A unique ability to influence culture regardless of world circumstances gives advertisers a powerful role—at the height of the pandemic last year, brands got creative to set the tone for action on topics like social distancing and mask wearing. Summer 2020’s ads were marked by words of humble encouragement, solidarity in isolation, and nostalgia for simpler times. This year, the world has a lot to celebrate.
We’re noticing quite a different tone for Summer 2021’s ads—it seems brands are choosing to venture into a wilder, more colorful and carefree territory with ads like Diet Coke’s “Just Because” and Axe’s “The New Axe Effect.” Our team weighed in on their favorite ads of the season and what they could mean about post-pandemic culture. Here’s what we came up with:
It’s been a full year of brands and political ads talking about “concern.” If it’s not about what we should be afraid of, it’s about their support of our concerns. The world is craving relief. This embrace of joyful creativity and playfulness is restful—we’re being asked to experience something rather than forego experiences. It’s also an emotionally and physically safe way to let go. For many of us, being out and about still feels uncertain and we are very aware of those who are still in a precarious position. These provide all the exuberance with none of the calories—just like a Diet Coke.
Karla Jackson, Associate Creative Director
Culture thrives and grows during the most turbulent times. This happened in music and fashion in the 1970s following turbulent times, and now we’re seeing a big revival of those trends (including the music and fashion used in many of this season’s ads, like Diet Coke’s “Just Because”). We’re watching history repeat itself. There’s a celebration of the weird growing within post-pandemic culture, likely as an attempt to transport ourselves into a sillier, more carefree place.
Allison Mendoza, Jr. Project Manager
It was only a year ago that we were getting those awful COVID-19 ads that all had the same “we’re here…for you” message—boy, am I glad those days are behind us. I can’t wait to get more ads like Diet Coke and Axe’s that can just be entertaining for 60 seconds and be done. I honestly love them both. Diet Coke has Thundercat going for it, and Axe snuck in a few not-so-subtle dirty jokes. What’s not to love?
Bonus: I love that you can hear the audio of the original 80’s version of the “just for the taste of it – Diet Coke” ad playing in the background of the opening.
Spencer Watson, Jr. Graphic Designer
I love the way both of these campaigns hint at brighter times without explicitly stating what we’ve all been through or that we’re getting to the other side. I’m quite excited that fun, funky, lighthearted ads that make me scratch my head are back. It’s tough to pick a favorite. The Diet Coke ad made me want a Diet Coke and the Axe ad made me want a hotdog (and to add that track to my summer playlist). So from a marketer’s perspective, DC takes the cake.
Jesse Spear, Media & Content Marketing Strategist
We’ve seen such craziness in the last year that not much would surprise us at this point. Maybe these creative strategies were an attempt to do just that—surprise us and shock us back to a life that doesn’t revolve around pandemic stress.
Samara Anderson, VP of Sales & Marketing