From retailers to social movements to climate change, we asked our industry contributors to share their best campaigns of 2020. 

Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank
Marcus Rashford and school meals. Kind of sad it was needed, but it was perfect in terms of content, message and execution, and of course it delivered real-life outcomes. I’d give it an effectiveness award.

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate
Black Lives Matter.

Ben Hogg, managing director Emea and Asia-Pacific, Lucid
Burger King encouraging its customers to order from McDonald’s in November. After years of taking pot shots at each other, Burger King took the higher ground to great effect to support the employees of its competitors, stating: “Getting a Whopper is always best, but ordering a Big Mac is also not such a bad thing.” Bravo.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
Amazon’s Christmas ballerina ad. Very human and very illustrative of the resilience shown in 2020.

Ryan Howard, freelance data science consultant
‘Mourning in America’ was a haunting throwback to the famous Reagan campaign of similar spelling. A group of disaffected strategists turned their quintessential style against their former party, employing the same cinematic tropes, memes and brutal satire. The Lincoln Project raised just short of $40m between July and September, along with a ton of earned media. It became a phenomenon, not for an unrelenting viral campaign of tawdry attacks, but for its masterful semiotics, calculated to jar a very specific voting bloc.

Anna Cliffe, joint managing director, Trinity McQueen
I loved the Bodyform ‘Womb Stories’ campaign for taking the reflection of authentic real female issues to the next level and generating lots of relevant brand conversations as a result.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
Tesco’s ‘Every Little Helps’. I am not readily given to tears, but a simple film showing how to shop safely early on in the pandemic, and the measures that staff were taking to help their customers, had me weeping. The power of a great idea that continues to be relevant, timely and, most importantly, 100% actionable and believable. Amazing.

Nick Baker, global chief research officer, Savanta
Trainspotting’s ‘Choose Life’ monologue is the starting point of a new climate campaign by Project Everyone and The Climate Coalition, in which Kelly Macdonald (Diane in the film) narrates an urgent environmental call to action. It encourages the public to call for strong climate leadership ahead of the UK hosting the UN climate summit next year.

Deborah Mattinson, founding partner, BritainThinks
McDonald’s has done well through the whole crisis, and its ‘Back to Normal’ ad which aired as we were coming out of the second lockdown was mentioned by many of our coronavirus diarists – it really struck a chord. I also loved the Lincoln Foundation US election ad featuring past presidents’ dogs  titled ‘choose your human carefully’ (Donald Trump does not like dogs).

Lizzie Gilthorpe, managing director, Differentology
Being researchers, we get to test a lot of adverts, and it does not get any more fun than at Christmas. This year, research testing has shown that Aldi and ‘Kevin the Carrot’ has been a hit. Testing aside, my personal favourite is the McDonald’s ‘Inner Child’ advert. It tells the all too familiar story of a mum battling against the distractions of technology, to get her teenage son to embrace his inner child and participate in family Christmas traditions. It has received mixed reactions (with some media outlets describing it as “depressing”), but it definitely evokes an emotional reaction.

Jane Bloomfield, chief growth officer UK, Kantar
BrewDog did some great communication this year – from hand sanitiser, to carbon negative, to generally amusing us in a sweary way. It continues to stay true to its style and roots. The communication is attention grabbing, simple in messaging and clear on branding.

Ryan Barry, chief revenue officer, Zappi
The US National Basketball Association absolutely nailed its bubble from a customer experience perspective. It took two to three minutes to adjust to fanless stadiums, but the product itself was brilliant as usual. I felt that it displayed great leadership in sports and business in how it understood, organised and mobilised a plan that allowed LeBron James to win his fourth title.

Shazia Ginai, chief executive, Neuro Insight
2020 saw a lot of very powerful campaigns around social movement amid the mundane ads showing Zoom screens galore. Among these I would say the #letsnotforget campaign from 56 black men in collaboration with Clear Channel really stood out. Following the death of George Floyd, many people finally recognised the magnitude of the problem of systemic racism and this campaign highlighted that this was not a one-off death, and we cannot let the shock and horror we felt be a fleeting moment. We must sustain momentum to make meaningful change and continue to fight for racial justice.

Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos
The initial Covid-19 government campaign ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save lives’ – 90% of people regarded that as clear and effective.