The 5 Best Ads of Spring/Summer 2021

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You're watching the leaves fall. Shorts weather feels like a distant memory. And in zoom meetings and phone calls and casual meet-ups of all kinds, friends (and almost-friends) have started to ask if you're "doing Halloween this year."

Yup, fall's in the air.

But before you succumb completely to some sluggish hygge, stay with us – we're bringing back some summer fun by rounding up some of our favorite commercials from the first half of this year.

1. Oatly Wows Its Crowds

Good advertising often flirts with controversy.

And sometimes great advertising gives controversy a bear hug and a kiss on the lips.

This would be the latter.

Oatly (as the name would suggest) makes oat-based drinks. They're one of the top oat-based drink brands out there.

But Oatly knows that, for the most part, people tend not to think about oat-based drinks all that often.

Your typical ad in the category focuses on the product, pitches itself nicely, and is promptly forgotten about completely.

Enter controversy.

Here, Oatly's put together a deliberately low-key commercial showing Toni Petersson (its CEO) singing his heart out to a “Wow, no cow” tune (of his own making, we can only assume).

This is a classic example of a genius advert that can end up dividing the crowds. Yet, what remains true, is that the level of creativity and originality is pretty top-notch here.

Toni sings that Oatly is “milk made for humans” as he stands, alone, in a vast field sporting a t-shirt that reads “No artificial badness”. 

Simple, quirky, and super-short – whether or not you are embracing the dairy-free trend, we bet you that you have found yourself humming this tune in the shower, at least once. Sign of a good ad? Probably.

2. Kohl’s: Bloomin’ Marvelous! 

Kohl’s much-loved, feel-good ad to celebrate the beginning of the spring season (its sentiment score was over 87% positive, according to iSpot.tv) is a superb example of how simple, unadorned concepts and scenes can strike a chord in the hearts and minds of their audience.

The commercial shows a little girl playing on her front porch with a Kohl’s-branded box of chalk, until she decides to draw a hopscotch board right on the sidewalk. She steps back and sits on her doorstep, watching in amusement as people walk by and begin to take part in the game in a sort of irresistible, fun domino effect.

Even the seemingly grumpy mailman seems to be taken by it: after all, the sun is shining, spring is in the air, and it’s time to get outdoors and be all together. Hopeful, gleeful, and truly representative of the Kohl’s brand identity.

3. Apple Speaks to Our Souls

Comedy just works in the ad world. It's memorable. It's fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously.

Apple gets that. Ever since the iconic "Mac guy vs PC guy" campaigns of the early 2000s, Apple's been increasingly focusing on putting out content that doesn't always go for lofty idealism or gorgeous cinematography.

Here we have a good example. If you've watched this Apple commercial without bursting out laughing like a kid on a rollercoaster, then kudos to your poker face.

But not only is this ad funny (and it is funny)– it’s also relatable.

A young woman strolls down the street, brand spanking new iPhone 12 to her ear. All is well in the world.

Then (gasp!) she changes ears (presumably, to hear her confidant more clearly). Chaos strikes. Her phone slips...is about to fall! And in desperation, she goes for the catch.

But that’s not the end of it. The catching game goes on, and on, and on – because the woman doesn’t stop walking, and while she walks, she keeps bouncing her phone off of various parts of her body in a dramatically hysterical attempt to catch it.

And then, guess what? She drops it. Ouch. 

Surely, the phone is dead, right? Wrong. Because the whole purpose of the commercial is to prove how incredibly sturdy the iPhone 12’s ceramic shield is. And how absolutely comical (and useless) the woman’s attempts to catch its fall were.

4. Pepsi Pours a Healthy Dose of Post-Pandemic Optimism

Just by its title – The Mess We Miss – it was clear that Pepsi’s latest commercial was going to be something special. “The mess” simply refers to our normal, pre-pandemic lives: going to concerts, hugging people, eating from a free buffet.

Buoyed by the stirring of Tomorrow (from Annie on Broadway), the short starts with a simple statement: "We've been separated for so long." Pepsi proceeds to show us all the ordinary, mundane things we took for granted...before a pandemic you may have heard about wreaked havoc in our lives.

The idea is simple and universal: we can go back to all that – if we all “do our part” in protecting one another.

It’s hard to watch the entire commercial without feeling even a tiny bit moved by it. Yes, it might be cheesy at times, and it might even be portraying only the good bits of our pre-COVID realities, but it truly ends up being a celebration of “the mess we never thought we’d miss.”

We’ll raise our (Pepsi-filled, of course) glass to that.

5. Budweiser Keeps It Light(Hearted)

Last but not least, we could not miss including one of this year’s best Super Bowl adverts to our list. In our opinion, one of the absolute winners was Budweiser, with a commercial that articulated its own – and pretty funny – take on the pandemic.

Similar to the Pepsi advert, Budweiser’s also shows people engaged in all sorts of “normal”, pre-pandemic activities: riding a bike, being stuck in an office room with lots of people, going to a wedding.

Only, there’s something strange about all these moments of ordinary life: lemons. Huh? Yes, lemons are dropping from the sky. Hundreds of them, if not more.

They plummet like bullets shot from a giant lemon tree among the clouds, and splatter everywhere: on people’s heads as they cycle by, on office windows, even on a newly-married couple.

Then, the commercial takes us to the future, at a moment in time when a bunch of friends are chatting about how odd 2020 was – yes, it turns out that all those damn lemons were the thing that ruined 2020. And you know what they say, “When life gives you lemons…” drink a Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade. Or something like that.

A much-needed breath of fresh air that gives us a surreal and funny perspective over the horror show that 2020 has been.

The Takeaway

Spring and summer 2021 were packed with awesome adverts, and it was difficult to choose just five. In our top five, we felt like we had to include something that related to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, with two of the biggest drinks brands in the world offering us their take on the pandemic, and presenting their product as a comforting, relatable, and hopeful staple of an optimistic future where things will (might?) go back to normal.

Irony, in general, seemed to be the name of the game when it came to this year’s adverts. Both Oatly and Apple, in fact, have tapped into this emotion to promote their products, while also keeping the adverts themselves pretty basic in terms of special effects, editing, and storylines.

Perhaps, companies have realized that, now more than ever, consumers are expressing an urge to associate themselves with brands that feel fun, approachable, unfiltered, and that can give them a more rosy outlook over a future that has been feeling, for a while, pretty grey.

If that’s the case, then they have well and truly hit the spot. 

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