Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Samsung just achieved something remarkable. Did anyone notice?

In a difficult market, with Apple often thought of as the one and only, Samsung managed to be exceptionally effective. At least that's what experts say.

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A winner?

Screenshot by ZDNet

Whichever your gadget brand proclivities, you're likely suffering from extreme excitement.

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On Tuesday, Apple spring-loaded another event, out of which popped all sorts of, well, colors.

On April 28, Samsung will unpack its own pulsating event. There, so rumor has it, Samsung will unveil a new laptop so powerful that it could shoot an iPad Pro 50ft into the air.

To warm you up for this no doubt seminal occasion, I'd like to salute Samsung for a rare achievement, one that might otherwise go unremarked.

Data insights company Kantar, in an act of distinct conscientiousness, analyzed more than 10,000 ads from last year -- from all over the world -- to see which, according to consumers, was the most effective. With respect to both short-term and long-term ROI.

Could the pandemic have affected the way people view advertising? Well, Kantar explained: "2020 was a year like no other, and our work showed that people wanted advertising to continue, as it provided a sense of normality at a time of 24-hour COVID-19 news cycles."

People didn't want advertising to stop? Not even on YouTube? Not even when they're watching live sports and the same ad comes on for the thirteenth time?

Pulsatingly, out of these more than 10,000 ads, a Samsung oeuvre came roaring in at No. 5.

Yes, the top 4 were produced by Heineken, Bosch, Burger King, and something called SheaMoisture. But can you imagine which Samsung ad moved humans quite this much?

No, it wasn't for a phone or a laptop.

It was an ad for Galaxy Buds Live, in which parents were encouraged to buy the Buds to make up for their kids not being able to go to concerts and scream during those concerts.

I confess I missed this ad. I suspect many others did too, as, at the time of writing, it's only scraped 341,000 YouTube views since November.

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By contrast, Apple's last AirPods Pro ad, launched just a month ago, has amassed 8.5 million views.

But that's the thing about ads, sometimes you really don't know which ones might be successful -- or how that success is even to be judged.

When it comes to Apple, for example, the company gets so much advertising through the media that its actual ads are almost add-ons to the main event.

Still, surely the most delightful thing about this clichè-adjacent Galaxy Buds Live ad is the little brother in the background turning the lights on and off. Perhaps he is the one who elevated the whole thing to the podium.

Kantar pointed up another moving element to many of the 2020 ads. It seems that the pandemic engendered a lot of so-called sadvertising, as companies tried to show they had a purpose that was somehow more exalted than mere selling.

I wonder who, between Apple and Samsung, will have made their acolytes happier when their respective purposeful events are done.