In the final stretch of 2020, we want to take a look at a few key learnings from the advertising industry this year. From big to small players, everyone had to handle the Covid-19 pandemic, global confinement and the ‘new normal’, which created some awe-inspiring commercial moments.
Less is more – deliver your message
In this fast-paced era, consumers don’t want commercials wasting their time. They want meaningful ideas and content. Brands don’t need lengthy and expensive productions in order to spread their word or make their audiences feel inspired.
That’s what happened when Burger King faced the buzz around the last McDonald’s cheeseburger sold in Iceland back in 2009, which is still today perpetuated in a museum. In late-2019, acouple of months after the 10th anniversary of that ever-lasting cheeseburger, Fernando Machado, the famous global chief marketing officer for Restaurant Brands International (Burger King’s parent company), came up with a simple mission: show people that BK’s burgers are natural and healthy – as opposed to those sold by the rival company. And voilá, the most fantastic and at the same time disgusting Whopper ever seen was born, in one of the most shocking campaigns of 2020. No voiceover, no flashy scenes, no loud music. Just a fresh and good-looking burger naturally becoming moldy, and a sharply-chosen song on the background, were enough for the audience to learn that BK’s fast food is actually made of ‘real food’ – and it didn’t even mention its rival’s name.
The provocative 29-second video ad that Joe Biden’s marketing team devised for the US election is also well worth mentioning. The video – where the nib of a pen lands in the ballot bubble silencing one of President Trump’s controversial speeches – was created to raise awareness about the Democrat candidate for the White House, and didn’t even feature Joe Biden until the last three seconds. Instead, the main character of this simple yet so powerful spot was actually the rival candidate. Making this explicit call and not adding much to the rival’s speech apart from the last second voiceover turns out to be enough to spread the message in a clear and obvious way – Trump needs to be silenced, vote Biden.
If you go for a complex video, you better be a master of your craft
Adverts are renowned for great storytelling. A particular favorite of mine is the recent campaign from American megabrand Nike, which will be forever remembered as one of the best video-editing works of all time. To produce the ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ film, more than 3,500 pieces of footage were searched through to find the shots that would most perfectly highlight the commonalities between athletes. The result? An absolute masterpiece, inspiring the world to achieve more than anyone could ever think of through a spotless video-editing production, featuring the most impressive and flawless transitions. Nike was certainly happy with the campaign’s results and the brand was, once again, at the centre of millions of conversations and debates around the world.
Non-pandemic related, but also deserving a mention, is Libresse’s campaign ‘Bodyforms #WombStories’. We all know that challenging taboos takes hard work and dedication, and this campaign is a perfect example. Libresse didn’t just release a commercial ad, but a stunning short film that shows the rollercoaster of the pain and joy of birth, the silent devastation of miscarriage and the pleasure of sex. All in a just over three minute (mostly) animated video, featuring real-life people and emotions.
Sometimes a ‘call to action’ is not the best way to attract customers
‘Get our service now’, ‘click the link to order’ or ‘find our store’. These are words that we’ve all seen, in the real or online world, while looking for a product, walking around a store or casually scrolling through a phone. Lately, CTAs feel outdated and, especially during a pandemic that restricted people’s mobility and daily habits, many of them feel inappropriate given the social environment that surrounds them.
Uber’s vice-president of global marketing, Thomas Ranese, had to be creative and decide on an alternative word to ‘lockdown’ that wouldn’t sound bizarre for a company which moves people around, and landed on ’Stop Moving’. By urging riders to avoid using taxi services, Uber placed global safety at the heart of its campaign that reinforced its status as a responsible brand.
Also changing customer habits amid the virus was an important consideration, and KFC came up with a simple, yet brilliant move. Realising that its world-famous slogan ’It’s Finger Lickin’ Good’ didn’t fit the current environment and hygiene advice, the global fast food giant altered its packaging with the ’Finger Lickin’ words obscured. This campaign, similar to Uber’s ’Stop Moving’ or Burger King’s ’Order from McDonald’s’, aimed to prove that, in very specific occasions, placing social responsibility above the brand and its short-term goals could ultimately benefit the brand once the pandemic is over.
So, in the end, what has the pandemic and 2020 taught marketeers? Most importantly, decide what you want to say and stick to it. Either via a simple and short message or complex video ad campaign, there are plenty of opportunities for your commercial spot to stand out from the crowd. There is no magic formula for successful campaigns beyond knowing what you can technically do and the power of your message. You should always pay attention to what is happening around you and your brand and adapt to the circumstances. Even if that costs your business some money in the short-term, remember that there is nothing like great customer loyalty, and all businesses should definitely have this as one of their top-priorities for the long-term.
Jenny Stanley is managing director at Appetite Creative.