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Stop Time-Stamping Covid Campaigns Through ‘Wall of Same’ UGC



Jonathan Emmins, founder at Amplify explains what brands need to do differently in Covid-19 advertising

Stop Time-Stamping Covid Campaigns Through ‘Wall of Same’ UGC

Hats off to brands that recognise the importance of continuing to create, advertise and market throughout the pandemic. But why do so many ‘Covid campaigns’ follow the same formula of heartfelt messages of support told through down-to-earth UGC? For proof, check out this cartoon or Microsoft Sam’s YouTube film that tellingly splices pandemic ads into one homogenous but strangely addictive montage. 

Both examples perfectly encapsulate the past eight weeks. And perhaps this ‘wall of same’ is understandable and forgivable, bearing in mind how government guidelines are restricting filmmaking creativity. But we’re getting to a point where these ads are annoying people. So it’s now time for brands to stand out by doing something different. But what do we need to do to be different? And which brands are leading from the front?


Your Audience Still Comes First

Although positivity is much needed right now, the omnipresent ‘message of support’ strategy is no longer going to cut it. Sure, helpfulness, information and entertainment need to be highly visible in Covid campaigns (in all campaigns, for that matter), but the work shouldn’t be defined by these pandemic ‘time-stamps’. Instead, campaigns should stand the test of time through output that remains faithful to our one core insight: the audience.

Even though audiences are locked down, they haven’t fundamentally changed. But how we speak to them has. So rather than watermarking campaigns with obvious pandemic references, let’s instead ask the right questions to understand how audience moods, behaviours and needs have shifted. If current time-stamped content represents the ‘denial and anxiety’ phase of the pandemic, brands now need to quickly move to the ‘adaption and innovation’ phase

Understand how Locked-Down Audiences Consume Content

In parallel, we need to understand the new ways that isolated audiences consume content.  What formats and channels should we cater for?  How do we balance and navigate the potential over-saturation of content? And how can we help talent film themselves in a way that doesn’t scream ‘quick iPhone clip’? 


Be Creatively Brave

Although 2020 may well be a commercial flop, it has potential to be a stand-out creative year. By necessity brands now have to be brave. And creative bravery often leads to the best work. As history shows, creativity and culture are resilient and resourceful. In the words of the mighty Nick Cave: “My response to a crisis has always been to create. This impulse has saved me many times.”

‘Get’ your Audience’s Mind State

Global brands have the added challenge of dealing with geographically varying pandemic trajectories. But adidas is bridging the differences with #HOMETEAM to Be Ready: a fine example of a brand gliding effortlessly into the ‘adaptation and innovation’ phase and laying down a much-needed challenge. The Ready for Sport launch film matches the global mood. It dares to be positive, filling us with anticipation and excitement about the other side of lockdown. What impresses me is how personal yet universal and democratic the campaign is; a 360-degree rallying cry to staff, talent, fans and stakeholders that lives and breathes across multiple channels. 


The Need for Laughter

It’s well documented that humour is key to resilience and fortune favours the brave. But which brand has the courage to go first? Step up Ryan Reynolds and his low-cost wireless carrier Mint Mobile. The premise that coronavirus has halted production of an ad forcing them to do a PowerPoint Presentation backs-up what Reynolds said earlier this year: “imperfection and striving to do more with smaller budgets didn’t always harm the creative process”. I wholeheartedly agree. 

Stay True to your Cause

Dr Martens has mastered the art of staying true to its cause. For over six decades, the brand has been adopted by free-thinkers as a badge of rebellious self-expression. So they’ve committed to investing in ideas that inspire the next generation of free thinkers. Even though marketing budgets have fallen at the fastest rate since 2009, Dr Martens’ marketing is standing firm by not compromising on commitment or quality. 

The brand is honouring all pre-Covid talent partnership commitments by finding alternative routes. As Marketing Manager Michael Boaler explains: “Consumers are bored and want to be entertained and get behind a cause. We’ve adapted our narrative to celebrate creators by amplifying their work, sharing their resilience with the world and getting behind good causes”. 

And at a time when branded content is inundated with webcam and phone performance capture, Dr Martens is instead outputting hi-quality content. Their latest culture platform film with Bobby Vylan (full disclosure, this was an Amplify project) was scripted, directed, shot, produced and edited from home, creating a highly cinematic piece of isolation filmmaking that shows both collaboration and support. 


Transitioning into ‘New Normal’ Creativity

In the same way that the 80s recession paved the way for rave culture, this crisis could lead to new waves of cultural energy and creativity. For me, this means heading into the new normal by expediting change that should’ve happened long before Covid. For a while now, we’ve needed to think more holistically about ‘content’ and 'campaigns'; and we’ve needed to start seeing ‘films’ as ‘brand worlds’ with multiple entry points and formats. The brands that are bold enough to evolve with these changes will be the ones that stand out and benefit.

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