As December is well underway (how is there only one week until Christmas?!), I invite you to join me on a look-back on the year that has been 2020. It’s safe to say (and I think we can all agree), that it will be one we never forget!

Whether our days were spent in isolation, working from the comfort of our own home, or binging Netflix all-day in our trackies, we – and our creative minds – adapted to the ‘new normal’. While there were some seriously good ‘light-bulb’ moments in the marketing world of COVID-19, others prompted some big question marks. Let’s rewind and see the top marketing hits and misses of 2020!

Heineken’s “Socialise Responsibly” Campaign – HIT

Accompanying the global closing of bars was the devastating reduction in socialising. As people generally stayed home, friends proceeded to catch up for drinks, or hosting trivia nights via Zoom, so Heineken announced their “Socialise Responsibly” campaign. With the release of three separate advertisements – ‘Ode to Close’, ‘Socialise Responsibly’ and ‘Back to the Bars’, the campaign followed the flow and laws of the pandemic as hand-holding, hugs and hi-fives went on pause.

Boosting serious feelings of togetherness, the campaign was successful in bringing people together online with a Heineken, and emphasised the importance of social distancing when returning to bars.

Have a watch of their last release here:  

Domino’s “Calling Nice Karens” Campaign – MISS

Domino’s New Zealand decided to align with recent, yet controversial, interest in the name ‘Karen’, calling all ‘nice’ Karen’s to write in and explain why they weren’t a ‘bad’ Karen, to be rewarded with a  free pizza.

The campaign was instantly met with backlash.  More recently, the ‘Karen’ name had been used to negatively describe racist or obnoxious middle-aged white women, and some consumers said it was ignoring important issues at hand, like providing free pizzas to those needing food most.

Domino’s NZ claimed responsibility by saying they were wanting to bring smiles to the Karen’s doing the right thing throughout the pandemic – “Karen the nurse, Karen the teacher, Karen the mum.” (BBC). The campaign might have been better if, during COVID-19, they gave free pizzas to health workers or those who had been seriously struggling.


IKEA’s “The Hare” Campaign – HIT

In a year where a lot of society is extremely stressed or sleep-deprived, IKEA revealed their “Hare” campaign, in an attempt to highlight the extreme benefits of sleep, and to place their bedding and furniture as the saviour to many sleepless nights.

As the ad celebrated the idea that, the more you sleep, the more you get out of life, IKEA brilliantly recreated Aesop’s famous ‘hare and tortoise’ fable, where the night before the race the tortoise sensibly gets lots of sleep in his tidy and fancy IKEA room, ready to take on the next day after his excellent sleep on his IKEA bed.

Contrastingly, the hare is seen to ‘party all night’ and play video games in the early hours of the morning, waking up late and dishevelled for the race.  The campaign also involved a series of posters that compared it to products like coffee, vitamins, and energy drinks that promise the same result but rarely deliver, placing IKEA sleeping products at the forefront.

Watch it here:

McDonald’s Separates its Arches for COVID – MISS

McDonald’s Brazil shared a minimalist advertisement in the height of COVID-19, where its famous golden arches had separated in an attempt to highlight the importance and necessity in social distancing. The marketing move was hoping to globally unite citizens as we were “separated for a moment, so that we can always be together.”

The famous food chain was immediately hit with backlash – as citizens responded to McDonald’s claiming they were “award-desperate”, and that instead of actually doing something or paying their workers “a living wage” they were just after a bit of social clout. Whoops!

It is pretty obvious why this year’s famous marketing moves were pandemic-central, and that the world’s creative brains were going crazy. Let’s hope we see some more amazing hits in 2021!

By Agent Netia

Agent99 is an award-winning PR and communications agency based in Sydney. For more information about our services, contact us at