Shreyas Kulkarni

From Facebook's tearjerker to Akshay Kumar's covid message to CRED's IPL hit, a round-up of the best ads of 2020...

... Methodology: a bunch of reporters who work at afaqs!, wrote about some of their favs! Enjoy our year-end special.

Call me biased, but advertisements are the blood on which brands run. Without the right amount, there’s something amiss; 2020 was the Beelzebub of amiss.

Before COVID-19 hit our shores, Bollywood star Salman Khan had become Pepsi’s brand ambassador and Maisie Williams, of 'Game of Thrones' fame, told us to “Let it go” in a Super Bowl commercial.

Then the pandemic struck. For a short while, we saw ads made from stock images and old footage… it’s what one could do at that time, but even then, some people excelled. As the year progressed, so did the nature of ads. From bold and optimistic, they turned cautious and reassuring. And now, we have started seeing shades of hope.

If there was a task to write the zeitgeist of advertising in 2020, who better to do it than the motley crew at afaqs!. All through the year, we watched, covered and dissected more ads than probably anyone else out there.

(L-R, column-wise: Abid Hussain Barlaskar, Aishwarya Ramesh, Ankita Madan, Shreyas Kulkarni, Abhinav Anand, Debashish Chakraborty, Ashwini Gangal, Priyanka Chanana, Ananya Pathak, Anirban Roy Choudhury)
(L-R, column-wise: Abid Hussain Barlaskar, Aishwarya Ramesh, Ankita Madan, Shreyas Kulkarni, Abhinav Anand, Debashish Chakraborty, Ashwini Gangal, Priyanka Chanana, Ananya Pathak, Anirban Roy Choudhury)

As the year comes to an end, each one of us has chosen two of our favourite ads and the reason behind choosing them. The devil, ladies and gentlemen, is in the details.


Abhinav Anand, Delhi

Honda – #Stayathome campaign

An ad that really caught my eye was Honda’s #Stayathome campaign. During the initial days of the COVID-induced lockdown, Honda came up with the idea of using a miniature car model to recreate the TVC on a smaller scale. The camera angles effectively disguised the car’s actual size to the very last shot, where the car door is closed using the index finger. The ad was not only innovative, but it also strictly adhered to the lockdown rules.

Coca-Cola – ‘Ummeedon waali dhoop’

Coca-Cola brought back its iconic ‘Ummeedon waali dhoop’ jingle in a new avatar. The original rendition was about celebrating a happy world. While the world was busy dealing with a pandemic this year, it was heartwarming to see the new version. Prasoon Joshi rewrote the lyrics to keep pace with the changing times.

Abid Hussain Barlaskar, Silchar, Assam

Facebook's ‘More Together’ campaign - Pooja Didi

Our readers spent an unusually huge amount of time on the short press release-based story on Facebook’s Diwali-themed ad about a local halwai in Amritsar, and for good reason.

This over seven-minute-long film crafted by Taproot Dentsu featured ‘Pooja Didi’ and her dairy shop. It is a story of her sacrifices and how she helped sustain many households by employing people who had recently lost their jobs due to the pandemic. These new employees of ‘Pooja Milk Centre’ came from diverse backgrounds, from a carpenter to a plumber.

While ‘resilience’ has turned into a COVID-era industry buzzword, I’m carrying forward a lesson in resilience from this film.

The Hindu’s ‘The Dumbest Creature On The Planet’ print campaign for World Wildlife Day

From Facebook's tearjerker to Akshay Kumar's covid message to CRED's IPL hit, a round-up of the best ads of 2020...

“The geniuses that put a vehicle on the red planet, a man on the faraway moon, and that plastic bag in the vast ocean. The same one that killed that stupid turtle.”

This sentence from the long-format print copy by Ogilvy’s Nikhil Narayanan was a whack on the head of anyone who’s got anything to do with using plastic bags. This shaming on the jacket of a major daily was good shaming.

‘Causevertising’ done right. Can we have more, please?

Ananya Pathak, Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh

Facebook – ‘More Together’ campaign

I remember watching the first one from the series ‘Holi’. My instant reaction was, ‘Wow’! I watched it over and over again. The reaction was, more or less, the same with every ad in this series that FB released.

Be it the girls starting their own funky jeans-saree combo business, the celebration of IPL matches, parents coming together to support each other, ‘Pooja Didi’ employing people who had lost their jobs, or the one where the jersey manufacturers get a bulk order. All the 11 ads were so heartfelt and well-crafted that I had a smile every time I watched a new one. Bravo!

Parachute Advansed – ‘Mere Baal Meri Jaan’

I loved the copy of this ad, which was beautifully written and executed. There wasn’t anything unique about it, but the voice-over and the copy struck a chord with me.

I thought the picturisation, the romanticism and the music was on point. I could be biased here. I love Hindi poetries, and have always been fond of ads like this and the likes of ‘Nauchandi Mela’ by Dabur Pudin Hara and ‘Raastey’ by Ford.

Ankita Madan, Ambala City, Haryana

Facebook's ‘More Together’ campaign - Pooja Didi

The ads in this campaign are stories of how people can brighten someone’s day by harnessing the power of their connections on the (Facebook) platform. ‘Pooja Didi’ was my favourite ad of the lot. It highlighted the real problems faced by many people during the pandemic-induced lockdowns.

Google Search

The ad begins on a funny note, with Punjabi grannies searching for a headphone online. It highlighted the fact that the app is extremely easy to use, and senior citizens in India are able to learn their e-commerce lessons quickly now.

Anirban Choudhury, Silchar, Assam

Government of India Covid caller tune and ad featuring Akshay Kumar

For most part of the year, the country was under lockdown. Keeping this in mind, the two advertisements that stood out for me were commissioned by the government.

In a heterogeneous country like ours, the usage of caller tune to explain COVID-19, and what must be done, was outstanding. Respiratory etiquettes are alien to most people in India. So, it was necessary to scream in people’s ears, asking them not to spit or sneeze without covering the face. The caller tune ad did exactly that. The usage of vernacular languages only added to its effectiveness. But mismatch of dialects and the inability to cater to different sensibilities in the same state did irk many people.

Gradually, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his think tank realised that people need to go back to work, despite COVID and lockdowns. And, that is when they went to filmmaker R. Balki and actor Akshay Kumar. 'Badalke Apna Byabhaar, Karein Corona Pe Waar' was all about nudging people to go back to their duties. A simple, yet strong ad about remaining safe and yet venturing out struck the right chord with people.

Aishwarya Ramesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Apple – The whole 'WFH' thing

Most of the world had to work from home (WFH) unexpectedly as countries went into lockdown, and adapting to it was one hell of a ride.

Apple’s ad, a work of art, prominently featured video calls and remote meetings. The products were integrated so flawlessly into the ad that as it played out, one ended up focusing more on the storytelling than the gadgets. It gave the viewers a feeling of solidarity as they realised that they're not alone in struggling to work from home.

Lifebuoy's 'Jhappi Pappi' ad

In the face of COVID, many brands turned to fear-mongering to sell their products. All of a sudden, physical touch became the villain, as people stayed far away from each other and wore masks.

However, this ad was a breath of fresh air in a world starved for physical expressions of affection. For a few moments, you could revel in the innocence of a child going through the journey of her little life, showering love on everyone.

Incidentally, I showed this ad to my elder sister, who was moved to tears. It struck a strong chord with her. She recounted how forming bonds via physical affection is the most natural language of love for children. The ad brought it out beautifully.

Ashwini Gangal, Mumbai, Maharashtra


I know I am joined by many as I applaud the six-film CRED campaign. I like it because it takes a pin and deflates the megalomaniacal concept of celebrity we Indians subscribe to. Looking bad, shedding vanity, letting the warts show, laughing at oneself, challenging one’s own myth… these are things Bollywood stars aren’t used to.

Hypnotised by the voice over artiste’s deep throated, two-word instruction – “Download Cred” – I actually downloaded the app. Then I got paranoid about data privacy and deleted it, but it’s my top ad campaign of 2020!

Oh, by the way, of the lot, the Govinda ad is my favourite.


From Facebook's tearjerker to Akshay Kumar's covid message to CRED's IPL hit, a round-up of the best ads of 2020...

Like I tweeted the other day, no guy has ever wooed me as much as Zomato has in 2020. Their relatively personalised e-mailers are as endearing as they are funny. I haven’t used Zomato since the pandemic broke (yes, I’m one of the ‘covid cuckoos’) and they’ve been trying their best to lure me back into their fold.

“You haven’t ordered in over eight months – ab thoda zyada nahi ho raha?” The copywriting is friendly, informal and reminiscent of Amul, in the way it reflects the goings on in the mad world around us.

While I’m still not going to order food online, I’m too entertained by their copywriting to unsubscribe to their mailers.

“Are you ‘dumpling’ us, Ashwini?” Yes, but no.

Debashish Chakraborty, Noida, Uttar Pradesh

Facebook's ‘More Together’ campaign - Pooja Didi

It is rare that you come across an over seven-minute-long commercial and don’t move on. I come from a generation that has the shortest attention span ever. But Facebook’s ‘Pooja Didi’ ad ensured that I stayed on, making me believe in the power of storytelling yet again.

In what has already been an emotional year, the ad touched on lockdown-induced issues (business slowdown, unemployment), and the power that a community holds to overcome any crisis.

While watching the ad at my workstation, I was joined by our beloved office boy Milan. Towards the end, we both knew that what we’d watched would stay on, even after the pandemic ends.

Nike – 'You Can't Stop Us'

The aesthetic shots of G.O.A.T players being god-like, the crowds going berserk and a motivating/inspiring storyline are enough to give you an instant adrenaline rush.

The ad had me hooked on to the screen like nothing else. In the ad, the screen was divided into two vertical halves and clips of sportsmen from across the world were played side by side – delivering the message of unity and how ‘You can’t stop sports. Because you can’t stop us.’

I was awestruck by the smooth transition, so a big kudos to the editors of this commercial.

P.S. – Restricted movements definitely lead to creative masterpieces, as this ad shows.

Priyanka Chanana, Delhi

Burger King India

My favourite 2020 ad campaign was done by Burger King India on actor Rahul Bose's banana bill controversy, when a 5-star hotel charged him Rs 442 for two bananas!

WhatsApp #ItsBetweenYou

WhatsApp tried to evaporate the distance between you and your loved ones. The ad showed that despite being away during lockdown, you can still have a conversation with the people you care about, anytime you want. And, you needn’t worry about privacy because WhatsApp is taking care of it.

Shreyas Kulkarni, Mumbai, Maharashtra

Tinder India’s #InOurOwnWay

I am a sucker for romance. There’s something incredibly beautiful about the ‘first date’, and I loved how Tinder India captured it. Matching someone may have a new definition now, than a decade ago, but the butterflies in the stomach feeling will never change.

IKEA’s ‘Ghost’

There is no excuse for domestic violence, none. IKEA’s ad brought to light the scary fact that for some people, their home isn’t the safest place, sadly. It’s not a place of love, comfort and warmth. Instead, it’s a place of hell and pain. We all need to acknowledge this fact more than ever.

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