Trends of 2020: The year in advertising

We look back at a year when the advertising industry was shaken to its core and when calls for change could no longer be ignored

Advertising in 2020 started with a spring in its step with the return of This Girl Can with an ad that provided a fuller picture of exercise and sport (cramps and all), and Starbucks announced as the winner of Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising award with its ad that aimed to explore trans experiences in a nuanced way. Oh and of course Burger King grossed us out with its Moldy Whopper in February. 

But, as we all know, when March arrived, a wave of national lockdowns descended on many countries around the world. So what did this mean for advertising?


The early coronavirus ads were sombre and earnest, and soundtracked with plinky plonky piano music. They all quickly began to blur into one as this excellent if savage supercut put together by Youtube creator Microsoft Sam demonstrated. “When a company or brand releases a coronavirus response ad, they might tell you that we’re living in ‘uncertain times’, but that ‘we’re here for you’,” says the description. “They may say their top priority is ‘people’ and ‘families’ by bringing their services to the ‘comfort and safety of your home’. And don’t forget: ‘we’re all in this together!’ #together.” 

Playing into the tropes of brands being our friends, the film highlighted some of the very real problems creative teams were facing to create authentic messages in a time of crisis.