Breaking new ground: ad campaigns that made a mark in 2020-21

Some ad campaigns that moved the needle in the last year

June 25, 2021 03:27 pm | Updated June 26, 2021 11:36 am IST

This week, the Cannes Lions advertising festival may have honored the ‘best’ advertising from around the world, but the truth is that not all the best campaigns from India manage to win global accolades. What they do win are consumers’ hearts and wallets. Here are 10 ads that deserve a place in advertising history during Covid times, slashed budgets and production challenges notwithstanding.

Facebook | More Together | Pooja Didi

It was arguably the most challenging Diwali ever, as illusions of a return to normalcy kept getting shattered. The inevitable economic trickle-down of gloom was captured in this story from Facebook, as was the message of hope. While celebrating a large-hearted young employer in testing times, the film by Taproot Dentsu highlighted how we can do ‘More Together’.


The social media giant followed this up with another moving film for Eid, also rooted in the Covid context. With it, Facebook India has emerged as a festive advertiser to look up to, joining the likes of Petronas Malaysia.

Dove | #StopTheBeautyTest


From body shaming to skin colour biases, there’s a lot that happens in the Indian matrimony space and is unabashedly accepted as the norm. Dove once again questioned these ‘norms’ and underlined its ‘Real Beauty’ stance with this campaign by Ogilvy, a powerful adaptation of its global stance for the Indian market.

Bhima Jewellery | Pure As Love


From Brooke Bond to Bhima Jewellery, transgender individuals have become a familiar feature in Indian advertising in recent years. Yet this one (by Animal) from the Kerala jeweller stands out. A traditional category like jewellery would have fought a hundred internal battles before going ahead with this celebration – of the acceptance of a transgender girl’s identity by her family and celebrating her as a bride.

Horlicks | Tum Kab Itne Bade Ho Gaye


The brand took a brave turn from spelling out product benefits. In the ad by FCB India, a young girl changes a flat tyre at night while traveling with her mother and younger sibling. She’s seen her father do it, she reveals, while her proud mother looks on. This is storytelling that can elevate advertising in the category.

Savlon | #NoHandUnwashed


When every brand was trying to tell us to wash and sanitise our hands (and how), Savlon stood out with this gem by Ogilvy. The message was that if an artist without arms who paints with her legs can sanitise her limbs, you should too.

Cadbury Silk | #HowFarWillYouGoForLove?


In 2020, Cadbury raised the Indian advertising bar yet again. This campaign by Ogilvy started with a Valentine’s Day spot in the woods, before another film masterclass celebrated young love. Both the films visualised brilliantly how far someone could go for their special someone. A concerted effort in crafting every element of the films including the signature soundtrack makes these hard to outdo, even for Cadbury.

Unacademy | #TeachThemYoung | Know When She Needs You


Online education as a category is among the largest advertisers today. There are multiple brands in the fray. Making this powerful statement ahead of Women’s Day, Unacademy underlined the need to unlearn some ingrained beliefs with this ad by Lowe Lintas. And #TeachThemYoung.

Tanishq Ekatvam | The Beauty Of Oneness


This was unfortunately pulled by the brand. But it must be celebrated as a piece of work (the film is by What's Your Problem) that moved the needle. It came from Tanishq, which has consistently done just that. In this case, a muslim household organises a godh barai for their Hindu daughter-in-law. For a range called ‘Ekatvam’, a religious ceremony that transcended boundaries of faiths was spot on.

Tinder India | #InOurOwnWay


Online dating has well and truly come out of the closet. Within the category, this film by BBH India featuring an original soundtrack by Raja Kumari is a vibrant portrait capturing the individuality of the young and their choices. Tinder promises to be their enabler while they do their thing, in their own way.

CRED | Almost Unbelievable | Great For The Good


For cutting through the clutter time and again in its quest to cement its place in a nascent category, CRED deserves a place on this list. Whoever thought Rahul Dravid could lose his temper or Venkatesh Prasad could sing in a boy band? It happens only in advertising. These films were written by Tanmay Bhat, Devaiah Bopanna, Puneet Chadha, Nupur Pai, Vishal Dayama; and executed by DDB Mudra, 22Feet Tribal Worldwide.

The author is an independent content consultant and Founder and Curator of

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