Our favourite ads of 2020

We pick the pieces of work that made us smile, weep and applaud in admiration of APAC’s creative power.

Under excruciating circumstances, creative teams around the Asia-Pacific region continued to put out impressive work this year. Of all the campaigns that flowed through our inboxes and across our screens this year, these 10 stood out to our editors—and our chief campaign reporter/critic/cashew addict Ad Nut (right)—as most worthy of praise. Seeing as Ad Nut alone wrote up 215 campaigns this year (squirrels sure are industrious!), deciding on 10 was not an easy task. So we're also including five near misses and five more that simply provided a smile when we needed it the most.

Dear client: Thank you for cancelling our work

Client: N/A
Creator: Thasorn Boonyanate, ECD at Wunderman Thompson Thailand

The first ad in the list technically isn't an ad at all. It's a personal film posted on Facebook by Thasorn Boonyanate, ECD at Wunderman Thompson in Thailand. What starts out as a lament about the Covid-related cancellation of a big campaign turns into a touching look at what really matters. The work therefore perfectly encapsulates the early pandemic experience for many in this industry. It also ends up being, as Ad Nut observed at the time, a pretty good ad for the client after all. By the way, our post about the video was—by a significant margin—the most-read page on this website this year. 


Disturbing campaign forces you to visualise child marriage

Client: Indonesian Family Planning Association (PKBI)
Agency: M&C Saatchi Indonesia

This is an absolutely brutal 30 seconds—as it should be given the topic. A breathtakingly powerful idea in service of addressing an unspeakable injustice. 


A visual and musical morale-booster for Bangladesh

Client: United Commercial Bank
Agency: Grey Dhaka

This campaign included social-media images done in a style deeply rooted in Bangladeshi culture, plus a video that repurposed a patriotic song from the 1971 Liberation War for a new kind of struggle against a very different kind of enemy. "Even with no connection to the cultural backstory, Ad Nut finds both the images and the video quite moving, and can only imagine how rousing it would be for real Bangladeshis."


A magician learns new tricks in RHB Bank's Deepavali film

Client: RHB Bank
Agency: FCB Malaysia

"For this Deepavali film, RHB Bank and FCB Malaysia found an uplifting story—and a great parable—in Vikey (Vikneswaran Allagu) a well-known magician. Titled 'Light in a time of darkness' the film shows how Vikey had to shift gears when the pandemic made his former career disappear (at least for a while). To continue supporting his family, he finds a way to use his magic skills to sell, of all things, durian."


Nike Japan ad receives backlash—but is incidentally brilliant

Client: Nike
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo

This film garnered international attention (and a spot on our list of the best ads about diversity, equity and inclusion) for shedding light on racism by way of depicting the ‘real life experience’ of a mixed-race teenager. While some praised Nike for shining a light on racism in Japan, others were upset that an international brand waded into a local discussion and chose to depict the country poorly. "Even if Ad Nut cannot coherently comment on systemic discrimination in Japan, Ad Nut is of the opinion that the ‘real life experience’ of a teenager should never be invalidated." Plus, "the writing, the music, and the editing are mesmerising from start to finish".

BONUS: FIVE NEAR MISSES

These campaigns tempted us to make this a top 15 list.


Nike's film about a family rivalry may win the CNY race
An extremely determined auntie and her fleet-of-foot niece engage in an epic battle of politeness and endurance in this excellent film by Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai.

Desperate search for food in Bangkok finds meaning instead
Made in a week, GreyNJ United's clever and sneakily meaningful documentary for KBank starts with a frantic search for an open restaurant. It ends someplace else entirely.

Sentosa adopts a Moana vibe for holiday campaign
The Singapore resort destination and BBH Singapore present a delightful bit of musical persuasion in an attempt to lure locals to use their annual leave visiting the island.

Avon Philippines ditches professional lingerie models for ‘real women’
A digital spot by MullenLowe MARC resonates with Filipinas.

China campaign positions adult diapers as a caring purchase
A China campaign from BBDO Shanghai for Swedish brand Tena speaks to the adult children of elders who suffer from incontinence.

Watch how a woman’s self-worth chips away after sexual assault

Client: The Women’s Foundation Hong Kong
Agency: Wunderman Thompson

"An affecting three-minute video which journeys the life of a woman whose self-worth diminishes after twice being sexually assaulted. It’s a sensitively written and universally relatable story, one that left Ad Nut with a lump in the throat."


Honey brand deploys smart hives to protect Aussie bees

Client: B Honey (Bega Foods)
Agency: Thinkerbell

"The project took 18 months to come to fruition, according to Thinkerbell's chief thinker, Adam Ferrier.  That's the kind of effort Ad Nut likes to hear about, because it shows this isn't an empty ploy. As one who lives directly off the land, Ad Nut perhaps appreciates the crucial role pollinators play more than you city folk do, and therefore applauds this project. It's a fine example of a company not merely branding itself in a cloak of concern about an issue, but earning its right to 'own' the issue by, you know, actually doing something significant about it." 


New Zealand turns the whole country into a game

Client: Tourism New Zealand
Agency: TBWA Sydney / Eleven Sydney

"Before any gamers get too excited, you can't really play Play NZ. Instead, it's a fun campaign that packages the country's many charms into an appealing whole constructed out of gaming tropes. All roads lead to an online hub where people can watch 18 different 180-degree videos that are presented as quests across the magical land's various realms. In reality they present the country's sights, activities and culture. Ad Nut finds all of this most impressive."


The coin that says 'Donate me to a good cause'

Client: The Royal Australian Mint
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Melbourne

"This is brilliant. The 'Donation dollar' is an absolutely legit, legal-tender dollar coin created by The Royal Australian Mint. But it's also a powerful idea, developed over the last two years along with Saatchi & Saatchi Melbourne, to encourage charitable donations. The mint plans to mint one of these coins for each of the 25 million people in Australia over the coming years, and hopes that when they find one in their pocket, they'll consider donating it." 


When reality about kids' online activity comes knocking

Clients: NZ Department of Internal Affairs, Netsafe, the Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Ministry of Education
Agency: Motion Sickness

"This smart campaign, titled 'Keep it real online', makes online threats to the wellbeing of kids seem more real by having those threats show up at the front door. Ad Nut likes how the work smoothly uses humour without making light of these serious topics. Plus, the parents/guardians in the films, when presented with some fairly horrifying news, keep their cool rather than losing their shit on their kids. That's good behaviour to model."

BONUS: FIVE JUST FOR FUN

These ads provided much-needed smiles in a difficult year.


Want a dog? Use this slide deck from Pedigree to convince your partner

Pedigree and Colenso BBDO created a presentation (and some hilarious films) to convince young people to take a baby step into parenting—by adopting a dog.

Hugh Jackman transitions from villain to hero in hilarious coffee ad
If you think the actor is a nice guy in real life, well, you’re wrong.

SPCA hijacks video conferencing backgrounds to promote pet adoption
Singapore's animal protection organisation and Forsman&Bodenfors want you to put your virtual backgrounds to work on behalf of animals who need real homes.

Cold remedy prescribes a healthy dose of the 1980s 
A mom breaks out decades-old dance moves and Clemenger BBDO Sydney revives an old mnemonic for Australia's Demazin.

A 'Loo jam' sounds disgusting, but you have to see it
Our resident critic finds a Singapore rap-style PSA about toilet hygiene habits quite endearing. (Ad Nut, are you OK?)


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