Four out of the top five big name ads from 2020, as selected by Adweek, spoke to human isolation and the other was about burger preservatives. No, that last sentence you read was actually not the American National Anthem, check again.
First, before we get into the brand marketing strategy of it all and how, despite the theme, each is completely different in execution, let’s just summarize the ads so we know what we’re getting into.
Jeep ran a Super Bowl spot reprising the beloved Groundhog Day movie, and even brought in Bill Murray to recreate iconic scenes. Except in this rendition of waking up morning after morning to the same tune, same day, same life, Murray’s blessed with an off-roading Jeep Rubicon. Every day, though he’s still reliving the same Groundhog’s Day, is different as he reaches new terrain and new adventures through the jeep (and with Punxsutawney Phil by his side).
In Match Group’s ad for their dating service, Match, a traditional-looking Satan hits it off with an unassuming woman called 2020. “A Match Made in Hell” is set to “Love Story” by good ole T. Swift and is, truly, one of the funniest dark humor moments we’ve seen this year. With all the murder hornets, asteroids, empty stadiums, and restrooms the couple steals toilet paper from, we’re glad *someone* is having a decent year. Even though we thought it was an ad for Hinge even though Hinge’s fluffy white mascot was nowhere to be seen. Oops.
Rolling in at number three is The Moldy Whopper by Burger King. Simple and short, it’s a time lapse of the burger getting moldy after 34 days untouched. The ad ends with a sleek line, “The beauty of no artificial preservatives,” obviously jabbing at the videos made throughout the early 2000s about McDonald’s products pretty much never going bad, even on countertops for months (or years). Appetizing, to stare at the growing mold? No, not really. Will I second-guess defaulting to a Big Mac next time I need the emotional comfort of junk food? Yes. Mission accomplished.
Flipping the script from dark humor and simple imagery, “You Love Me” for Beats by Dre is in another ballpark entirely. With different clips of people living their lives, all Black and, it seems, in America, the narration dives into how a country loves the look, products, sounds, and culture of Black Americans, without actually loving, respecting, or standing up for the people themselves. Undoubtedly in response to the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the nation since May, the ad ends showing what few people care to see: Black joy. Community and unity despite having to fight to live, and having to argue a right to exist.
And finally at the top of the list, we’re unsurprised to see Nike. In an ad that took over 1000 hours in composting, Nike again tackles the human spirit as modeled by sports and athletes. The split-screen production shows the obvious separation between one person or team and another, but flawlessly matches the movements across the split as if there weren’t separation at all. Whether you focus on the symbology of respectful competition, pandemic separation, civil unrest, or something else, Nike executes in “You Can’t Stop Us.”
You can watch all these ads here.
Now for the brand strategy breakdown.
Each was executed in entirely different creative ways.
#5 was about monotony and isolation, albeit funny, and places Jeep in the driver’s seat to “save” the viewer. #4 harkens on dark humor, eliciting a laugh/cry from viewers while plugging themselves as what they should look forward to when all is supposedly back to normal in 2021. #2 tackles serious, complex issues and places survivors of those issues at the forefront, less plugging the brand and more positioning themselves as a beacon of corporate social responsibility and a means to support Black artists. And #1, Nike goes down their classic road of inspirational, showing viewers that they, just like everyone in the production, will make it through this year, positioning their brand purpose similarly to Beats as a beacon of hope.
These four came from unique creative minds and are executed in a different manner. But all of them (excluding the Whopper) speak to one similar thing: the struggles of this year– unprecedented times, emotional separation of friends and families, monotony, and, above all, isolation.
In such diversified ways, four out of the five top ads honed in on what they knew to be the ruling emotion of their target audience. And for the Whopper, even, it gives consumers control over their fast food choice in a world where control seems to be lost.
Setting Yourself Up & Apart
Do you know the ruling emotion of your target audience? Because we can guarantee one thing– these ads wouldn’t have made the top 5 if they copied each other to end up with similar themes– they had to be built upon individually and creatively in order to be authentic, not just a rendition of someone else. Just as, though we all feel the same emotion of isolation, each person feels it differently because they are a unique individual.
We know your brand is unique. The question is, does it have the strategic integrated marketing foundations to build you to the top five, alongside but differentiated from four others? Or, does it need the decade-long expertise of a top advertising agency, one whose case studies, press, and attitude speaks for itself?
2020 can be done now, we agree. But how are you going to give 2021 a run for its money? How will you set yourself up, and apart, from the Nikes and Beats of your industry?