Our Countries, Tis Of Thee: The Top 10 Nations of 2020

By Brett McKenzie on Jun 26, 2020

The One Show 2020's Top 10 countries and the work that got them on the list


They may be playful rivals the whole year through, but nothing unites a country's various agencies and studios quite like The One Show 2020! This is when every Pencil and Merit goes towards a nation's point total, forming the annual country rankings. And when ties are possible — as you'll see below — and some countries are separated by a handful of points, even a tiny independent shop can make the difference.

The domination of Burger King and "Moldy Whopper" really shook up this year's agency rankings, but it had less of an effect when it came to country position. True, it did catapult Romania far higher than usual, but as this examination of the 2020 Top 10 countries demonstrates, a single stellar campaign still has to work hard to stand out amongst the best advertising countries in the world.

Based on points assigned for Gold, Silver and Bronze Pencils, alongside Best of Disciplines, the Green Pencil, the SDG Pencil, the Penta Pencil and Best of Show, here are this year's top ten countries, including how they fared the year before, as well as a look at what helped get them to the top.

 

SEE COMPLETE 2020 COUNTRY RANKINGS

SEE IN-COUNTRY RANKINGS

 

#1. UNITED STATES

LAST YEAR: #1,

 

 

To the surprise of virtually nobody, the United States tops The One Show country rankings once again, scoring more points than the next six countries combined.

But there certainly is a lot to celebrate here, even if you look past this year’s big American winners. For instance, hidden among the multiple wins for hamburgers and anti-gun violence campaigns, Minneapolis’ Carmichael Lynch earned two Gold Pencils for its work for the Minnesota Twins; Mojo Supermarket won a Gold Pencil while breaking the Oscars; and adam&eveDDB went three levels of advertising inception deep with Ryan Reynolds and came back with their New York office’s first-ever Gold Pencil.

But Gold Pencils aren’t the only things that add points to a country’s score. Every win, all the way to Merits, all matter on the global stage. That’s where you’ll find Indianapolis shop Young & Laramore rebranding a distillery right alongside Brooklyn’s Movers+Shakers and their TikTok-ready cosmetics campaign.

So start chanting “USA! USA!” while honking your car horn with each letter, America. You’re number one and you deserve it.

 

SEE ALL UNITED STATES WINNERS

 

#2. CANADA

LAST YEAR: #6, +4

 

 

With three Best of Discipline wins under its belt, the Great White North finds itself in the #2 spot on The One Show 2020’s country ranking list — the highest position the nation has ever placed. And while Canada comes in riding a wave of success courtesy of some magnificent multiple Pencil-winning work from FCB and BBDO’s Toronto offices, there are a number of other Gold Pencil winners worthy of a deeper look, from the “why-didn’t-anyone-think-of-this?!” simplicity of Rethink’s Heinz ketchup bottle label, to a true labor of Apollo 11 love that landed its creator a job at NASA — as well as a spot in our Creative Month.

But just like their neighbors to the south, Gold Pencils only tell part of the Canadian story. We tip our hats to Saatchi & Saatchi, who celebrated the 100th anniversary of a truly revolting cough syrup; No Fixed Address, who placed an AirBnB rental inside one of the world's top children's hospitals; and TAXI, who introduced a penis-scented candle to highlight the gender wage gap. The One Show 2020 was also the last hurrah for Calgary-based WAX; the agency sadly shuttered its doors back in March.

So bravo, Canada, for placing #2 in the world — and on your nation's 153rd birthday week, too!

 

SEE ALL CANADA WINNERS

 

#3. GERMANY

LAST YEAR: #5, +2

 

 

Germany always does extremely well at The One Show — the country has fallen out of the Top 10 list only once in the past two decades — and 2020 is no exception, jumping up two spots from last year to the #3 position. Germany's consistently high scores generally come from a lot of different agencies all doing very good work, with no single agency dominating the field.

This is year was different.

Scholz & Friends rose above its compatriots this year, outscoring the next eight German agencies combined, with three Best of Discipline Pencils nestled comfortably inside a book of tampons. Beyond that runaway success, however, we witness the more level playing field we usually see, with Gold Pencil wins going to Kolle Rebbe's efforts to increase participation in E.U. elections; antoni garage's empowering story from Mercedes-Benz's history; and Serviceplan's rice-paper revelations. Jung von Matt also won two Gold Pencils, one of which was also a Best of Discipline of its own.

Beyond the Golds, Germany continued to impress this year. HEIMAT told a cautionary tale from a graffiti-strewn Berlin Wall; Innocean's Berlin office helped visualize Parkinson's disease; and BBDO rallied the country around both the national football team and gender equality.

We know we will see Germany on this list next year. The only question will be which of its many amazing agencies will lead the charge.

 

SEE ALL GERMANY WINNERS

 

#4. SWEDEN

LAST YEAR: #15, +11

 

 

The advertising star of the Nordic region, Sweden has never ranked below #15 on the global stage in the past decade. This year the country returns to the Top 10, thanks to INGO's involvement in the bulldozer otherwise known as "Moldy Whopper." But even if the Burger King behemoth didn't exist, Sweden would still retain its perennial Top 15 status, Both Forsman & Bodenfors and RBK Communication brought Best of Discipline honors back to Sverige, for sharing car collision data with the world and creating a climate-friendly credit card, respectively.

Beyond the Best of Disciplines, Sweden continued to shine. Perfect Fools broadcast a hockey-obsessed AI to help fans improve their betting odds; Åkestam Holst NOA helped manufacture drugs from pharma-polluted water; and Nord DDB powered the making of a music video with an electric car's power cell.

Sweden doesn't need a "Moldy Whopper" to stay competitive. It just helps a little.

 

SEE ALL SWEDEN WINNERS

 

#5. ROMANIA

LAST YEAR: #30, +25

 

 

Romania took the biggest jump on this list, moving up a whole 25 spots from last year to sit at #5 on the global rankings. And yes, this is due to the massive success of “Moldy Whopper” across three different countries. But as much as Publicis Bucharest deserves credit for moving Romania up the ranks, we wanted to highlight two other entries that also added to the score. First, there is Leo Burnett, who reinvented storytime for separated parents and children. Romania's other success comes from Cheil Centrade, who gave a voice to abused characters from cimema's silent era.

Congratulations to Publicis, Leo Burnett, and Cheil Centrade! We hope that your newfound spot on the global rankings inspires more amazing work from Romania next year.

Congratulations to Publicis, Leo Burnett, and Cheil Centrade! We hope that your newfound spot on the global rankings inspires more amazing work from Romania next year.

 

SEE ALL ROMANIA WINNERS

 

#6. UNITED KINGDOM

LAST YEAR: #2, -4

 

 

While no means a bad year — #6 in the world is nothing to sneeze at — 2020 has let a little air out of the United Kingdom balloon. After a 2019 that saw an incredible 23 Gold Pencils, four Best of Disciplines, and a Penta, this year limited the U.K. to only five Golds.

But the sun never sets on the British Empire, and as long as there's a sun, those Golds will glitter. On that note, congrats to FCB Inferno for reinventing how a niche print magazine functions in a digital age; Wunderman Thompson for "scripting" the beautiful game; McCann for envisioning video games as travelogues; and Ogilvy for inspiring me to pour out a G&T as I write this article.

Other impressive wins that make up the U.K. tally include Droga5's London office wondering what life was like before voice assistants; AMVBBDO making it cool to order water in a bar; and adam&eveDDB's longstanding tradition of holiday heartstring-tugging. Oh, and Superunion just so happened to bring home the elusive Green Pencil for its work with Notpla.

Not bad at all, now that you look at it.

 

SEE ALL UNITED KINGDOM WINNERS

 

#7. FRANCE

LAST YEAR: #3, -4

 

 

Like its cousins from across the English Channel, France also drops four spots from last year, but remains in the Top 10 — where they've been every year since 2012. BETC continues to create fantastic work for Lacoste, earning four of France's seven Gold Pencils, including three for this most cinematic of break-ups to make-ups. Other Golds include DDB's ingenious of "radio" advertising, and McCann quite literally taking the piss in the name of good canine health.

Outside of the Golds, other French agencies added to the country's impressive score, including CLM BBDO helping Snickers live its own tagline; Sid Lee's Paris office adding 11 herbs and spices to a Spotify playlist; and Romance's heartwarming story of a widower's trips to the supermarket. Speaking of supermarkets, Marcel's long-running "Black Supermarket" continues to rack up awards, this time earning one of The One Show's inaugural Sustainable Development Goals Pencils.

Even in seventh place, France shows why its agencies are some of the best in the world.

 

SEE ALL FRANCE WINNERS

 

#8. BRAZIL

LAST YEAR: #4, -4

 

 

While the Latin American giant is almost always Top 10 One Show winner — it has only missed the mark twice in the past two decades — Brazil's fortunes vary year after year. In 2020, it finds itself down four spots, and with only three Gold Pencils in its trophy case. Interestingly, one of those Golds wasn't for a traditional advertising agency, but rather the in-house creative studio of The Walt Disney Company Latin America, who crafted an ocean soundscape made entirely from discarded plastics. The other two Golds were bestowed upon AKQA for bringing transforming graffiti into sneaker shops.

Looking past the Golds, you can see where Brazil racked up enough points to keep them in the Top 10. There's DAVID's pyromaniacal Burger King promotion; there's AlmapBBDO's colorful invitation to a Brazilian summer; and there's Wieden+Kennedy building up women's soccer by tearing down girls' stereotypes. We'd also like to give a little shout out to Filadelfia, an agency based in Belo Horizonte who has earned a Merit with a beautifully animated tale on the importance of tact-checking. It's rare for us to receive Brazilian entries from beyond Sao Paulo, and if this is the kind of work coming out of Belo Horizonte, we can't wait to see more!

 

SEE ALL BRAZIL WINNERS

 

#8. CHINA

LAST YEAR: #16, +8

 

 

For the first time in five years, China returns to the Top 10, sliding in right alongside Brazil in a tie for eighth place. This year's big winner is Cheil, who brings home all five of the country's Gold Pencils — three for the whimsical illustrations of its Chupa-Chups campaign, and another two for making a game out of learning CPR.

Other eye-catching Chinese entries include Goodzilla's fashionable march from Denmark to China; the latest installment of Ogilvy's explosive fried chicken; and Oddity Studio's visual identity and packaging design for a cocktail mixer brand.

Welcome back to the Top 10, China! We hope you'll stay for a while.

 

SEE ALL CHINA WINNERS

 

#10. JAPAN

LAST YEAR: #8, -2

 

 

The Rising Sun has falling fortunes this year, coming in at the tenth spot, its lowest position in 16 years, and only nine points ahead of 11th place Israel. That said, sixteen straight years in the Top 10 is an awesome feat; only four other countries in the world have that kind of track record in this millennium.

Dentsu often leads our Japanese winners, and 2020 is no exception, with three Gold Pencils; two for a moving brand story of a Tokyo-based urban development company, and a third for the packaging design of one Japan's iconic sweet snacks. TBWA\HAKUHODO also claims a Gold Pencil for raising awareness of Paralympians by reimagining table tennis, while Grey earned one for its animated tale of the ivory trade.

An edible good luck charm? That certainly brought good luck to Geometry, in the form of three Pencils. Tokyu Agency created leaf-shaped incense to invoke old traditions, while Kontrapunkt Japan developed a new typeface for a renowned beauty brand.

Even in a less than perfect year, it's easy to see why Japan remains a Top 10 country on our list.

 

SEE ALL JAPAN WINNERS

 

 

SEE COMPLETE 2020 COUNTRY RANKINGS

SEE IN-COUNTRY RANKINGS

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