George Floyd: A look back at the best ads

(Nike was one of many brands responding to George Floyd’s killing)

It was one year ago today that George Floyd was viciously and callously murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin who held his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes. For three of those minutes, Floyd was unconscious. His final words of “I can’t breathe” become ignited a global movement demanding racial justice.

Since then, a jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd’s death in May 2020.

Floyd’s death sparked a worldwide racial reckoning via countless demonstrations and reactions from brands. According to AdAge, more than 80 different ads appeared on TV with messaging around social justice or Black Lives Matter, with 30 of those ads appearing in 2021, according to TV analytics platform Ace Metrix. Of course, even more, appeared across social and digital channels

Today, for Reel Ad of the Week, we have decided to take a look back at the best of those ads:


In response to Floyd’s murder, McDonald’s released a powerful :60-second ad created by AOR Wieden + Kennedy New York that directly paid tribute to seven Black Americans killed by police or shot to death while unarmed: Trayvon Martin, Michael BroI Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Ahmaud Arbery and Floyd.

McDonald’s posted the ad on its social platforms and announced it will be donating $1 million to the National Urban League and the NAACP.

Upon release of the ad, the fast food giant did face criticism from employees and those outside of the organization for for being “hypocritical.”  The brand is also facing a $10 billion discrimination lawsuit from media mogul Bryon Allen who claims McDonald’s has discriminated against Black-owned media.


Speaking of Nike, the brand via Wieden+Kennedy released a twist on the the brand’s classic slogan, “Just Do It,” by calling on people to “For Once, Don’t Do It.”

Nike released the ad as people in cities across America took to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd, who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.

The video has been viewed more than 16 million times on Instagram, 8 million on Twitter and 1.2 million times on YouTube. The campaign still saw its fair share of criticism, with some commenting that the brand was taking advantage of the situation. 

Nike then made a $40 million commitment over the next four years towards organizations that support social justice.

Beats by Dre

Starring Naomi Osaka, Lil Baby, Bubba Wallace, and Janaya Khan and narrated by Tobe Nwigwe, the emotional spot unpacked the question, “You love Black culture, but do you love me?”

Defiantly directed by Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim) the winning film contrasts the ways in which black music, style and culture are depicted within society against everyday experiences of inequality and racism.

“Love me or not, we love each other deeply,” artist Tobe Nwigwe declares alongside clips of black families and communities, highlighting the joy experienced by black people in spite of their unique experiences of oppression.

By highlighting the everyday beauty and rich diversity of their culture, the spot inspires and unifies not only Black youth but every race.

Since its release, the spot has been viewed by over 22 million people on YouTube.

RELATED: George Floyd: 1 year later brands grapple with diversity


Being white in America is not needing to state your life matters,” striking Procter & Gamble spot read. “And when your life matters, you have power. Now is the time to use it.” The Cincinnati-based brand released a powerful spot, called “The Choice.” Targeted at White America, the 1:15 ad asked them to use their privilege to actively fight racism and become an “Anti-racist.”

Released last June as a joint venture between Grey NY and Cartwright, Keith Cartwright’s newly formed WPP agency, the creative debuted on the Oprah-hosted CBS special Where Do We Go From Here that focuses on the civil unrest that’s emerged following the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

DDB, San Francisco

Taking inspiration from the powerful murals addressing needless Black deaths at the hands of law enforcement, a creative team at DDB San Francisco, Don Lee and copywriter Cody Turk, turned “Black Lives Matter” lettering into a font.

They also developed a website for the font where it can be downloaded and created an Instagram account.

AD Council

The Ad Council and R/GA launched a new PSA from the iconic Love Has No Labels campaign to inspire all Americans to fight for racial equality in America.

Building on the campaign’s longstanding effort to address bias, the film held a mirror to the simple acts of freedom often celebrated and taken for granted by non-Black Americans, revealing the stark contrast of those freedoms and the way Black people in this country endure systemic racism and injustice.

While the Reel 360 team believed this was a powerful anti-hate ad, our opinion was attacked countless times in the comments section by a group of racist readers. Yes, calling you out.

Those readers refused to acknowledge the concept behind the statement, “All Lives Can’t Matter, if Black Lives Don’t Matter.”

It’s truly a simple concept — If Black Lives Don’t Matter to Law Enforcement etc, then All Lives Do Not Matter. It means Black Lives have been excluded from the whole. Thus, All Lives Can’t Matter.

It shouldn’t have to be explained, but apparently we have to in some cases.

When Black lives actually do matter, when AAPI lives really count, when Brown lives are regarded as important, then and only then will ALL LIVES truly matter.

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1