Where pandemic ads go from here, and BuzzFeed buys HuffPost: Friday Wake-Up Call
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These days, every ad is a pandemic ad, no matter its purpose or audience. Crowded rooms in Target’s holiday spot sparked backlash, and marketers must walk a careful, sober line between acknowledging the reality of the pandemic and presenting the hopeful, cheerful views more common in ads.
“Most consumers are responding positively to the incorporation of COVID-19 in advertising, according to experts. Of the group of holiday ads that featured masks, a majority of viewers felt ‘positivity’ toward their inclusion or reported ‘no change’ in purchase intent,” writes Ad Age’s Adrianne Pasquarelli.
Dell Technologies is trying to convey a sense of “realistic optimism” in its ads, a theme conceived after ads it ran during the Great Recession in 2008 that contained phrases like “in these troubled times” were viewed as too real and negative.
Two of the pioneers of new media will soon be under the same virtual roof. BuzzFeed is buying HuffPost from Verizon Communications, as part of a stock deal that gives Verizon Media a minority stake in BuzzFeed.
BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, who founded both HuffPost and BuzzFeed, will lead the combined organizations. Recently, digital outlets have undergone the same kind of media consolidation traditional outlets have been dealing with for decades. Vox now runs New York Media, Refinery29 is part of Vice and GroupNine owns PopSugar. In an age of declining referral traffic and ad revenue, eat or starve might be the name of the game.
“She was promoted to president of McCann New York in 2017 and then was elevated again in 2019, to president of its North American operations,” writes Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse. “As president of New York, Bulchandani was a key player in the launch of the award-winning Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street for State Street Global Advisers.”
Earlier this year, Ogilvy named a new global CEO, Deloitte’s Andy Main, and longtime CEO-Chairman John Seifert exits next spring.
The man behind the Truth anti-smoking campaign has some thoughts about convincing Americans to take a coronavirus vaccine. “The sad part of it is that when a vaccine is actually available to people, we'll have experienced much of the worst of what COVID-19 is bringing on,” Phil Graham tells Ad Age’s Ethan Jakob Craft. “So, fear messaging isn't going to work, because people will have already sacrificed so much, and the death toll is just going to get more and more horrific.”
Political divisiveness means an appeal to social good probably won’t work, he adds. Instead, the best chance might be a local, grassroots marketing movement. “Ultimately, this is personal, and I think a message of hope about a vaccine is going to have to happen on a very personal level—more than with any other public health initiative that predates it.”
To sell the polio vaccine in 1956, health authorities had Elvis take it. These days, Tom Hanks might be the closest thing we’ve got, Graham says. But it might also take many different influencers appealing to niche audiences all at the same time.
Neil Barrie is global CEO of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, the consultancy that has worked with brands including Pinterest, Headspace and Uber Eats. He also spent his younger years as a guitarist and songwriter for the indie bands Romeo Trading Co. and Billy Liar, which he talks about on the latest episode of the "Ad Block" podcast.
After a gig with a Turkish singer in Pigalle during Paris Fashion Week, he was elated. "It felt like exactly how the dream was supposed to be," Barrie says. "But then I drove the band all the way home in a really crap Citroen Xantia, and got on a car ferry. And reversed into a bollard in Paris and had to do some insurance claims." The shine didn't last forever. "I remember being 23 and I felt so old. Because in indie band terms you were already on a death spiral."
Barrie also weighs in on the time he disappointed The National's Matt Berninger and why drummer's always have so much baggage.
Deathpool: Managers at Tyson Foods have been suspended after a wrongful death lawsuit claiming they placed bets on how many of their employees at meat processing plants would catch coronavirus. Thousands were infected and 86 line workers died.
Indoor voices: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving close to home, “with the people in your household.” That means no college students back from school, and no returning service members—not without quarantines first. Many would-be travelers are already ahead of the game. Airline bookings are down ahead of what is typically the busiest travel day of the year.
Present company: Stumped for gift ideas? Ad Age has a holiday gift guide packed with suggestions from agency and brand folks, as well as Ad Age staffers. Pick out a scented candle that will make a staycation smell like the great outdoors. Or grab a bidet as a hedged bet against future toilet paper shortages.
That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call. Thanks for reading, and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.
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