As historians look back on 2020, the feature that has had the greatest impact and will shape generations to come is a novel coronavirus called COVID-19. One of the more interesting things about advertising is that though it tends to be reflexive and respond to market trends, it occasionally gets bold and becomes prescriptive. It doesn’t use focus group data to assemble a meticulous message intended to perfectly appeal to targeted demographics. No, when advertising is truly great it harnesses the minds available to it and tries to help people make sense where none exists. This is almost always in response to tragedy. It is an attempt to get on the right side of history, to be a helper in a hard time, to teach, to give people a language to navigate new territory.
The ads that have impressed me the most in 2020 have been the ones that did just that. It’s a strange time for everyone and advertisers are taking big swings and bigger risks. Many of them are landing beautifully on their feet in doing so. Five ads stick out to me and they represent how we felt when we were just learning about the adversary COVID-19, how we felt when we got our feet back under us a bit, how we felt when it kept going on and on and on and we made the best of it, how we educated ourselves, and when we learned to laugh about it all.