Sam Russell talks about the best marketing campaigns to hit our billboards, screens and even our atmosphere in 2012…

Those pesky companies have been at it again, trying to sell us their wares with flashy ads and hashtags. However, something different happened in 2012, something that changed everything.

Marketing campaigns reached out and touched their audiences.

The best of 2012 set out not just to win our minds and wallets but also, our hearts. It was an inspired move, one that has left us a legacy of new ideas and approaches.

A guy goes to the edges of our atmosphere, 24 miles up, and jumps. The whole world holds its breath. The day Felix Baumgartner flung himself into the stratosphere, Red Bull not only proved that it can give you wings but also earned its wings.

This event was global, reaching beyond branding and consumerism to the one thing that connects all of us: high-risk human achievement with an astounding happy ending.

London 2012 joined forces with dozens of campaigns but something set Procter & Gamble apart from the bandwagon. It revealed the driving force behind the Olympiads, behind every one of us: mothers.

The unsung heroes were put front and centre, and the world was reminded just how special all of our moms are.

It didn’t seem possible that the London 2012 campaign would be toppled. That was until the Paralympics hit the marketing scene with Channel 4 and blew the competition away.

The Meet the Superhumans campaign brought the Paralympics out of the Olympic shadow and into the spirit of the games with its honest and hard-hitting portrayal of Team GB’s Paralympics champions.

Then it went one step further with its comic and empowered billboard ad “Thanks For The Warm-Up.

The message couldn’t have been clearer: we’re all in this together, and proud.

John Lewis made us weep again this year with their tale of two lovers snagged between eras, deftly backed with Paloma Faith’s aching rendition of INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart.”

The company consistently attracts viewers and shoppers alike because of their ability to communicate common human experiences. Their visual re-telling of timeless love instantly connects us to our own deepest desire for simpler, slower days.

John Lewis is one of the best because it combines the power of stories with consumerism, without ruining either relationship.

It’s not easy to take something serious, make it funny and ensure that it still conveys an important message. The British Heart Foundation did exactly that with their CPR Campaign featuring Vinny Jones to the tune of “Staying Alive.”

What makes this one of the best is that it worked. Follow-up ads featured people who had survived cardiac arrest because of the impact of the initiative.

These five campaigns were the best of 2012 because they embody a new ethic, the connection between all of us. Marketing will always be about selling but the face of campaigning is changing. It is becoming a mirror.

The marketing industry is always evolving and producing exciting results. The best way to start learning about the industry is to read up as much as possible online, find out who the thought leaders are, get some marketing work experience to boost your CV and learn on the job. Look beyond the product and into the eyes of the person who will be engaging with it. Get ambitious and be honest.

What are your favourite marketing campaigns of 2013? Let us know.

About the author: Sam Russell is a fiction writer fascinated by the power of the media and how it shapes our lives.