There’s nothing like a big global event to get creatives fighting in a frenzy to come up with that one campaign – the one that gets everyone talking – or laughing – or crying. And most importantly these days, going viral. Oh, and putting a smile on the face of the brand manager as the sales come rolling in. Not to mention the accolades, awards and bonuses to boot.
From a World Cup comeback or a Wimbledon washout to a celebrity wedding or a royal birth, creatives thrive on the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon of a big newsworthy and sales-worthy event. It’s like a gift – a dream brief handed over on a golden plate with a big stash of cash to play with.
But what happens when that big event causes worldwide pain and suffering and an economic crisis like no other? What if that big event changes the way people work and play – and virtually puts a stop to travel and commuting making cinema and some outdoor and ambient advertising null and void overnight.
What do creative agencies do when there are no more location photo shoots or filming commercials in exotic far-away destinations? When clients cut budgets faced with an uncertain post COVID future, do creative teams stamp their feet and take their marker pens and Macs home? Do art directors bury their heads into safer, less emotive, less controversial stimuli?
You bet they don’t.
Although lockdown has produced some predictable, quick-fix, budget-busting ads featuring home videos and conf call montages and ads cobbled together from the archives of past glory, it has also delivered some brilliance. Some even worthy of Cannes Lions 2021 if lockdown limitations are lifted in time for the revered red-carpet creative awards.
Many creative teams have grasped the opportunity to produce campaigns with heart, spirit and empathy – and an undeniable dose of creative genius. Working from cluttered spare rooms or dining tables surrounded by screaming kids and unwashed laundry has undoubtedly brought out the best in our industry – and coming up with good ideas is what makes our industry great.
But some of the best work hasn’t even been big budget brand advertising or direct response integrated campaigns. It’s been half-price meals and clothes for key workers, free taxi rides and hotel accommodation near hospitals for exhausted NHS workers and charge waivers on overdrafts for people struggling to make ends meet. Just good ideas doing good.
A global pandemic may not the right time to sell your products, but it can be the right time to make your brand relatable. Consumers remember and feel. Consumers react and retaliate. Show the compassionate, human side of your big corporate machine and make customers remember you for the right reasons with ads that make them think, smile, laugh out loud, question, donate…or simply re-wind and re-watch.
As the world looks forward to life behind a face mask, we look back at some of the good stuff to come out of lockdown – proof that it takes more than COVID to crush creativity.
Women’s Aid – The Lockdown
While the nation followed the government’s advice to stay safe at home, Women’s Aid revealed ‘The Lockdown’. This chilling campaign pointed out that victims of domestic abuse were not ‘safe’ at all following these instructions – their abusers always have and always will ‘work from home’.
Lego – Be a hero
So charmingly on brand and on brief. By using a toy to communicate the power of ‘no play’ as the core message, this is a perfect example of how to turn exceptional circumstances into an exceptional ad.
L’Oréal – Home hair colour tutorials
Renowned for celebrity endorsements in glamourous settings with stylists, make-up artists and wind machines, L’Oréal really took a step backwards to go forwards with this one.
Eva Longoria and Holly Willoughby in their own homes doing their own roots is the most convincing ad they’ve ever produced. So simple. So sold out.
SEAT – Moving is what we do
SEAT has seamlessly developed it’s long established ‘Start moving’ brand message to ‘We’ll get you moving again’ when the time is right. The advert is a beautiful production combining nostalgia, fun, humour and relatable people and places.
KFC is back
This tongue in cheek ad uses images from its #RateMyKFC social media campaign where customers attempted to recreate their own KFC during quarantine with the earworm soundtrack ‘All by myself’ by Celine Dion.
The ad ends with KFC reassuring consumers that they will “take it from here”, ‘cleverly positioning them as THE original and best when it comes to fried chicken.
So while lots of brands are clumsily trying to be relevant and acclimatise to these uncertain times with contrived and cliched ways of saying ‘we’re all in in together’ and shoe-horning ‘new normal’ into every campaign, others are unprecedently standing out.
Now onto the toughest brief yet: find a vaccine.