covid19 ads

The Best and Worst Ad Campaigns of 2020

The best and worst advertising campaigns of 2020 are still rolling in!

When it comes to advertising campaigns, we tend to remember the more extreme ones.

Creating a clever ad campaign is tricky any day – but during a pandemic (don’t get me started on the other numerous crises of 2020) it really takes something extraordinary!

Brands want to latch on to a very public topic and here the Covid-19 is obviously a very popular choice. But as you’ll see, showing “tact” during a pandemic is a minefield – these coronavirus ad campaigns are a testament to this.

We can’t be too direct. And we can’t use these horrible circumstances purely as a PR-game. There needs to be a balance.

Trying too hard to be funny or being over-the-top emotional can easily just make people mad and boycotting a brand. That’s kind of the opposite effect of what we’re looking for here.

The goal is to take a unique angle, in this case, the current pandemic, while keeping the message on “the brand.”

Tough, right?

These are some of the worst ads of 2020 and some of the more best viral marketing campaigns of 2020 we’ll remember.

Table of Contents

Netflix’s #Homesick Campaign – A great Ad Campaign

Most of us are following the rules:

  • Stay-in
  • Wash your hands
  • Socially distance
  • Don’t touch your face
  • Wear a mask

No matter who or where you are, you’re probably are, or have been, experiencing elements of cabin fever.

You know the deal: Someone says “Don’t think of an elephant!” and what’s the only thing you can think of? An elephant. The same goes for staying inside. Once we are forced to do it, there’s nothing we want to do less. 

I mean, just think of all the sudden “runners” that emerged during the lockdown stages of the pandemic.

Fact: It’s estimated that Netflix has grown the number of paying subscribers by 20% since the start of 2020.

The use of the streaming platform has actually accounted for a massive jump in internet usage across numerous markets. It’s as much as 70% in Italy.



You read that right, this viral campaign of 2020 was a student project.

Netflix viral COVID-19 campaign
Netflix viral COVID-19 campaign
Netflix viral COVID-19 campaign

More here:

Why the #Homesick 2020 ad campaign is brilliant:

The massive increase in Netflix users shows that Netflix and streaming have become a greater part of our new lockdown lifestyles.

This tongue-in-cheek ad campaign playfully asserts that you might want to think twice before stepping outside.

Otherwise, get ready to see spoilers from your favorite shows!

The Netflix 2020 viral marketing campaign results:

Netflix was impressed by the results, and mentioned it was a pretty good effort for a student project:

Netflix viral COVID-19 campaign tweet
Twitter banter

Budweiser’s #OneTeam 2020 Marketing Campaign

What’s a Netflix binge-fest or a recorded sports event without a cold beer?

Anheuser-Busch InBev debuted a commercial in 2020 honoring health care workers and announced that it would donate $5 million to the American Red Cross in support of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Anheuser-Busch InBev profits took a hit in the first two months of 2020 as the coronavirus impacted nightlife in China, resulting in a $170 million loss in profits.

Budweiser #OneTeam advertising Campaign
Budweiser’s #OneTeam advertising Campaign

More on Budweiser’s 2020 Covid-19 marketing #oneteam

The ad was released by DAVID Miami and aired on TV on March 25th, 2020.

Watch the #OneTeam ad right here.

If you want to read up on this topic, look at this article.

Why this Budweiser 2020 ad campaign is one of the best-branded advertisements we’ve seen!

Combining corporate social responsibility and a tribute to sports, Budweiser gives thanks to the heroes on the front lines in the global pandemic.

If you hadn’t noticed, many of the viral marketing campaigns from 2020 in this article focus heavily on nostalgia marketing.

The visuals and the message are heavily tied to history and the legacy of the brand.

This clever marketing campaign’s results:

Sports lovers feel acknowledged and positive about supporting the brand because the message makes them feel like they’re giving back to the community.

Budweiser #OneTeam advertising Campaign tweets
Pretty positive responses on Twitter

Ford’s 2020 #BuiltToLendAHand Campaign

It’s safe to say no one is rushing to their local car dealership for the sale of the year in the current pandemic.

Major car manufacturers have announced coronavirus car payment plans and programs to mitigate rampant car loan defaults and repossessions.

Just as an example, Ford saw sales plummet 13% in the first quarter after March. 

Ford's #BuiltToLendAHand campaign
Watch the commercial here and judge for yourself 

The coronavirus Ad Campaign From Ford

Ford’s campaign recalls their significant moments in history as a business that has served the nation over the last century.

The brand knows its place in American culture and recognizes that vehicles are one of the most taxing expenses in people’s lives.

Ford worked in collaboration with Wieden+Kennedy New York.

See more here:

Ford and Covid-19

Another take on the Ford marketing ad campaign of 2020

The public’s response to the Ford ad campaign:

They acknowledged the current economic downturn and proposed solutions that work with the customer instead of carrying on with empty advertising.

Those financing vehicles through Ford Credit are being offered assistance in order to meet payments.

Ford is even manufacturing personal protective equipment and medical respirators at its factories.

The public’s response to the Ford ad campaign:

Ford continues to set the tone as a reliable brand that stands the test of time and resonates with hard-working American people. 

Ford's #BuiltToLendAHand campaign tweet
Ford's #BuiltToLendAHand campaign tweet
Twitter is mostly positive on this one

Guinness Says “Don’t worry we’ll march again” in one of the Best Ad Campaign of 2020

Guinness heavily relies on St. Patrick’s day celebrations and parades, which draw large crowds every year around the world who are spending almost $6 billion at bars, restaurants, and retail shops.

Did anyone else find themselves looking for their beer to toast these guys?

Guinness – Best advertising Campaign of 2020

Guinness partnered up with Philadelphia-based Quaker City Mercantile to put out a poignant spot about canceling celebrations in times of crisis and to acknowledge that things will be a little different this year.

Watch the full-length commercial here.

If you want to read about the Guinness Gives Back Fund, you can do that right here.

Why Guinness’ 2020 ad campaign is brilliant:

Guinness was one of the first brands to address the virus and did so by encouraging people to be safe and reassuring the customer that they will still be there when normalcy is restored.

They nailed their response by crafting a nostalgic message that conveys a powerful sense of identity, resilience, and class in the face of these events.

The public reacting to Guinness’ recent ad campaign results:

Good vibes on Twitter

TikTok’s #SafeHands 2020 Ad Campaign

As you could easily predict, social media consumption has rapidly grown amid the coronavirus. TikTok is now the app to beat, with over 1.7 million downloads worldwide.

As the lockdown orders became more prevalent, TikTok downloads increased by 18% from March 16-22.


TikTok #SafeHands campaign
Good Clean Fun – see what I did there?

The Covid-19 TikTok Hashtags

TikTok launched several viral campaigns that address COVID-19 such as the #HayiCorona challenge in South Africa and Tik Tok Vietnam’s collaboration with UNICEF #ONhaVanVui (#StayHomeIsFun) challenge.

See more here:

Why TikTok’s Covid-19 marketing strategy is unmatched:

TikTok’s effortless user experience, fun hashtags, and individualistic arena make the app the new favorite social distancing past time.

Users can also explore hashtags related to the pandemic and find easily accessible links to WHO’s information and local health resources.

The results of these viral hashtag marketing campaigns: 

These campaigns led to an enviable level of content engagement. Tik Tok saw a 27% increase in engagement on sponsored posts between February and March.

Even P&G partnered with TikTok to spawn hashtags that have generated 8.7 billion views globally and 1.7 million response videos

TikTok #SafeHands campaign Mariah Carey and ajrbrothers
TikTok #SafeHands campaign Charli with Unicef
These ads are getting a ton of engagement

Related Article: 35 Re-branding Fails That We Can Learn From

rebranding fails
Check out a huge list of Rebranding Fails

Apple’s ‘The Whole Working From Home Thing’ 2020 Ad Campaign

A lot of people all over the world have been working from home since the start of the pandemic. 

Apple perfectly takes advantage of this to showcase their products and how they can be used when working from home. 

In this humorous advertisement, Apple has created a narrative portraying all the ups and downs of working from home. We follow a team of four and their various difficulties when facing a deadline from home. 

Apple manages to place nearly all its products (AirPods, Smart Watch, iPhone, Ipad and Laptops) in this little film. 

Likewise, they display their features (Siri, Document Scanner and Measuring Tool) as helpful tools to get through a day of work.

Screenshot Apple ad Working From Home Corona

Check out Apple’s “The Whole Working From Home Thing” here

Why Apple’s New 2020 Underdogs Campaign Is Great

The ad hits just the right balance. 

It’s funny – in a down-to-earth kind of way. No sob story here. Just everyday life.

It relates to the world situation and Apple’s customers. 

‘The Whole Working From Home Thing’’ uses a very real and difficult situation that most of their customers can relate to (working from home) and shows how optimal technology can help them.


What the Public Thought of Apple’s New 2020 Ad

People enjoyed the ad. Loving the humor and the depictions of real life. 


Comment for Apple ad


Some even commented on a very relatable moment. Is this something you can relate to? I sure can!


Comment on Apple ad 2020


All in all, people enjoyed an ad that advocates for things as they are now. An ad that doesn’t necessarily show a perfect portrayal of an unreal situation, but rather shows life as it is right now. 


Apple ad 2020 comment corona


That exact point keeps Apple’s commercial from being hated by users. People are tired of ads playing on their feelings in these vulnerable times! 

KFC UK & Ireland’s “KFC IS BACK” 2020 ad

“Finger Licking Good” isn’t really the most corona-friendly slogan. And KFC sure felt that at the onset of the pandemic.

After the announcement of the Nationwide Lockdown in March, KFC UK & Ireland were forced to close down operations. 

The “KFC IS BACK” ad was their reopening promo after the Covid-19 lockdown.  

The ad was created by ‘Mother’ and was released on youtube on the 18th of May, 2020.

Why KFC’s “We’re back” 2020 advertisement worked 

KFC UK & Ireland related to the public by showing them attempting to recreate items from KFC’s mouthwatering menu, taking advantage of KFC’s #RateMyKFC social media campaign

These attempts are ingeniously accompanied by Celine Dion’s iconic All by Myself”.  

This creates a great depiction of the loneliness people have felt in their homes while also showing how much KFC has been missed. All wrapped in a humorous bow.

KFC ad 2020 missed you too

KFC we're back ad 2020

Watch the ad right here (and maybe sing along – come on, why not?)

The public LOVED KFC’s new ad

The public deemed it a huge success.

Some said that the UK & Ireland ad agency never fails.

While others wrote that they themselves had tried making their own KFC. 

And many described how they had visited them recently and were quite happy and satisfied!

KFC feedback ad 2020

Many customers welcomed the humorous aspect of the ad, noting it as a great relief from these dark times.

KFC feedback ad

Way to go, KFC! 


King Price South Africa’s Great 2020 Ad Campaign 

This advertisement uses wordplay and a general feeling of confusion in the world to create a super funny commercial.

King Price ad 2020






Just see for yourself here. Enjoy!

King Price’s Corona-themed “Lost in Translation” ad – why it works 

King Price South Africa has created a great advertisement that matches their other ads. 

Now, you might think that an insurance firm would have boring ads? Think again!

This corona-themed “Lost in Translation” ad is just one of their hilarious “Lost in Translation” ads that focus on the language-barrier prevalent in South Africa. 

This one uses word misunderstandings to create a fun and confusing narrative in which both people are left confused.

But no worries. As King Price says:

“When nothing out there makes sense – we do.”

This is a great way of advertising for their business while also keeping it in line with the current pandemic.

And once again, the humor is what makes it work!

What did the public think of this corona 2020 advertisement?

The vote is in: They loved it. 

Here are a few comments to prove it.

South Africa ad coronaKing Price feedback screenshot

I mean … the ad and the comments speak for themselves. This is a huge hit! 

Doritos “The Last Doritos” 2020 advertisement 

The Israelian advertising agency, Leo Burnett Israel, created this Doritos 2020 ad

And it is great.

Released in April 2020, the ad shows a man who is presumably in lockdown. And worst of all? He’s down to his last Doritos!

And delivery isn’t for two weeks. Two weeks! Might as well be an eternity!

Doritod ad picture screenshot
Watch the Doritos ad right here. 

Why this Doritos 2020 commercial works so well


Like most of the instances of great ads on this list, this Doritos ad focuses on humor. And it works. And we love it. 

The commercial brands Doritos as a life necessity. To the degree that you actually have to ration them for two entire weeks. 

But I mean, they’re right, right?

last doritos corona lockdown


The WORST advertising campaigns of 2020:

Of course, this is just pure speculation, conjecture, and opinion. But here are some of the more badly perceived ad campaigns of 2020. 

Feel free to judge for yourself.

Are these the worst viral marketing campaigns of 2020? Do you agree? Are these ads clever or cringe?

McDonald’s #StaySafebyStayingApart: A Failed Ad Campaign

Quick service fast-food chains like McDonald’s have been able to stay open since over 70% of their business operates via drive-thru.

Given that minimum wage workers continue to risk their health by showing up to work every day, this next ad has drawn some negative attention.

This one divides people. Some find it clever while others take issue with the company’s image and brand.


McDonald’s #StaySafebyStayingApart campaign
Watch the full video of McDonald’s ad campaign here.

The 2020 Bad McDonald’s COVID-19 Ad 

To promote social distancing, McDonald’s Brazil redesigned its logo to separate the iconic golden arches. They featured this new logo in a TV spot and across social media accounts.

Following a backlash, the content was replaced with a promotion for the McDonald’s delivery and drive-thru, led by Wieden + Kennedy New York in the US markets. 

See more here about this example of a failed ad campaign of 2020.

Why this Corona marketing strategy of McDonald’ is just bad:

The message that was masked as concern for the public felt disingenuous and exploitative.

The ad highlighted what the brand isn’t doing rather than how they are helping. Altering the brand logo just seems like a contrived move that alienates customers. 

The results of this campaign weren’t very nice either:

McDonald’s #StaySafebyStayingApart campaign tweets
McDonald’s #StaySafebyStayingApart campaign tweet
This twitter response just makes me laugh – go get em!

Norwegian Cruise Lines #FeelFreetoFeelMore: A Terrible 2020 Advertisement

It’s hard to imagine the hell of being trapped in a cramped cruise cabin on a virus filled ship.

Over 30 cruise ships have confirmed COVID-19 cases on board and have struggled to dock.

Needless to say, the timing of this next advertising campaign was rather unfortunate. Especially when paired with their scandal of leaked company-wide emails.


Norwegian Cruise Lines #FeelFreetoFeelMore campaign

The Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) – Advertising in bad taste

The campaign was developed with partner agencies BBDO Atlanta and OMD.

This particular ad aired on March 11th and is meant to encourage guests to ‘Free’ themselves with a well-deserved vacation on their terms (hence freestyle cruising).

More examples of poorly timed campaigns


Why this particular Corona marketing strategy is downright tone-deaf:

NCL acted in short term interests by instructing sales agents to tell customers that coronavirus cannot survive in tropical climates.

Conducting business as usual and putting customers in harmful ways is completely reckless and a recipe for a PR disaster.

The NCL website announces that all trips are suspended to May 2020, which is a pipe dream, to say the least.

The results of this bad ad of 2020:

Trouble in paradise. 

Norwegian Cruise Lines #FeelFreetoFeelMore campaign tweets

The travel and hospitality industry during COVID-19

How should these brands respond to the crisis?

CEO of Kling Marketing, Taylor Ryan, and Carlos Villaro Lassen joined a webinar organized by LuggageHero to talk about how the current pandemic affects the travel and hospitality industry.

The travel and hospitality industry has arguably been hit the hardest during the pandemic.

There is no doubt that the way we travel will change.

Donnie Rust, CEO of The lost Executive covers possible ways how technology as VFX and CGI could replace the traveling we know.

Learn more.

Adidas #ChangeIsATeamSport: a bad 2020 ad

Adidas shares were down 6.3% in recent weeks and first-quarter sales tanked by $1.1 billion due to the impact on China sales.

CEO of Adidas, Kaspar Rorsted, sent an email to all Adidas and Reebok retail employees stating that the US stores would remain open in the wake of the coronavirus.

“Closing down is easy, staying open in a healthy environment requires courage, persistence and focus.

For all coronavirus-related decisions we will—as a general principle—follow local regulations as different regions/countries/markets are impacted at a different level at any point in time.

In all regions and countries where legislation allows, we expect the leadership teams to be working from our offices on a daily basis… Where work is conducted from home, we ask for your utmost focus and dedication to do your job as good as possible every day.”

-Adidas CEO Kaspar Rorsted
Adidas #ChangeIsATeamSport campaign
Watch their ad right here.
For more coverage of Adidas during the Covid-19 crisis, look here.


If we consider their ad:

The Change is a Team Sports ad, produced by Adidas Originals’ global agency of record Johannes Leonardo, premiered during the 2020 Grammy’s in January.

The focus of the campaign is local community growth through inspired positive change and creativity.

Why this is a bad marketing campaign for a brand in 2020:

While the campaign itself isn’t bad, the brand should be focusing on reframing its content to address today’s circumstances. As could be expected, Adidas’ social media posts have become less frequent in the absence of sporting events.

Twitter posts are down to one per week instead of their normal 5-6 weekly posts. The few posts that they have made show no deviation from the normal strategy.

The results of this bad marketing campaign:

The customer may not see how new Adidas products fit into their new lifestyle, especially when other expenses rank higher on their list of priorities.

Customers will also gravitate towards other brands that are protecting employees during this time. 

Adidas #ChangeIsATeamSport campaign replies
I get it.

RyanAir’s Fake Advertisement Mocking the Irish Government

Yes, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. And yes, it sucks that we can’t travel. And yes, it’s a bad time to be in the travel and hospitality industry.

But seriously? Seriously, RyanAir? You can do better.  

As we have agreed on: using humor in ads, especially during these trying times, is a great idea. 

However, RyanAir failed hard when they created this fake advertisement on their website.

RyanAir fake ad

In the job advertisement, which has since then been taken down, apparently, the Junior Cert would be deciding the Green list by playing various “luck” centered games such as:


This passive-aggressive move on RyanAir’s part clearly shows that they think the Irish Government’s reasoning is totally ridiculous and that a monkey could do it just as well. 

Why this RyanAir ad does not work at all as a 2020 advertisement

We are in the middle of a pandemic. We need to stand together. 

People are doing their absolute best in a bad situation. We can’t afford to spread such negative energy.

Also, a lot of people are extremely disappointed with RyanAir’s customer service in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and they are having none of this blame-shaming. Not from a business that they believe have misbehaved to this extent. 

The public’s view on this particular RyanAir 2020 ad

Ouch. It is not good. 

Most people focus on RyanAir’s own lack of tact and customer service these last months.

RyanAir backlash

And it gets worse. RyanAir is not particularly popular right now. 

RyanAir ad comments

Ad feedback comments RyanAir 2020

All in all, this was the entirely wrong way to do it. If you’re going to be going after other people, you should probably make sure to have everything sorted first. *cough, Ryanair, cough*


So, now that we’ve looked at some great and bad advertising campaigns of 2020, we can ask ourselves: 

What can brands learn about advertising during a global crisis?

No one wants to have the feeling of being sold out or put down when their livelihood is on thin ice or on hold for the foreseeable future. Be empathetic to the disruption of your buyers’ everyday life.

Don’t take advantage of the opportunity to sell a product while people are suffering. 

Instead, the focus should shift to highlighting the brand’s core values.

Place in an individual’s life above all else by crafting an honest message, show why your organization is filled with compassionate and caring people.

Help your audience understand how you support the global community.

This is the time to show commitment, creativity, and devotion to the customer while putting procedures in place to assist employees at all levels.

The brand should draw a connection between its purpose and any real-world issues where they can step up to the plate and execute it effectively.

Life as we know it has changed and the way we reach our audience has to reflect this. Brands that fail to engage their customers online by optimizing the use of new platforms will lose relevance as we step into our new normal.

This unprecedented time should be seen as an opportunity to really define brand identity and make constructive and discovery-driven adjustments to operate successfully in the future.

Less of a “call to action,” and more of a public service announcement for large brands

If you want to be bold and stand out in a good way, you have to take chances.

One of the most successful coronavirus ad campaigns was the one that spent the least amount of money and was actually a student project.

Perhaps there’s room for a better creative strategy paired with a digital angle.

Some of the largest brands are ditching their CMOs in favor of a new approach in the future.

Why not work with a company that can do both the “creative” and the digital angle


Klint Marketing Trailer On Why Top Brands Are Ditching the CMO

Make better ads in 2020

Get in touch with Klint Marketing and find out how we can build the best ad campaigns of 2020 together!

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