Looking back: Twenty-seventeen featured long, cinematic production that sparked the imagination. Twenty-eighteen showed a commitment to prioritize family above all else. Twenty-nineteen celebrated individualism and the connections it can bring.
And then there’s this year. What the heck was this year about? (Truly, though. This is normally just a happy, single blog post, but the necessary preamble was so long in 2020 that it warranted another whole blog that went out last week.)
Turns out – as could perhaps have been expected – 2020’s ads were a bit all over the place. But they all seek to find a way to make you feel good, despite everything.
Case in point comes from Martin Delaney, President & Chief Strategist at Arrivals + Departures. This is his fourth consecutive appearance in this series. He laid down the gauntlet with a light-hearted, goat-based romp.
"I've chosen this ad from T.K. Maxx in the UK purely because it's funny and silly, and made me laugh. And with some great casting at the end, it gives a nod to the year we've all been through. Even little goats deserve to feel special this year."
Tyson Hynes, Co-Founder and Creative Director at District Design Co, selected a couple of lovelies, against his better judgement.
"This year, I’m channeling my inner Grinch. Because … 2020. Truth is, however delicate, however well done, there’s something distasteful about brands tiptoeing around COVID in order to sell whatever for the holidays. Amazon’s ballerina spot? An incredibly beautiful ad, and a moving story. Try giving your workers a living wage from your record profits, and I’ll like it a whole lot more. Grrr. Then I watched the Coca Cola spot, directed by Oscar winner Taika Waititi and shot on an epic scale. Okay, okay, I’ll admit it was touching. But is it right to spend this big on an ad when so many are struggling? Then, I watched this ad: "
"… and as in Whoville they say, I felt my heart grow three sizes that day. Created by TBWA Dublin for Irish grocery chain SuperValu, it’s a simpler, more honest and emotive version of the Coke spot that celebrates the things that really matter in the holidays with a heartwarming and completely unexpected twist. I’m not crying, you’re crying."
(Note: Our Holly Chessman also selected this as her year’s favourite).
"Honourable mention to this years’ McDonald’s Xmas advert. I didn’t expect to like it but as the parent of a teen, watching the story unfold caught me right in the feels. Props to singer Becky Hill for an unexpectedly touching cover of the classic 80’s song “Forever Young”. Guess I’m just a big softie after all."
Bryden McDonald, Head of Account Management at Anomaly, selected two distinctively different ads. They really showcase the range of creative produced this year from kitschy elegance to… well, the opposite.
"In a sea of saccharine holiday ads, this ad for Plenty paper towels by UK's AMVBBDO digs into what getting together with your extended family truly looks like. While we all love our families and this year more than ever we would love to be together with them, there is a messiness (literally and figuratively) in getting together over the holidays. I just love the honesty of this spot and the way they've managed to seamlessly bring Plenty along for the ride in a way that makes total sense. The track "Love Hurts" by Nazareth provides the perfect bit of levity to the spot and the narrator's final words: 'It's always a mess…but it's our mess' leaves us on a positive note. "
"Whether you love or hate the awkwardness that can come with an office holiday party, this year we're probably all longing for it's return. This spot from Gucci provides a nice little substitute. The spot is not only a feast for the eyes, it also delivers on a little holiday nostalgia with it's 90's inspired, office party clichés right down to the karaoke, conga line, and photocopying. While some critics on Twitter have pointed out Gucci got it's eras mixed up with a 90's office setting, 80s music and 70s inspired clothes, I'm still into this beautifully done piece of eye candy."
"Although I probably will not find myself donning a 70s/80s/90s inspired Gucci getup anytime soon. "
We ran a little internal contest here over the past few weeks, too – and had a great series of ads shared from around the world and across a wide spectrum.
Beyond Holly’s agreement with Tyson (above), there was Ryan Gulliver’s appreciation of Snoop Dogg’s partnership with SodaStream (mentioned in our previous post). There’s also Ryan Reynolds’ ad for Match, featuring Satan dating 2020. That one was as weird as it was great.
Then there was an ad that quietly made a few “best of” lists, submitted by our BeckyAnne Brydon. Produced for Great Ormond Street Hospital and Charity it shows the invaluable work they do to bring sick kids home for the holidays. And really – what could be more important than that?
Thanks to all our partners and clients in 2020. We’ve become closer over the last 12 months. I think we’ve all been pushed to become better. I look forward to taking the good into 2021. Stay safe over the holidays. Wash your hands.