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New, but Not So Normal: Advertising in a Post-COVID World

July 30, 2020

The world as we know it has changed forever, and with it, the advertising we consume. Amid the COVID lockdown, Phoenix has been committed to measuring, sharing, and reporting the impacts on the advertising landscape and consumer sentiment. We recently evaluated 12 International TV ads from brands that pivoted to COVID-response advertising at the height of the pandemic. Below are five key observations that brands should take into consideration going forward.

1. Continuity is King

The new normal is well, new, so steer clear from falling back into habits from the past, especially if your Brand pivoted messaging to be more COVID-centric. An excellent example is Tesco, who topped our COVID ads tested with a reassuring and empathetic ad. Their food love stories campaign, which emphasised strong food values in a home setting, did not overly highlight the continued stay at home restrictions, but instead puts food and family at the heart of their ad.

2. Be Genuine

Arguably, a good mantra to follow in any situation, but some brands put a particular emphasis on being real in these difficult times and recognising the changes in how we do things and offering helpful solutions. L’Oréal’s campaign for its Excellence Crème addressed one of the impacts of prolonged stay at home orders; no access to hairdressers, and offered a solution with humour and honesty. Their use of a recognisable celebrity (hello Eva Longoria) and relatable humour in the ad, allowed viewers to identify with her and realise that we all get grey hair and that this product is great for everyone.

3. Reinstate a Sense of Desire

For many who have been at home for the last few months, a faraway holiday or a trip to a new destination looks pretty tantalising. For brands whose products or services were put on hold during lockdown (we’re talking travel destinations, hotels, airlines, cruise ships, etc.), showcasing the latent desire to get away on screen can be a great kickstart to reviving demand. Ads from TUI and Carlsberg reference the lockdown but emphasised the yearning many people may be feeling after canceling a holiday, or the desire to hang out at the pub with mates and enjoying a beverage. Lynx takes a similar approach with an ad that encourages men to “smell ready” after months in lockdown, with a humorous take on hygiene during isolation.

While the news focuses on the safety measures being put into place right now, these ads are aspirational reminders of the things we love to do and a welcome change of pace.

4. Look on the Bright Side

We are starting to see ad campaigns highlighting the good things that have come as a result of the lockdown, such as spending time with family. McCain uses their newest ad to point out that, even though we are all home right now, we are lucky to spend this time (mealtimes in particular) with family. This positive spin on the situation is a great theme that resonates well with consumers as they attempt to navigate the “new.” Because when this is all over, we hope to look back at this time, knowing it brought us all a little closer together.

5. Make the Most of the Situation

Brands that may have benefitted from the world staying home continue to focus on maximising the possibilities, despite restrictions. The trick? Portraying endless potential in a world of new rules and tighter constraints. In their ads, Audible takes us worlds away (real or otherwise) from our living rooms and gardens to the far corners of our imagination. At the same time, Argos helps us imagine transforming a backyard into a fun-filled oasis this summer. The (new) world is what we make it, and these brands are helping us make the most of this time at home.

Looking Forward

Even though summer is well underway and consumers attempt to emulate a sense of normal, we’re not out of the woods yet. Brands need to continue to evolve their messaging to move on from restrictions and COVID safety reassurance, which dominated the first part of the pandemic, to positive and aspirational messaging. It is no longer necessary for brands to reference the COVID pandemic or the constraints it placed on the nation. The world is (slowly) moving on, so brands have a crucial role to play in the coming months and need to portray a positive and vibrant outlook on the days ahead.

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