2019 in Advertising: from Chicken to Controversy

Advertising is constantly influencing culture and the way our society perceives things. While many ads fade away without much notice, 2019 had several standouts. These moments in advertising ignited conversations, changed behaviors, even started wars (that is, the chicken sandwich type). Here’s our roundup of the top moments in advertising in 2019.

5. Sustainability was front and center

This year, sustainability was a hotter topic than ever, and many brands jumped onto the initiative to help clean up the planet. Campaigns against single-use plastic were everywhere, and many brands came out with their own sustainability plans for the coming years. Nike came out with a line of sustainable footwear. And Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger products started popping up everywhere, including major chains like Burger King and Dunkin’.

4. South Dakota told the world about their meth problem

South Dakota had a message to spread: “Meth. We’re On It”. The campaign was widely mocked, one of the reasons being the ironic double meaning behind the tagline. However, “Meth. We’re On It” succeeded in bringing national attention to South Dakota’s critical meth problem, one that the South Dakota government says affects every person in the state

3. Popeyes started a war

Few product launches have been as dramatic as the Great Chicken Sandwich War of 2019. Popeyes’ new chicken sandwich was so unexpectedly popular, the sandwiches immediately sold out. The key to Popeyes success was their strategic positioning against Chick-Fil-A, causing hordes of people to see which sandwich was actually the best. Tag’s verdict on Popeyes chicken sandwich: 8/10. It’s delicious, but at the end of the day it’s still a $4 chicken sandwich.

2. Peloton missed the mark

Peloton’s commercial was so poorly received, it went viral (in a bad way) and the brand’s stock immediately tanked. Depending on who you talk to, the ad didn’t work for a number of problems: some said that a husband buying his model-thin wife an exercise bike was sexist, some were concerned about the actress’s painful expression, some were just confused about the whole thing. Overall, the ad was a weak attempt at showing a women’s fitness journey, and came across as very out-of-touch with reality.


1. Gillette challenged toxic masculinity

Gillette caused a massive uproar with their commercial, The Best Men Can Be. The ad challenged Gillette’s long-running tagline “the best a man can get”, and brought up important discussion points about how we treat toxic masculinity. However, it missed the mark with a huge part of its audience. While many people supported the message, many male customers felt hurt or disrespected by the ad. Unlike the Peloton ad, which was mostly criticized, Gillette ignited a major amount of controversy and got people talking about what actually is the best a man can get.