10 latest creative trends in the time of coronavirus
Back in April, Creativity took a look at some of the creative trends that had emerged in the ad and marketing world as a result of coronavirus: loads of of heartfelt montages (that quickly got parodied), logo spacing (also mocked), Zoom backgrounds and coloring books. That all seems like eons ago, a sign of how the marketing world has quickly adapted under these unprecedented circumstances. Here, we look at some of the latest pandemic-inspired “patterns” we’ve observed.
It's OK to laugh again
Comedy was a no-no in the early days of the pandemic, when it was hard to find humor in isolation, fear and the total upending of our lives. However, as people have adjusted to a new reality, laughs have become catharsis to our new way of life. Brady Bunch videoconferencing squares became a go-to comedic device. Apple’s Underdogs crew returned, but under lockdown having to juggle screaming kids and nagging parents. Smuggler director Benji Weinstein’s “Join Meeting” series was like a virtual version of “The Office,” and Don’t Panic’s darkly satirical "Honest Zoom Call" laid bare all the things people would be doing on a video call if there were no filter. Pornhub also leveraged that format in its "Wank From Home" PSA (a warning about "careless self-love"). And then, agency B-Reel let you shoot all those conference calls down with a Chrome plug-in that allows you to go all "Space Invaders" on your meeting mates. Meanwhile, as we’re starting to creep out of our Zoom holes, Snickers’ hilarious spot reminded us that pants protocols have returned when it comes to social gatherings.
Safety can be funny too
Laughs have come to safety messages too. The State of New York was the muse for this darkly comedic PSA that gave an alternate explanation as to why a Jason Voorhees-like slasher was scaring people off (he was wearing the wrong kind of mask). Heineken celebrated the re-opening of bars with a lighthearted ad that showed the awkwardness of safely socializing, masks and all. Various brands also stepped up to create ridiculous products meant to drive the social distancing message home, like Dos Equis’ absurdly long “Seis-Foot Cooler,” Magnum’s massive beach towels and Burger King’s face masks imprinted with consumers’ take-out orders.
Rebuild the world
Advertisers are seeing the upside to our turmoil by portraying the pandemic as our opportunity to remake our world: ads from Extinction Rebellion asked whether we “really want to go back to normal,” while condom brand Durex told us the old “normal” attitudes to sexual health were not good enough. The World Out of Home organization posed questions about what we want the world to be like post-COVID in a global outdoor push with the hashtag #OurSecondChance, and Coca-Cola’s uplifting ad from 72andSunny tapped spoken-word artist George the Poet to reframe the “new normal.”
The pandemic imposed plenty of production restrictions on marketers wanting to get the message out, resulting in a slew of user-generated spots and stock-filled montages. But agencies and brands have become surprisingly inventive given their limitations, shining a light on how expert post production and production craft can lead to messages that would stand out even without COVID-era restrictions. Nike portrayed seemingly disparate sports coming together as one in its stunning “You Can’t Stop Us” ad, created by sifting through 4,000 pieces of footage to find scenes that would seamlessly match up. The New York Times’ truth-focused ads have long been a testament to the power of production craft, with the latest example, “Life Needs Truth,” evolving that premise with the help of a vibrant jazz track. Not surprisingly, animation has emerged a powerful tool as well, and we've seen a spate of expertly crafted films like the Born Free Foundation's PSA from Engine and Aardman that likens quarantine captivity to the plight of animals, and Libresse's latest ad from AMV BBDO that takes viewers inside the womb.
The road untraveled
COVID restrictions have introduced delightful new approaches to tackling car advertising. In the pandemic’s early days, Honda and Ogilvy MEMAC found a way to shoot an auto ad at home—by casting a toy Civic in the starring role. Skoda also ran with that concept in its “high-octane” trio of films from Optimist that enlisted three different directors to turn their at-home production ingenuity on toy cars. More recently, Maserati created in-camera magic with the help of Austin agency Callen and director Mau Morgó, who used three cars from the brand’s Trofeo collection to create an indoor tornado (for real).
Tackling it all
Just as the world was getting “used” to dealing with the coronavirus, another "pandemic," of sorts, came to fore. The death of George Floyd and others at the hands of police inspired people around the world to protest and finally call for real change to systemic racism. Data has shown that people of color, and businesses they own, have been the hardest hit during the crisis so brands have worked to address those inequities. Old Spice, for example, released an atypically serious ad to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on black communities. Hennessy, in a campaign from Droga5, introduced a campaign and fund to support POC-owned businesses devastated by the crisis. Like the aforementioned Coca-Cola spot, brands have also broadened their messaging remit to take on all of the world’s major ills. Nike’s “You Can’t Stop Us” featured not only scenes of athleticism—it also highlighted members of the sports world taking a stance on social equality and taking precautions to keep safe in the era of COVID. An initiative from P&G showcased how potential Olympians, sidelined by the virus, have now focused their energies to tackling the pandemic on the front lines and advancing social justice efforts.
Parents, we got your back
The pandemic has quintupled day-to-day stresses parents face as they try to juggle work and kids stuck at home. Brands have acknowledged their challenges in various ways. Early on, German supermarket Penny debuted a film reminding moms and dads of the upside to it all, while BJ’s Wholesale Club’s ad from Terri & Sandy embraced the chaos of family life with the help of The Selby. The agency also acknowledges parental juggling stresses in its campaign promoting the health benefits of Culturelle. Joan’s new push for Virgin hotels reminded parents of the importance of “me time," Dole gave parents a fall-back phrase to use instead of more colorful language when they're feeling maxed out ("fruit bowls"), and Kraft Mac & Cheese’s “new” product idea was basically a seal of approval on giving kids whatever the heck they want for breakfast.
Taking a break
Like Virgin Hotels, other brands have stressed the importance of people taking time out to refocus and chill—often, to humorous effect. YETI coolers offered a 24-7 getaway for those who can’t get away in the form of a streaming channel full of streams, while the relaxing “Calm Wash” video from Goodby Silverstein & Partners for BMW invites people to lose themselves at the car wash. Meanwhile, a Lincoln partnership with the Calm meditation app invites viewers to meditate with Matthew McConaughey.
Let the games begin
As pro sports have resumed while fans remain (physically) banned from stadiums, athletic organizations have come up with innovative ideas to immerse fans in the game from afar. The NBA teamed with Microsoft and Michelob Ultra to bring basketball fans courtside, virtually, while various MLB teams enjoy the company of cardboard doppelgangers. At home, baseball fans in L.A. can get a “taste” of Dodger stadium through a Postmates partnership that brings the teams’ official concession-stand menu items to their doorstep. Meanwhile, Heineken has heightened soccer fans’ viewing experience by sending them official stadium seats plus a fridge packed with beer.
The end of 2020 can’t come soon enough, and it almost seems as if brands are trying to bring the year to a close, stat. The pumpkin bonanza, usually set for the fall, has hit chains like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. Burger King decided that July was the perfect time for Christmas while Popeyes, to honor the chicken sandwich’s one-year anniversary, just debuted a campaign featuring a New Year’s Eve Times Square ball drop. And we can’t forget Baby Nut’s disturbingly rapid aging into a full-grown adult.