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Along with the rest of the creative industries this year, the ad world has been thrown into chaos thanks to the pandemic. In the wake of a series of National lockdowns across the entire world, many of the early coronavirus ads were marked by sadness and a sense of uncertainty on what the future might hold.

Despite all the challenges that the industry has faced, 2020 has proved that when advertising is done well it has this immense power to inspire, surprise and delight when people need it the most.

With 2020 drawing to a close I thought I’d take a look back and have chosen some of my favourite ads from this year:

Nike, You Can’t Stop Us

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Directed by the incredible Oscar Hudson, Nike’s ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ campaign and video was one of the big internet breaking ads of 2020. It carried a powerful reminder to the unifying power of sport and society’s collective strength when we work together.

Editors had to sift through thousands of clips to create the film, which uses a split screen to combine disparate moments from different periods across sporting history. The final ad featured 53 athletes across 24 sports, moving in tandem; amongst them is Serena Williams, LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo and Naomi Osaka.

The ad carries a strong message of sport overcoming adversity – showing a range of clips relating to the pandemic and the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement. It also demonstrates how people around the world have managed to keep playing despite the closure of sports venues.

Tesco, No Naughty List

Agency: BBH London

While Tesco is usually a brand that plays it a bit on the safe side at Christmas, this year it has really managed to capture my heart and to see the funny side of 2020 with this festive ad.

The film takes us through the various ways we might have ended up on Santa’s naughty list this year, from buying too many toilet rolls to not singing Happy Birthday when we washed our hands, to bad haircuts. You name it and it’s probably in there.

Thankfully, the retailer assures us that Santa is taking a year off from the list, meaning that we can all enjoy a bit of guilt-free gifting in what has otherwise been an unsteady 2020 for most of us. I couldn’t miss out on including at least one festive ad, so Merry Christmas everyone!

Starbucks, Every Name’s a Story

Agency: Iris

Cast your mind back to the beginning of this year, and you may remember that Starbucks was announced as the winner of Channel 4’s annual Diversity in Advertising award, which aimed to encourage more nuanced portrayals of LGBT+ experiences. Playing on the fact that its brand is well known for scrawling the names of its customers on coffee cups, the powerful ad follows the journey of James during his difficult transitioning process as people continue to call him by his birth name, Jemma.

This ad was based on the real-life stories and experiences of some transgender Youtubers, and it culminated with a moment of acceptance when James tries out his name for the first time publicly at a Starbucks store. Along with the advert the campaign raised funds for the charity Mermaid, which supports young trans people and their families through its helpline services.

ITV, Britain Get Talking

Agency: Uncommon Creative Studio

The last year has really seen ITV redefine its purpose as a public service broadcaster in an extremely competitive market. One of the network’s most successful initiatives has been its ongoing mental health campaign ‘Britain Get Talking’, which took on a whole new significance during the pandemic as it launched a series of Zoom calls/clips that tapped into the awkwardness of striking up new conversations in lockdown.

The campaign is part of ITV’s five year mental wellness commitment which aims to get 10 million people to take action to improve their mental and physical health by 2023. This initiative has also been supported by mental health charities Mind and YoungMinds and for me this advert really taps into what this year has been about, looking after each other so that we can all get through this together!

Apple, “The Whole Working From Home Thing”

Agency: In-house

Clocking in at 7 minutes, the short film is a disturbingly relatable but still highly enjoyable cross-section of work life in the Covid-landscape. While Apple launched a range of excellent ads this year, including the touching “Creativity Goes On” from TBWA\Media Arts Lab, this long-form spot developed in-house by the brand was a nearly unbeatable example of digital storytelling in 2020.

While some raised valid questions about whether it fetishizes an unhealthy work-life balance, it’s clear that Apple isn’t necessarily celebrating overworking, it is just acknowledging how our work and personal lives have become conflated as everyone has adapted to their new routines of working from home.