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Most Viewed Video Ads: Back to School 2021
Sep 01, 2021

Most Viewed Video Ads: Back to School 2021


The Most Viewed Video Ads for Back to School 2021 are filled with upbeat music, activity, and an air of excitement, treating the start of the school year like it’s pre-2020. After the year(s) we’ve had, this throwback is much appreciated — by kids and parents alike.

Kids basking in the return to friends and opportunity to show off their new duds, and parents border-line ecstatic to finally get the kids out of the house. 

Compared to last year, when most students in the US and Canada were attending school virtually, it looks like the majority of kids, at least in the US, will be attending in-person classes. Biden’s top health and education officials are working to ensure all students attend in-person classes. Also, major cities like New York committed 100% to bring kids back to the classroom.

Retail forecasts anticipate the return to in-person classrooms will inspire customer exuberance and an increase in overall spending. The National Retail Foundation predicts a 13.5% growth in retail sales YoY, with back to school to carry a large portion of the spend. A recent study by Deloitte US forecasts back-to-school spending to hit the highest levels in recent years: $32.5 billion for K-12 students, or $612 per student, and $26.7 billion for college students, or $1,459 per student. 

Back to school ad spending 2021


According to eMarketer, US advertisers were looking to spend more on social media (44%) and Connected TV / OTT TV (39%) as part of their back-to-school campaigns and less on traditional advertising (print, TV, OOH).

All in all, this year is as close to a normal back-to-school season we’ve had since 2019, and brands seemed prime to take advantage.




Goodbye stay-at-home sweats, hello new year steeze

Apparel and shoes lead back to school spend

The start of a new school year has always been an important time for style seekers and after a year of gathering restrictions, this sentiment seems more important than ever. The top 10 Most Viewed Video Ads for Back to School 2021 in North America come from nine shoes / apparel retailers and one tech provider, including two Canadian companies — Walmart Canada and Freedom Mobile. This is very much in line with back-to-school spending predictions.

Product categories US shoppers anticipate spending the most on while back to school shopping 2021


In a study conducted by Sensormatic Solutions, 70% of US internet users anticipated spending most of their back to school budgets on clothing, followed by shoes (55%). 





*Top 10 Most Viewed Video Ads in North America for Back to School 2021


Rank Brand Campaign Name Views Release date
1 DSW Back to School 31,233,504 13-Jul
2 Dick’s Sporting Goods Welcome Back 22,280,027 14-Jul
3 Old Navy Back-to-School 2021 7,262,141 14-Jul
4 American Eagle Outfitters Future Together 4,191,045 27-Jul
5 Walmart Here We Go 2,801,473 5-Jul
6 Famous Footwear Epic Back to School 2,675,862 4-Jul
7 Walmart Back to school style for less 2,150,476 5-Aug
8 Freedom Mobile Locked Out 1,536,456 3-Aug
9 adidas Bad Bunny adidas Forum 1,219,083 10-Aug
10 OshKosh B’gosh Today is Someday 1,118,577 20-Jul


*Data collected by AcuityAds’ True Reach™ insights platform from July 4 – August 26, 2021


Let’s explore the running themes of the Most Viewed Video Ads: Back to School 2021 as we highlight some of our faves. 

Celebrate like it’s 1999 2019

Back to school and back to (somewhat) normal

We’re not sure if Tik Tok is to credit, but many brands used the rise of dance in popular culture to remind us that we have all the more reason to celebrate this year — a restored sense of normalcy and social interaction.  

Coming in at #3, Old Navy’s Back to School 2021 campaign shows choreographed youngsters changing outfits as they travel through different school settings, ending with the on-screen dialogue “Together again.”


Sneakerhead culture on the rise

Advertisers take advantage of a growing industry 

The global sneaker market is predicted to reach $120B USD by 2026, reflecting the importance of footwear in fashion. DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) held the number one spot in the Most Viewed Video Ads for Back to School 2021, but the focus on footwear from retailers that carried both apparel and shoes was obvious. We see this in Dick’s Sporting Sporting Goods Welcome Back campaign. 

Adidas used its back to school campaign to launch their Bad Bunny Back to School Forum Low sneaker. The product is specifically designed for school uniforms that insist on all-black shoes. The shoe design represents Bad Bunny’s own schooling experience and is meant to provide a solution for self-expression within the constraints of everyday uniforms. 


Style, but make is sensible 

Advertisers lead with promotions and limited-time offers  

While still celebrating, advertisers were mindful of the financial challenges had by many over the past year. Walmart and Famous Footwear targeted value-first consumers with campaigns that featured promotions and limited-time offers. 


Want to see more back to school ads? Check out illumin’s top picks for Back to School ads for 2022 as well as for 2023.


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About True Reach™ insights platform

Increase total views and time spent on your video campaigns without increasing advertising spend. Our proprietary True Reach technology harnesses all publicly available view data to track real-time performance and enable decision-making that optimizes your Share of Attention™.

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