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The Weirdest Year of Our Lives: A Retrospective

Bridget Johnston June 30, 2021

It’s been a weird 18 months. You’ll always remember it. 

Our creative minds have been shaped by it, especially. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, shifts in news and pop culture impacted how we think about creative marketing. 

Pattern89 has the world’s largest digital marketing data set. By studying its contents across the last 18 months, artificial intelligence determined how shifts in pandemic-related news and pop culture showed up in digital advertising. 

Let’s take a deep dive into the weirdest year of our lives, and see what exactly advertisers were doing with creative. 

You can view the full interactive timeline here.

Quick Hits: The Pandemic’s Marketing Creative Evolution

With the pandemic (and quarantine) spanning well over a year, our lifestyles shifted dramatically on several occasions. Through these events, we immediately saw their effects on digital advertising creative. 

Just before COVID-19 cases started spreading rapidly in the US for example, advertisers were still using imagery that included mouths, smiles and general human connection– such as hugging and hand holding. 

Soon though, on the day Tom Hanks posted that he contracted the virus, human connection imagery dropped by 30% in just 24 hours. Creative marketing media was reflecting our situation in real time. 

Marketers still aren’t showing smiles and mouths in ads as much as they were pre-pandemic.

Internet culture also shaped marketing creative trends. As people stayed home, masked up and binge watched, we saw those habits appear in ads.

  • In March 2020, the use of ad imagery displaying crowds dropped a whopping 54%.
  • As people tuned into Netflix’s Tiger King, cat imagery CPC spiked 276%.
  • When Tik Tok reached 2 billion downloads, images of iPhones in ads were 2,853% more popular than they were the previous year. 
  • As vaccines began to roll out and people began to date again, we saw “kissing” imagery in advertising rise 253% in popularity. 
  • Even the word “UFO” went up 157% in ad copywriting when the US government acknowledged their existence.

Hey, all you cool cats and kittens that are still reading!

What Do These Micro-Trends Mean? 

By observing marketing trend shifts in real-time, AI tells us a ton of information about trends and how consumers respond to them. Embracing data to direct creative decision making helped some brands and agencies keep pace with the creative marketing evolution.

No matter the latest news, meme or trend cycle, artificial intelligence will answer: 

  • What creative is popular right now? 
  • Which imagery and video content should my brand embrace? 
  • What trends in creative and copywriting should be avoided?
  • And how will the latest creative trends impact my future ad costs? 

Artificial intelligence analyzes over 500 billion digital marketing data points every single day, and has the latest and most thorough knowledge of how ad culture is shifting… and how those creative shifts will impact your brand in the future. 

You can get a look at the hottest future trends in the latest Creative Forecast report. 

You can also try Pattern89’s predictive AI. Discover the best-performing creative decisions for your campaigns, by scheduling a demo.