January 7th, 2021

Ace Metrix Year in Review: 2020’s Stand Out Ads


Ace Metrix

With the whirlwind that was 2020 officially in the rearview mirror, Ace Metrix has rounded up some of the best creative work from this last year.

The top performing ads span a variety of topics unique to “two-zero-two-zero” – from humor making its comeback during Super Bowl 54 to the reverberations of COVID-19 and the impact it’s had on just about everything (like commercial production). With nearly 9,000 ads analyzed in 2020, the following spots distinguished themselves by achieving the highest scores on their respective metrics.

The Most Empowering Ads

Measuring positive Cultural Perception, our Empower score indicates when an ad’s purpose-driven message inspires, encourages or motivates viewers. Historically, only 12.5% of all ads have scored on Empower. That rate skyrocketed in 2020. Viewers found 24% of last year’s ads Empowering.

Purpose, i.e. taking a social stance, came naturally to brands during the pandemic, and the universal impact of COVID-19 meant most, if not all, of the viewers could connect with those efforts. This last year was tough for many people, leading the best brands to step up to the plate and walk the walk. Among the most empowering, common themes emerged: messages of support and partnering with organizations across the country, regardless of whether these initiatives were COVID related or otherwise.

Despite the influx of Empowering ads after the pandemic hit, the top scoring  ad was not COVID-related at all. Instead, T-Mobile’s “MLB Little League Grant” emphasized its philanthropic initiatives, donating up to $1 million in support of Little Leaguer’s across the nation.

All of the ads recognized below scored in the highest band of Empower signal, “Extreme,” achieving levels on par with the top 0.08% of ads. According to viewers, each one clearly stood out from all the purpose-driven ads in 2020:

Brand Air Date Length Ad Title
T-Mobile 10/7/20 0:30 MLB Little League Grant
Frito-Lay 4/9/20 1:00 It’s About People
Dick’s Sporting Goods 12/1/20 0:30 Co-Op City Tennis
Tide 9/14/20 0:30 Uplifting Hopes
Wells Fargo 8/24/20 0:30 Unthinkable
Verizon 3/23/20 0:30 Pay it Forward
T-Mobile 10/19/20 0:30 MLB Little League Grant: World Series
PGA Tour 1/29/20 0:30 Great Moments
Mercedes-Benz 5/11/20 1:00 Be The Best
Wells Fargo 9/17/20 1:00 Play Your Part
Walmart 12/23/20 0:30 Fight Hunger

Check out more Empowering ad insights, here.

The Funniest Ads of 2020

From Super Bowl LIV spots jam packed with hilarious celebrities to ads that crack jokes about the overall state of 2020, this list is bound to make anyone chuckle. Rankings were determined by our Funny metric, which quantifies the level of humor in ads based on viewer verbatim comments using NLP and machine learning techniques.

Early on in 2020, the state of humor in the Super Bowl rebounded. In fact, five of the year’s funniest ads were from game day, bucking a downward Big Game trend.

Once the pandemic hit, brands shied away from riskier, humorous creative work (and focused on empowering ads). As a result, we measured a drop in funny ads and weren’t sure if we’d ever reach those previous levels of humor. That is, until Snickers came along and shattered expectations. The brand’s riff on Zoom meetings scored into the Rare band of Funny signal, an impressive feat achieved by just 0.12% of all ads.

Although humor didn’t make a full bounce back, with 20% of all ads firing on Funny in 2020 vs. 25% in 2019, the year ended on a high note with two of the funniest ads breaking in the last two months (from Greenies & Match):

Rank Brand Air Date Length Ad Title Funny Score
1 Snickers 8/9/20 0:15 First Visitors 9
2 Cheetos 2/2/20 0:30 Can’t Touch This 8.4
3 Match 12/2/20 1:30 Match Made in Hell 8.2
4 Little Caesars 1/28/20 1:00 Best Thing Since Sliced Bread 8.1
5 Doritos 2/2/20 1:00 The Cool Ranch 8
6 Greenies 11/22/20 0:15 Better Treat 7.9
7 Michelob Ultra 2/2/20 1:00 Jimmy Works It Out 7.5
8 Reese’s 2/2/20 0:30 Rock 7.5
9 Wonderful Pistachios 2/15/20 0:15 Say No 7.5
10 Twix 1/26/20 0:30 In Case of Emergency 7.5
*Breakthrough used as tie-breaker for 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th

Check out more Funny ad insights here.

Ads That Broke Through 2020 Clutter

The top Breakthrough ads are those that scored highest on our Attention and Likeability components compared to the average ad in their respective categories.  Taking 2020 category norms into consideration was important when evaluating all ads across industries as some brands benefit from inherently Attention-grabbing and Likeable products (eg. QSR vs. Life Insurance brands).

Capital One’s “Instant Search” — 2020’s top Breakthrough ad — is a perfect example of this, where Breakthrough scores for the Banking category trail all-categories on average. Impressively, Capital One’s “Instant Search” significantly outperformed the Banking category Breakthrough norm (+34%) and the average ad in 2020 (+27%).

Rank Brand Air Date Length Ad Title Breakthrough Score
1 Capital One 11/20/20 1:00 Instant Search +199
2 Google 3/31/20 1:00 Thank You Healthcare Workers +190
3 Budweiser 5/22/20 1:20 Take Two Minutes +189
4 Budweiser 7/7/20 1:00 Reunited With Buds +183
5 Kohl’s 10/30/20 1:30 Give With All Your Heart +181
6 Petsmart 6/7/20 0:30 The Promise +179
Lego 9/20/20 0:30 Game On +178
8 (tie) Truist 8/13/20 0:30 Meet Sam +176


Petsmart 9/13/20 0:30 Make A Friend +176
9 (tie) Jeep 2/2/20 1:00 Groundhog Day +169
9 (tie) Hyundai 2/2/20 1:00 Smaht Pahk +169
10 Dick’s Sporting Goods 3/31/20 1:00 Long Live Sport +166

Note: +/- 25 points is statistically significant

Check out more Breakthrough ad insights, here.

As we head into 2021, it will be interesting to see how brands approach a world that is very much still in pandemic-mode, yet is also pandemic fatigued. We anticipate even more light-hearted spots in this year’s Super Bowl, ads that focus on nostalgic things we miss and will continue to see motivating and inspiring content from brands putting out purpose-driven, hopeful, post-pandemic messaging.



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