Brands, Creatives and Industries That Held TV Ad Attention This Summer

The summer of 2020 wasn’t normal in any respect, and the same can be said for TV programming and advertising. However, with a contentious presidential election coming up, calls for racial justice intensifying, a pandemic raging on and live sports returning by late July, there were plenty of reasons for audiences to tune in.

The selections below are Part 1 of our look back at the summer in TV attention. Today, we’re looking at the top brands, creatives and industries that kept viewers watching. Part 2 will focus on the top shows and networks.

(All data runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day — May 25-Sept. 7)

Brands that Brought Attention

Looking at brands that had at least 2 billion TV ad impressions over the summer, we can reveal those that kept audiences watching throughout.

  • Ads for insurance brand The General, with 3.6 billion impressions, were 11% higher than the norm in the insurance category in terms of attention — meaning viewers were more likely to watch The General ads all the way through (vs. interrupting ad play by changing the channel, pulling up the guide, fast-forwarding or turning off the TV).
  • Other than live sports, cable news networks have all seen increases in impression delivery, time spent and revenues. The non-stop news cycle of the pandemic and political rancor helped brands such as CarShield, which generated over 50% of its impressions from cable news, and performed 15% better than the norm in its category (against more than 3 billion impressions). 
  • Pharma brands HUMIRA and Trulicity (both 11% above the norm in the pharma cateory) delivered over 2.5 billion impressions each.
  • Attention for ads from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was 10% above the norm in the political category across over 3.6 billion impressions during his summer ad blitz.
  • GEICO had over 2 billion more impressions than the nearest competitor, and those ads scored attention 5% above the norm. 
  • Amazon, which grew its market valuation during the quarantine, has focused its TV spend  on its “Climate Pledge” and profiling employees spots. The retail giant has performed 6% above the attention norm in its category on 13.4 billion TV ad impressions.

Brands That Held Attention This Summer

Which Creatives Won Summer?

Insurance ads are a staple in the U.S. no matter the time of year, and that was true once again in the summer. Half of the 10 most-seen spots this past summer were from insurance companies, namely Allstate and Liberty Mutual. Additionally, 13 different spots were seen over 3 billion times.

Looking solely at spots that accumulated at least 1 billion impressions, here are five ads that stand out in iSpot’s Attention Index:

  • Hyundai: “Summer Is Here” (21% above the norm)
  • Honda: “Open & Ready: CR-V & HR-V” (21% above the norm)
  • American Home Shield: “All Good” (16% above the norm)
  • Progressive: “Sadsquatch” (12% above the norm)
  • Trulicity: “Power: Day of Work – $25 Savings” (11% above the norm)

As automakers flocked back to TV with the return of sports, summer sales ads were prevalent for many of the top brands. Carvana also got in on the act, with “Pioneers of 100% Online Car Buying” as a top performer by attention (9% above the norm). 

In DTC marketing, attention for’s “Color Your World” ad — which first appeared back in 2019 — was 8% above the norm. The spot also helped Chewy land in our ranking of the 40 most-seen brand ads on TV this summer, with over 2.1 billion impressions.

TV Ad Creatives That Won Summer

Industries That Keep People Tuned In

  • People apparently like to watch prepackaged food ads on TV — especially amid a pandemic when going out to eat is a tricky proposition. Ads for baking, salad dressings/sauces and soups, plus candy and gum, all kept folks from tuning out throughout the summer.
  • Meanwhile, products and services that pull heartstrings also do well. Baby food, dating sites and, of course, pets, all held attention well. In terms of sheer exposure, baby food in particular saw a huge 10x year-over-year increase in TV ad impressions compared to last summer.
  • People being home more also meant more leftovers and more trash. Attention for garbage and freezer bag ads was 3% above the norm, with those spots delivering over 2 billion impressions in the summer timeframe. 

Industries That Kept People Tuned Into Ads This Summer

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