Skip to main content

Insights and Intelligence

  • 06 May 2020
  • by Victoria Milne

Lay off the Covid clones

Last week, Mark Ritson wrote an article condemning the ‘Clichéd Wank’ that many brands have peddled out in the early COVID-19 era. His view is that they are a colossal waste of time and budget.

The article is good and makes some very intelligent, valid and funny observations. And lots and lots interesting theoretical points. And he is not the only marketeer that has embraced the brilliantly spliced video by Microsoft Sam and poured scorn upon these brands. (We’ve done it ourselves in our own agency).

I would like to present a slightly different lens on the wank that he so eloquently dismissed.

The simple fact that so many brands did such similar things says something about the genuine weirdness that we are living through. When was the last time you saw Ikea and Lexus releasing near identical adverts?

Maybe we should celebrate this anomalous time. Perhaps we could consider these adverts with a bit more kindness and open mindedness.

Here are 3 reasons that we should applaud rather than whine about them:

1. They are making adverts.

Last month’s Campaign predicted that there would be a 75% decline in advertising revenue in May. Thousands of members of the marketing community have been furloughed and freelancers are struggling to make a living. So it feels a bit churlish to criticise the brands who are making adverts and therefore keeping many agencies and their people in business.

Is it a waste of budget? Some of these brands have already made follow up adverts and will continue to communicate in more interesting and distinctive ways throughout the changing phases of this pandemic to attune with the mood of the nation. Budweiser having already updated the iconic Wassup adverts for lockdown life. So these initial adverts don’t seem to be instead of but as well as, ‘good’ work.

2. These were bang-on for the mood of the global public at that time

Anxiety is growing amongst consumers and many research studies tell us that they want reassurance and support messages at this time.

When a big brand does this, yes, of course it sounds like platitudes, but all of these adverts are ticking a lot of the boxes that so much research tells us we all want, including the research study that Mark himself quoted: Orlando Wood’s excellent and insightful report, ‘What should advertising look like in the time of recession?” Woods find adverts doing well during this time are the ones doing the following things:

  • Show human connection and ‘betweenness’, and exhibiting self-awareness;
  • Ads with a connection to place and community;
  • Ads set in the past.

These points read like the blueprint for the adverts in Microsoft Sam’s medley.

3. They were born out of true and consistent consumer insights

How do you find a unique and ownable consumer insight when over a third of the global population are doing and experiencing exactly the same thing?

COVID-19: the great leveller of consumer insights

From discount retailer shoppers to luxury car buyers and customers of closely held, diversified, on-highway, transportation services companies (PENSKE), every single one of us is experiencing the same horror, angst, boredom, guilt, hopeless and hopefulness as everyone else. So it follows that, for once in their lives, these brands can just try to be soothing, kind and reassuring, rather than the edgiest, the slickest, the funniest or the most surreal.

These are all simply very pleasant, kind and hopeful adverts created for a specific and hopefully unique time. Therefore, they deserve their place in advertising history.

And one upside of this crappy pandemic is that we as marketers are all becoming more empathetic. An overwhelming 83% of UK marketers say they feel more empathy for their colleagues since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, according to an exclusive survey of 849 UK brand marketers conducted by Marketing Week and its sister title, Econsultancy.

So maybe it isn’t such a vain hope that we can use this shitty time to just become a little kinder.

Victoria Milne

Victoria Milne

Head of Strategy and Planning