it. Let the debate begin.