Best ad campaigns of 2020: 30+ top creative ads

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Our brain loves lists and there are 8 reasons for it, according to New Yorker. Towards the end of every year, we see ‘best of’ lists across categories. Advertising is highly subjective – what may be liked by one could be hated by another. But I guess most of the ads in my picks of best ad campaigns of 2020 would be universally liked. Here are some more ads (in no particular order) which were clutter-breaking, relevant for the business objective and kept the audience entertained or engaged.

Home Equity Bank: catch the scam

According to a research, 91% of Canadians who are 55+ feel they are more vulnerable to fraud, with more than half of that demographic saying they’ve already been targeted by a scam. HomeEquity Bank is a mortgage provider, decided to teach older Canadians how to spot a scam in a four-part video series. The clincher: the series was anchored by Frank W. Abagnale, the world’s most famous con man and imposter, whose life inspired the Hollywood film ‘Catch Me If You Can’. I thought it was a great piece of content marketing, as it tackled the business issue at hand without resorting to conventional ads.

Agency: Zulu Alpha Kilo. You can see rest of the ads in the campaign in my weekly compilation from August ’20.

Axis Bank: Safer India through safer payments

The COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for brand communication anchored around it, though remaining silent was a perfectly good option too. The common factor among the ads which made a mark, was a relevant, credible link to the brand or an aspect of the product category. An ad from Axis Bank in India, urged users to opt for contactless payments by equating the act of tapping with playing relevant musical instruments.

Agency: AutumnGrey

Burger King: mouldy whopper

In 2019, I was fortunate to listen to a presentation from Fernando Machado – global CMO of Burger King. He spoke about the various holistic measures to create brand preference in the face of a big competitor. A hallmark of the efforts has been a series of local initiatives which maybe be relatively simple but garner a lot of global media mileage thus adding to the cool quotient of the brand. In February this year, they created a print campaign to highlight the absence of artificial preservatives in their Whopper. Instead of simply they chose to demonstrate it by showing what happens to ‘natural’ food when it is allowed to rot. The decay over time has been converted into a virtue with dramatic visuals of rotten, mouldy burgers. A show stopper of a visual campaign and a bold one for a category which relies on showcasing mouth watering food shots.

Agency: David Miami/ Publicis match made in hell

If I were in an ad agency today, I’d be jealous of the body of work from Maximum Effort. According to their LinkedIn profile, ‘we make films, TV and content for the personal amusement of Ryan Reynolds’. It is a production house headed by the actor who also happens to be a great marketer and a creative brain. Their work for Aviation Gin, Mint Mobile and recently have gone viral. Of course, Ryan promoting such content on his popular social media feeds also play a role. But even on a stand alone basis, the ad has everything going for it – clever central idea, great product fit, fantastic writing and great execution.

Agency: Maximum Effort

IKEA: Tomorrow Starts Tonight

‘A good nights sleep is critical for a great tomorrow’ has been a message conveyed by mattress brands and even hotel chains. ‘Tomorrow starts tonight’ is a pithy expression of that thought brought alive in a striking print campaign. The TV spot tells the tale differently by asking how the tortoise managed to win the race against the hare in the famous fable.

Agency: Mother, London

Yorkshire Tea: The Social Distancing Teapot

Communication pertaining to COVID-19 need not be serious. Yorkshire Tea demonstrated that perfectly in an ad urging people to maintain social distance in offices. ‘You can’t do these but at least you can do this’ is a format that works when exaggeration and humour are at play.

Agency: Lucky Generals. More from September 2020 here.

KitKat: a break for ‘Have a break’

In marketing, being ‘distinctive’ can be more valuable than being different. The latter may not always be possible in a parity-driven world. Brand assets which are unique and attributable to a brand can be a great advantage to aid memory and optimise investments. ‘Have a break, have a KitKat’ is one such property. The brand gave the baseline a break to celebrate its 85th anniversary asking users to contribute. Loved the idea

Agency: Wunderman Thompson. Read more about it here.

Volvo: a million more

In 1959, Volvo invented the modern three-point seat belt but decided to leave the patent open, making it available to all vehicle manufacturers to use for free. Interestingly, there was severe opposition to the idea of a seat belt when it was first introduced as it was seen as a violation of human rights and ‘inconvenient’. A new film from Volvo highlights these aspects by juxtaposing such reactions with first-person stories of lives being saved.

Agency: Forsman & Bedenfors

iPhone 12 Pro — Make movies like the movies

Call me biased, but I love all things Apple – including their ads and communication (such as the website). Movies are associated with stunning visuals thanks to the professional cameras and special effects. A new ad for iPhone 12 Pro makes a big claim ‘make movies like the movies’ and brings it alive through some great visuals.

Amazon: the show must go on

Festive advertising – be it Christmas in the West or Diwali in India or Eid in some countries is known to evoke a feel-good factor. Big retail in UK, such as John Lewis are famous for their Christmas campaigns. In India too, brands create special campaigns for Diwali. Some faced a backlash even though the intent was good. This spot from Amazon anchored on our mindset and stories of courage during COVID-19 ticks all the right boxes.

Agency: Lucky Generals

LEGO: Rebuild the world

‘Rebuild the world’ is a fantastic position for LEGO: it is directly linked to how the product is used, it has an element of fantasy in it (an aspect which is natural for both the category and the brand) and also cues a higher order benefit of ‘setting things right’.  The last aspect could have easily taken a preachy mode but the brand has steered clear from it and focused on the product.

Agency: The LEGO agency

TESCO: no naughty list

2020 is considered to be a year when things have been so bad that nothing surprises us. People are tired of bad news and its not surprising that in a survey in the UK, three-quarters said they wanted to see light-hearted content in this year’s Christmas ads.  new ad for TESCO delivers just that where it claims the ‘naughty list’ has been cancelled, even if you forget to sing ‘Happy birthday’ while washing hands.

Agency: BBH

And here’s proof that it worked:

Volvo: XC40 – cyclist, runner, pedestrian

Repeating what I said in my earlier post: ‘Cyclist, runner and pedestrian detection are features in Volvo’s XC40. A set of ads start of in what seem like high praise for the car but turn out to be descriptions or tributes to those three using the roads, which ‘belong to you’ says the VO. Loved it.’

Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors, Sweden

Central Black Midnight Sale: Shop Unfriend

Thai ads are great fun. Here’s a bizarre story about two close friends and the lengths they go to get what they want – friendship be damned.

Agency: WolfBKK

Birla White: the walls tell a story

Brands have been urging consumers to spend this festive season. The sentiment is likely to find appeal as people are slowly breaking free from the fear psychosis that gripped everyone a few months ago. Shopping triggers a chain reaction as it not just helps one business acquire revenues but many more as seen in the ads from Cadbury’s Celebrations and Philips. In this ad for Birla White, aside from the acting I loved the way they have found a link to convey that ‘walls tell a story’.

Agency: AutumnGrey

Heinz: ketchup puzzle

In June this year, Heinz went through a brand refresh. It was aimed to put their distinctive brands assets to better use – especially the shape on the label, known as the keystone. Aside from that, the red colour is also a distinct asset of the brand. It was put to great use during the pandemic as Heinz Canada released a 570-piece puzzle which was all red. The puzzle got invaluable media coverage and the brand has even released a special edition for the holidays.

Agency: Rethink, Canada

MasterCard: Priceless Experiences

Another great example of a distinct brand asset is the ‘Priceless’ tagline (and its positive associations) and the logo of Mastercard. Both were brought alive in this print campaign in October.

Agency: McCann, Colombia

Did I miss including any other good ad campaign of 2020? Do comment in.

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