WE PLAN, GOD LAUGHS: MARKETING IN THE AGE OF COVID
Rarely has this Yiddish proverb seemed more appropriate. Marketing plans blue-boxed, advertising campaigns shelved, promotions cancelled. As The Year of Covid comes to an end — hopefully to be followed by The Year of Recovery & Reconnection — we look back at how the marketing world reacted to “the new normal.” With that in mind, we offer the first (and we sincerely hope last) Camp-5 Covid Communications 2020 Review:
KUDOS TO FAST-THINKING CLIENTS
Life at Camp-5 was no different; lots of turning on dimes, reacting, reinventing. Fortunately, when you have smart clients, you can adapt to change fast. New messaging, new media planning that leans even more heavily online—whatever it takes. So here’s to Community Trust, with whom we navigated last-minute cancellations of incentive programs, the launch of their brand in the Western Canadian market and several major digital services, plus several clever online and direct mail-driven campaigns that made up for an inability to connect through the usual industry events.
And our hats off to our Okanagan-based client, Predator Ridge, who turned an unavoidable downturn in their resort business into a major opportunity for their residential sales business–recognizing that this was a time when countless city-dwellers were looking for new lifestyles. And, when the resort side reopened its doors, they did everything responsibly and thoughtfully, from communications right through to on-site safety precautions. While we’ve always been proud of the work we’ve done for these amazing Camp-5 clients, we look back on 2020 with particular pride.
The lesson: You never appreciate good clients more so than during bad times.
HERE’S TO STRIPPED-DOWN AUTHENTICITY:
When the world first turned on its head early this year, advertisers found themselves having to turn on a dime. Slickly produced campaigns were shelved, replaced by real employees, customers and frontline workers, all shot with a crude simplicity that suggested a ‘crew’ comprised of one person holding a phone. Sincere messages delivered straight to camera, and straight to us. While not always riveting, there was a refreshing sincerity at work here. In fact, now that most advertising has returned to pre-Covid production levels–only with a ‘Filmed following all Covid-19 protocols’ legal super beneath the dance routine or party scene–we find ourselves missing those authentically simple communications. What they lacked in flash, they made up for in humanity.
TIKTOK – SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM DU JOUR
There’s no denying that the quick-hit video platform was made for this short-attention-span age, but Covid just accelerated its rise. Start with millions of housebound people with time to kill, creating indelible moments that should be put in a time capsule for future generations who want to study the Covid era. Add many millions more, also homebound and desperately seeking distractions. Voila: TikTok Rules the World! The only problem with advertisers looking to jump on board the platform du jour is that the user-posted content might very well be more entertaining than yours.
Our favourite TikTok creation is ‘Ratatouille: A TikTok Musical’, a socia media-driven magnum opus that began with a single post. And it’s just been announced that this unofficial musical version of the Pixar hit is being adapted into a fundraiser event for out-of-work Broadway professionals. To read more about this epic endeavour, and see some of the best clips, check out this NY Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/30/arts/tiktok-disney-ratatouille-musical.html
ENOUGH WITH THE ZOOM CALL WARDROBE JOKES
Or, to be specific, the same joke–over and over. That would be the ‘business attire above the belt, shorts below’ joke. It was mildly humorous in April. This is December.
LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE, WHEN ADMINISTERED PROPERLY
Speaking of humour, Covid-related marketing with a sense of humour is fine – everyone can use a laugh these days – but you must tread carefully into such waters. Burger King got it right with their ‘Couch Potatriot’ ad, for two reasons: It included a responsible ‘stay at home’ message; it communicated that it’s helping nurses in several ways.
Otherwise you may find yourself facing a serious backlash, as a New Zealand bar did with its print ad headline stating, ‘Let’s Be Honest, There Are Worse Things You Can Catch in Hamilton.’ The ad was for a Corona promotion at the bar, with the bottle featured ‘wearing’ a mask. Remarkably, it ran after the bar had already pulled a similar TV spot due to negative public response.
Two different ads sitting on two sides of the thin line between using humour in a show of support during difficult times vs. the tone-deaf approach of seeing a deadly pandemic as nothing more than a self-serving opportunity to crack a joke and promote a deal.
HYPOCRISY UNDERCUTS HERO WORSHIP
There are plenty of retailers, restaurant chains and gig economy businesses that are spending lots of ad money celebrating their own frontline workers. Some are even backing those efforts with bonuses to their loyal employees. We only hope that all this good will is remembered beyond these times, when issues such as a more fair minimum wage arise.