Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Brought To You From Happiness Street

Published in Jul-Aug 2020

Moving away from the now-tiresome Covid-19 normative communication and truly creating something new – again and again.

By this time, four months into what seems like a disaster movie in which Bruce Willis is going to eventually save the world, you have probably heard, read, seen, smoked up, and analysed everything possible about Covid-19. You have probably had it with essays on this pandemic and are one flashy BREAKING NEWS item away from fitting your television set in your spinning blender. The last thing you need right now is yet another article on the novel coronavirus.

But here it is. That is what tired Covid-19 communication sounds like, if it says the same thing everybody else is saying. A useful thing this pandemic has done is to truly show how important creativity is for humanity to survive and thrive. Here are seven cases that did it well. And like a good piece of communication, you will actually want to read about them.

Pivot! Pivot!

What do you do if you sell sunscreen but nobody is going to the beach anymore? You pivot. You tap into the human condition of making your consumers feel better about being home and you make their home smell as if they were on the beach. So Hawaiian Tropic made scented candles, and sold them on eBay – candles that smelt like sunscreen. David Hasselhoff probably bought a dozen. This is a perfect example of adapting and pivoting better than a sofa could. Don’t just change the advertising – change the product.

Talk Less, Listen More

Ah, humans. Threaten them with the deadliest virus possible and they will still make entertaining memes out of them. And if you are a good marketer, instead of throwing at people product-based memes that suck, you will probably want to build a good social listening team. So when 93-year old Olive Veronisi’s relative posted a picture on social video in which the older lady held up a signboard at home saying “I need more beer!!” and it went viral, Coors Light delivered. They sent 150 cans to her home with the promise of another refill if she needs it. Olive responded by holding up a signboard saying “Got More Beer”, with a heart on it. That is true brand love right there.

You Wanna Sell Products? Well, Sell Products

There is nothing worse than being disingenuous in your marketing, and trying to cover your sale with an emotional pitch that most people will tune out of anyways. I love the kind of work Burger King does: unashamed about its stand. After all, it is fast food, people. So they keep it real. “The Social Distancing Whopper” is one of my favourite pieces to emerge from this crisis. It is a Whopper with triple the amount of onions. So everybody stays away from you. Late last year at AdAsia, when I met Fernando Machado, the genius heading marketing at Burger King, I was blown away by his approach to the way he urges teams from around the world to have the courage to deliver crazy ideas, as ridiculous as they may seem. And it results in brilliant pieces such as this.

Celebrate the Home Office

How does one get creative when addressing creatives? Early on, when we were just setting up for the new work-from-home era, BBDO launched a simple web page that enabled all their employees to generate an official company email signature logo, but with their home address as part of the logo. It was a brilliant way not only to celebrate WFH, but to encourage all to stay safe. Mine says BBDO Happiness Street.

Stick to Your Media

So you bought a ton of outdoor advertising and now nobody is going to see it because they are locked down? Perfect. For the creatives on Emily Veg Sticks, this was an opportunity to adapt the writing to deliver a different message. They knew that the best outdoor is actually the one that you see online, so they wrote a campaign designed to acknowledge their mistake. At a time when everybody was slashing their OOH, these guys benefitted off of it.

Find Unexpected Places

People hate advertising messages. Unless they admire them. That hard-won admiration comes from delivering something unexpected, in an unexpected place. The Sunday Morning newspaper in Sri Lanka made something very simple happen by example: every time two people were mentioned in their columns, they added spaces between their names. A powerful way to remind everybody to keep their distance – achieved through a smart, cost-free edit of their design.

Don’t Be an Ad. Be an Action

I just finished the judging for D&AD Impact Awards, the world’s toughest award show category which recognises work that creates a measurable and meaningful impact for good in the world. Truly effective work that promises to help goes beyond just awareness: it creates an action. During this pandemic, a number of brands have demonstrated the authenticity of truly going beyond and effecting a measurable outcome for the positive: PepsiCo’s Millions of Meals campaign has fed scores of people, while Ford’s commitment to build ventilators is true brand purpose for good. These are not ads, they are actions. And what consumers are looking out for in the new normal.

The world is hoping that we will return to a renewed sense of how to live better and how to respect nature. One extends that hope to the industry of communication as well. Otherwise we might just have to call in Bruce Willis.

Ali Rez is Regional Executive Creative Director for MENA and Pakistan, Impact BBDO Dubai. He is an 11-time Cannes Lions winner and is currently working from home on Happiness Street.