One of the early warning signs of Covid-19 is the loss of sense of smell. That’s why electrical appliance brand ATMA and agency HOY Buenos Aires has whipped up a set of scented billboards that allows people to have a sniff.
The campaign was launched in Buenos Aires. Argentina has had one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world, lasting a good nine months – and as quarantine restrictions loosened, while people were keen to get out and about, they are still incredibly mindful of Covid-19 symptoms and wary of sparking any resurgence in the virus that would send the country back to full lockdown (indeed, following the launch a month ago, the country is now waiting on tenterhooks to see if they'll go back to a stricter set of rules). From the brand’s perspective, it felt wrong to advertise without acknowledging the Covid-19 context, and they knew that a campaign in train stations and shopping malls could provide some utility and reassurance for commuters and day-trippers as they tentatively started to venture out.
Tony Waissmann is CCO LATAM of HOY by Havas and he explains the thinking behind this campaign.
LBB> Tell us about the ATMA brand – what’s their place in the market in Argentina?
Tony> ATMA is the brand with the longest history in the small household appliances market in Argentina, born in the mid-1930s. It is recognized as an aspirational, functional and design brand without losing accessibility and massive popularity.
LBB> What was the conversation that led to this project? Was there a specific brief?
Tony> The pandemic in Argentina hit very hard, it had one of the strongest lockdowns in the world (almost 9 months). This made everything related to home life generate more enthusiasm and the kitchen became a place of recreation and learning because of the amount of time we spent indoors.
LBB> What sort of conversations did you have about whether it was strategically appropriate for ATMA to be involved in Covid-19?
Tony> When the quarantine became more flexible, people were very anxious to go out, to walk around, to see their loved ones, to have leisure and recreation time, and among the things that reopened were public transportation and shopping malls, where the brand's products are also sold. It was a great moment to be present again in the routine of our consumers, after having been with them for so many months at home.
LBB> What was the ideation process like – how did you come across the idea of smell?
Tony> After such a long quarantine and the pandemic hitting so hard, the brand could not go out to talk about their products outside context, and as we knew that the loss of smell was a clear symptom of the presence of COVID 19 and being ATMA a brand that wanted to communicate their appliances for breakfast, where the aromas/scents are a daily part of our lives, we wanted to show our products but also as being part of corporate social responsibility, helping from our small place to continue taking care of ourselves and be aware of the symptoms.
LBB> And how did the team develop the scents – it feels like it would have been something like being a perfumer!
Tony> The fragrances were developed by scent makers, perfumes, room fragrances, etc. Together with them, we were able to create fragrances that had to do with the products made by ours.
LBB> Why was outdoor the perfect medium? And what information and guidance does the ad provide to point people to testing and medical advice if they do find their sense of smell has gone?
Tony> Going back to a previous question, after such a long lockdown, people were eager to go out, to walk around, to meet with each other, and we decided to be present in these formats precisely because they were going to be out of home again. Both in the trains to move from one place to another, as well as in the malls, where they go for a walk and have something to feel “normal” again. We wanted to be present where people were going to be.
In the case of our posters, they emanated the scent of what we saw on them and if you could not smell it, we invited you to contact us by WhatsApp to the telephone number of the Ministry of Health of the Nation for information on the disease.
LBB> I’d love to know what the situation has been like in Argentina regarding lockdown – it looks like when the campaign ran there were still a lot of people commuting?
Tony> On the contrary, this happened about a month ago, where people went back out on the streets since we just finished Summer here. At this moment, we are having restrictions again and it all seems to lead us to a new lockdown, still unannounced or confirmed.
LBB> What was the impact of the campaign and have you heard of anyone who was triggered to go get a test as a result of interacting with the billboard?
Tony> It is still too soon to tell, as in some parts of Argentina, the posters are still up. This took place in several provinces of the country. On the other hand, the billboards were only trying to raise awareness and it would be very complicated to know how many people called as the number provided was a number of the National Ministry of Health, not a phone number of the brand itself.
If everyone who passed by our billboards was exposed to the message and the scents, that is a huge step forward and a goal accomplished. And if any of them did not really smell them, we surely helped from our place to an early prevention of the disease.
LBB> How has the experience made you rethink smell as a creative medium?
Tony> A clear symptom of the disease, which we investigated together with the brand, came together with a campaign that tried to show ideal products to make delicious breakfasts, where the smell of freshly made toast, coffee, cookies or freshly squeezed orange juice are part of a great moment when we just got out of bed. At that moment, the sense of smell plays a great role to enjoy. What we wanted to achieve is that this rich scent that we all know perfectly, also contributes in this case, to detect an early symptom of the disease.