#SocialThrowback2020: Part I – Recapping A & M industry steering through the WildStorm

COVID-19 advertising


COVID-19 has been roleplaying as Thanos in our lives, it has tipped the cosmic scales, but not to restore balance but to create celestial chaos in the advertising universe. Part 1 of Social Samosa’s ‘Avenge Advertising’ series recaptures the state of the industry, in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The industry was facing an enemy it didn’t know existed. The initial objective of the resurgence was not ‘win and thrive’, but survive. Most, if not all A&M initiatives that have been building a brand identity for years had turned to dust blowing in the wind, and consumers were struggling in the world of uncertainty.

I Will Shred This Universe Down To Its Last Atom

The year began with an unchanged state of affairs in advertising with business being executed, as usual, the dawn of the new year was calm. But we were experiencing the calm before a storm, or rather the WildStorm.

Coronavirus was a looming threat in February, and as the lockdown hit in March, trends foreseen did not exist, progress made had little to no relevance, budgets had to be re-evaluated, campaigns had to be postponed, and all the data and knowledge to know the consumer was unusable because the consumers did not know themselves anymore. 

Buried with uncertainty in isolation, the pandemic was extracting a heavy toll on the physical and mental health of humans, which also contributed to creating a hypersensitive environment for brand communications. The objective of advertising did not exist anymore.

The Hardest Choices Require The Strongest Wills

Most advertisers put a hold on their ad spends or paused the campaigns being broadcasted at the time. Campaigns imbibed in selling a product were irrelevant or inappropriate to be executed in the circumstances.

In a conversation with Social Samosa, Rishabh Sharma, Head – Twitter Next, India shared, “It is important to understand that the crisis cannot be treated as a marketing opportunity. With this approach, brands need to focus on how their communication will positively impact and enable their audiences to get through this global pandemic”.

The difficult choice of prioritizing consumers’ well-being required a strong will, but the will found a way.

Not just ongoing or developing campaigns, brand propositions that have been maintained since the initial phases of the brand’s inception had to be relooked. KFC ceased its slogan that has been around for 64 years; even if their chicken remained “Finger Lickin’ Good” they could not propose that anymore. The undetermined pause stemmed from some backlash on ongoing campaigns, and also because the iconic slogan did not fit the circumstances.

It’s ****** ****** Good – KFC

Nike, the brand that motivated athletes and aspirants around the world to go hard or go home, for the first time ever said stay home, play for the world, play from inside your home.

Play For The World – Nike

The Travel Industry, one of the worst-hit sectors could not put profit over precautions; promotions were not used for advertising the exploration of the unseen anymore.

Wanderlust From Home – Goibibo

Travel Later – ixigo

Food being categorized as essential, grocery shops, restaurants, and cloud kitchens, were permitted to stay open, but the demand for ready to eat food and take-outs dropped like Hulk falling through the skyscraper during The Duel Of Johannesburg.

Consumers did not want to ingest anything that is not cooked in front of their eyes in their own kitchen.  Dealing with the psychological barriers set in the consumers’ minds was the top priority for brands in the F&B Industry.

Safety Measures – Mandarin Oak

McDelivery – McDonald’s India

With Everything That’s Happening, People Might Need A Little Old Fashioned

With no motivation to live in the present, everyone wanted to go back in time. Escaping to the past, and reviving the old fashion gave humans a sense of normalcy.

While social media feeds were filled with #Throwback pictures, Doordarshan decided to throw it way back, and re-aired popular shows such as Ramayan, Mahabharat, Byomkesh Bakshi, Buniyaad, Shaktimaan, and more. A total of fifteen shows in total went on-air triggering the wave of nationwide nostalgia.

Ramayan – DD National

Ramayan did not just break records by garnering the highest ever rating for a Hindi GEC show, since 2015 according to BARC, it also built a quantum bridge for brands to go back in time. Amul relaunched topicals and TVCs from 1987 – the Ramayan times, on social media packaged in a classic way. 

Amul Topicals

Amul Classics – Boss & Employee

Amul Classics – Husband & Wife

During this period, several other brands repurposed old campaigns or reinvented them in a context relevant to the present times. Asian Paints revived their iconic ‘Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai’ series that first began in 2007 as a television series, and turned digital recently. During the lockdown, it was transformed into a UGC campaign.

The brand compiled earnest moments of families such as indoor cookouts, home workouts, and gaming activities, sent to them by users, and turned the videos into memories by featuring them on their page and amplifying what each house had to say.

Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai – Asian Paints

I Still Believe In Heroes

Not in capes, and fancy suits, flying through the sky or smashing through the roof, but heroes emerged in personal protective suits. Essential workers were out on the road so we could stay safe at home, and doctors were putting their patients’ lives above their own.

The Police Force was protecting the states like the walls of our home, and sanitation workers maintaining hygiene.

Recognizing the contribution of frontline workers that is beyond compare, several of the brands dedicated their campaigns during this phase to the ones keeping the country running, and advertising themed around COVID-19 was flooded with gratitude.

Thank You Healthcare Workers – Google

Courage Is Beautiful – Dove

During the period, the cause marketing campaigns also gave the cause a purpose, with several brands aligning efforts or associating non-profit organizations, donating and pitching into the well-being of the society with COVID-19 relief initiatives, and choosing empathizing over advertising. Various brands also transmitted safety measures that must be followed to curb the virus outbreak and stay safe.

Gratitude To Frontliners – Parle-G

#VirusKiKadiTodo – HUL & UNICEF

In a discussion with Social Samosa, Keegan Pinto, National Creative Director, FCB Ulka shared the virus outbreak also resulted in an emotional pandemic which led to mental disorientation of several people. 

He believes, “We are heart soldiers, as people in advertising, we go into the heart, that is our strength, and there is a heart in every head, especially in India”. The pandemic in the heart needs treatment too.

As the storm caused wild destruction, numerous brands answered the rallying cry to support a mighty cause and assembled.

Stay Playful – Oreo India

With brands and agencies aligning efforts and accomplishing the true purpose of providing solutions to the consumer and making their lives easier, Thanos shapeshifted as COVID-19 caused the WildStorm, and threatened the existence of the advertising industry, but we survived.

In the next part of the ‘Avenge Advertising’ series, we turn the page to the period when the advertising industry survived the storm with creativity and passion, but was unbeknownst of the forthcoming Infinity War. Stay tuned to find out what unfolded…

To Be Continued…


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