With #newnormal flooding digital media and online shopping platforms seeing an all-time high, Covid-19 has flipped the world on its head. Unilever’s latest DVC, conceptualised and executed by Ishtehari, Ab Yeh Normal Hai is an effort to zoom into the life of the ordinary consumer and highlight the positive aspects of the situation arising from the Covid-19 crisis. As the pandemic skews our daily routines, brands are trying to integrate quarantine, social distancing, and ‘new normal’ endeavours to dial up the relatability factor. Much like this DVC, most of the ads with a pandemic angle come with a similar message i.e. you are not alone.
“A major side effect of the pandemic that needed further attention was the psychological impact and Unilever Pakistan wanted to be a ‘purveyor of hope’ in these dark times,” says Umair Kazi, Partner, Ishtehari. He adds: “Another very capable agency that dwarfs us in terms of experience, headcount, and muscle had already struck out in an attempt to address this kind of communication. We needed to pick a powerful insight and deliver it in a clutter-breaking execution.”
The concept is both simple and effective. A mixture of still and moving shots highlighting all that has become the new normal (and Unilever’s part in facilitating it.) Work, office, travel, marriage – even a simple haircut – have become subject to the new norms of regular hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing. Most of what the audience see is taken from real-life.
As Kazi puts it: “To crack the insight, we looked at our own lives. My wife recently gave my kids and I haircuts; a team member attended a scaled-down wedding via Zoom; someone learned to cook during the lockdown; a member of our cleaning staff experienced the unexpected pleasure of finding a seat on public transport because of SOPs and we all attend client meetings in our shorts or pyjamas and find ourselves ‘accidentally’ interrupted by family members entering the frame”.
To achieve the objective, the ad spans across different socio-economic backgrounds and shows relatable responses to our current limitations. The inclusion of different age brackets widens the scope of that ‘we are all in it together’ ‘feeling. According to Kazi, “as this was Unilever’s first corporate communication after many years, it needed to appeal to every section of our society.”
The ad’s ads opening line, “Sab normal kab hoga?” is evocative of a general sentiment expressed by Pakistanis whenever they meet, be it virtually or in real life – and in Kazi’s opinion “people don’t realise that the new normal has also bought about positive changes in our life . We just needed to highlight and reiterate the positive aspects and thereby give our audiences a level of reassurance”
Worth noting is the absence of aggressive branding and only two products (those that fit naturally in the situations) from Unilever’s portfolio are featured. Another point in its favour was that it steered clear from celebrities.
“We deliberately avoided taking the celebrity route because it then becomes difficult to relate. There is, however, one massive star in the ad, although he is not in the frames and that is Arshad Mahmud, who not only lent his voice; he also provided many creative insights in terms of the flow of the ad,” says Kazi.
Whether this ad will turn into a full-fledged campaign is yet to be decided.
Taniya Hasan is a content marketer.