Best in Class: Brand Activations & PR Campaigns

PH Best In Class
Tegan Reyes

With so much that has happened in 2020, it’s hard to compile all of the best brand activations and campaigns into one short list. But since it’s impossible to end the year without the requisite recap listicle, we’ll give it our best shot.

Leveraging celebrity partners, nostalgia, and the desire for community and connection, these brands inserted themselves into the cultural conversation this year around everything from the pandemic, to social justice issues to the holidays.

Below we’ve rounded up the top five picks that caught our eye during this hectic newscycle.

Travel Through Time

Due to the stress of the pandemic, many people turned to childhood obsessions to provide a distraction (we can’t be the only ones who binged all of The OC in three weeks). Tapping into this resurgence of nostalgia, Airbnb announced a slate of new rentals featuring iconic locations like the world’s last Blockbuster, The Bachelor mansion (Chris Harrison not included) and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air house to remind consumers of the joys vacation and travel once brought them as well as drive significant press attention across a variety of verticals.

Juneteenth Block Party

In response to President Trump’s planned rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth, the city came together to reclaim the spirit of the weekend and produce a virtual block party. Led by the Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts & Culture and in collaboration with local organizations like The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission and the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, the event included appearances from Sen. Kamala Harris, actress Alfre Woodard, Watchmen creator Damon Lindelof, actress and activist Sophia Bush, NBA player Russell Westbrook and more. The event received national and local coverage and more importantly, honored the history and legacy of Black Wall Street.

Animal Crossing Is The New Catwalk

Spurred by the amount of time people were spending indoors due to the pandemic, gaming rose in popularity this year, particularly Animal Crossing: New Horizons (which is credited with contributing to the Nintendo Switch selling out in spring). And with many designers unable to showcase designs IRL this year, the buzzed about game became an unexpected fashion hub. Designers like Valentino, Anna Sui, and Sandy Liang all created custom outfits for the game, and Berlin-based fashion organization Reference Festival even created a virtual fashion show of Animal Crossing avatars in the season’s latest looks. These collaborations allowed both the game and fashion brands to reach new audiences, with stories in fashion outlets like Vogue, ELLE, Nylon as well as tech outlets like Engadget and Polygon.

With A Little Help From My Friends

Since the start of the pandemic, brands and organizations have capitalized on our desire for comfort and nostalgia (see the above Airbnb experiences) by coordinating cast reunions and table reads of some of our favorite shows and movies like The West Wing, Veep, and It’s A Wonderful Life. One table read in particular caught our attention: Gabrielle Union’s Friends episode reading benefiting Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote initiative. The reading was part of an event series from Zoom Where It Happens which mobilizes voters and amplifies voting rights (they also organized a table reading of Golden Girls hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross). Tapping into the current conversation around representation in Hollywood, voting rights, and the delayed Friends reunion, this table read received significant coverage from a variety of outlets including Essence, Harper’s Bazaar, People, USA Today and more.

The Skeleton King

This spooky season, almost every corner of the internet was talking about Home Depot’s $300 12-foot skeleton. With costume parties, haunted houses, and trick-or-treating canceled this year, Home Depot capitalized on our need to still celebrate Halloween as well as the absurdity of 2020 by creating the macabre monstrosity. The buzz around the giant skeleton first started on social media (so many memes!) and then gained press attention with coverage in outlets like Apartment Therapy, PopSugar and INSIDER, causing the giant skeleton to sell out before it even hit October. While Halloween is long over, don’t expect the excitement to die down anytime soon - people are now turning their skeleton’s into Christmas displays.

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