Best Ads of 2020, Thus Far

The year 2020 started with high expectations for advertisers. The general atmosphere around the world was one of hope and celebration; perhaps it was the beginning of a new decade that just felt different. Instead, the world entered chaos mode and so did advertisers. As the second quarter rolled in, some companies decided to completely pull their media budgets and forego advertising as a response to COVID-19. Others decided to pivot their campaigns and respond with messaging that emphasized a sense of community or ‘togetherness’ as society looked for ways to adapt to stay at home orders and unprecedented challenges. 

Fast adaptation became vital in the success of advertising campaigns during the first half of the year, as the pandemic became a focal point, and the social justice protests around the world surged. The general call for accountability and other global business changes have moved brands to make important decisions about branding, ad campaigns, and internal restructuring.  We want to explore some of the most successful and impactful campaigns that have launched this year, and that have created a buzz through the most bizarre time experienced by our generation. 

To show you the interesting changes in tone and content that we have marked the ads from month to month, we will present the campaigns in chronological order. Here are some of the most impactful campaign of 2020:

January: KFC Middle East came out with a very innovative way of hacking the Spotify Premium no-ad policy and getting an ad on the platform. The fast-food giant worked with Dubai-based agency Memac Ogilvy and commissioned three of the most prominent artists of the region to change their Spotify profile pictures and banners to promote their new fried chicken burger. The artists also played around with song names pointed at the KFC release, which made the campaign fun and light. Spotify did not seem to react negatively, and KFC and Memac Ogilvy were able to pull off an epic campaign. Here’s where you can see it: KFC on Spotify Premium

February: We can easily say that some of the most iconic ad campaigns usually come out in February. Lots of things are happening, most importantly, the Oscars and the Super Bowl. The biggest sporting event in America alone is an advertisers’ dream, and this year the campaigns did not disappoint. Some of the most iconic ads go to Doritos “The Cool Ranch” feat. Lil Nas X & Sam Elliott [01:26], “Rick and Morty x Pringles” by Pringles. [02:22], and the hilarious “Smath Pahk” by Hyundai, featuring Boston area celebrities Chris Evans, John Krasinski, and Rachel Dratch, all flaunting their heaviest New England accents. Google’s “Loretta” was a big favorite of the night and maybe the most emotional ad of the night. 

March: The month when everything started changing, and the grievances of other countries finally reached American soil. This month was pivotal for advertisers who were scrambling to create the right content that resonated with the public while going through the first stages of a pandemic. Some brands responded by recycling old creative and setting it to melancholic music with some variation of the message “We’re all in this together.” Other brands saw this as an opportunity to utilize User Generated Content (UGC) and more genuinely connect with their audiences. A great example of this was Apple’s “Creativity goes on,” which showed celebrities and regular folk figuring out ways to stay creative while Stay-at-home orders were in place. Ads like this made people feel seen while also giving them hints about what they could do with new Apple products at home.

April: By April, people were getting used to being home and were exhaustively trying to figure out new things to do. Nike used this opportunity to get some footage from athletes from around the world and make a great UGC video featuring people working out from home, encouraging both an active lifestyle and safety. The ad “Play for the World” paired very well with Nike’s commitment to providing free workouts to the masses through their app. 

May: Brands are still acknowledging the pandemic but getting away from the cookie-cutter content. Pet food brand Pedigree started hosting zoom adoption events in their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. They had adorable dogs looking for a home appear on video conferences with their prospective adopters. New York-based BBDO supported this campaign. You can check out the video here: Dogs on zoom.

June: The middle of the year came full force and caught the business world by surprise. With social justice protests spreading across the globe but concentrated in the US, brands were forced to acknowledge the social atmosphere. Some were even encouraged to take an in-depth look at their internal practices regarding diversity and inclusion. In light of the world-changing events, many brands felt the need to speak out. Nike released “Just for once, don’t do it,” which drew criticism for being simplistic and perceived as rushed and self-serving. The iconic brand also got called out about its lack of diversity internally. McDonald’s “They were one of us” Twitter ad created a buzz and drew both criticism and praise. 

July: As the atmosphere across the world started changing again, the tone of the ads shifted. Bumble and BABE wine came out with an iconic collaboration that spoke to all the couples dealing with the quarantine struggle. They use a fictional moving company “B&B Movers”  and promise five newly single people to cover the costs moving all their belongings from their shared places, erase all traces of their ex from their phones and assemble all their new furniture in their new home. They’ll also promise to help users create the perfect Bumble profile so they can find love again. They will choose the lucky singles through an Instagram contest. See the interesting campaign here: Bumble x BABE.

We’re more than halfway through the year, but we expect more great ads to come out as advertisers keep adapting to the crazy 2020 curveballs. Stay tuned!