My LinkedIn feed is polluted with dozens upon dozens of brands (or students making spec ads for said brands) all manipulating their logos in an effort to "do something," as much as staying relevant during this pandemic.
I'm already wishing the brands would give it a rest.
I didn't think it was possible to watch an admittedly first-thought "separate your logo to make a PSA" execution turn into a cliché so quickly, but here we are.
While I obviously can't speak for every country, I can say that here in California, I'm getting text messages every day from my local e-government urging me to stay indoors, wash my hands, and practice social distancing, and have been for two weeks. The government ads are populating my social feeds, too. The few times I've gone into a grocery store or gotten takeout, the helpful laminated posters were plastered everywhere.
Online and offline, the message has been repeated to the point of brainwashing. That's why it feels so strange that major brands are feeling compelled to jump on this bandwagon now. They've missed the hand-washing party and have shown up late, all wearing the same outfit. It would be the same if Oreo waited until the day after Super Bowl to post their light's out image on Twitter. You know something's wrong when the government is moving faster than the ad industry to get the word out.
Some brands like McDonald's are getting flack for their hypocrisy in trying to communicate such a message while not caring about their own employees during healthier times.
The only thing worse than the endless repetition is the perpetually outraged folks who are seething that other brands are trying to communicate information about their brands during this time of crisis. How dare they want to reinforce a brand message to hopefully stay in business. Their missives from the perpetually outraged (who as far as I can tell aren't doing much to solve any problems unless you count writing missives on social media usually go something like "How dare X brand continue on with their ad buy as if it were business as usual when we should all be in a constantly heightened state of paranoia and fear!")
I don't know. Maybe because it's not healthy to live like that?
How do you even measure effectiveness when every brand is communicating the exact same message, anyway? Would love to see the case study videos. This form of talk is the cheapest of all cheap talk because it is slacktivism at its worst. "We told people to wash their hands. We did our part."
I have much more respect for the UN who launched an open creative brief to get these types of messages out because at least there is an urgency in needing to translate the message into languages that aren't universally used in far-flung reaches of the globe. Though I thought the Jack Daniels ad was well done, and probably the best of the bunch, I'm not sure how many people in Mongolia will see it.
I also have respect for brands like Tesla Apple and Zara who are bringing actual tangible solutions to the situation in real-time. And while they might be generating PR headlines, they aren't as of yet making ads out of their efforts. Let's hope it stays that way.
Here's another reason why brands shouldn't all be communicating the same thing, besides the obvious: It is bad for the world's collective mental health.
All of us desperately need a distraction. This is the reason why people are hosting balcony dance parties and aerobics instructors are taking to rooftops to encourage shut-ins to work out. That might be fun and work well for a few days but long-term sustainment will be hard. Whether right now or in a week or two, collectively, we will all be in dire need of a laugh and mindless entertainment. I would rather some agencies start assigning teams to come up with hilarious work that would take our minds off the constant press briefings, graphs of projected infected and doom and gloom.
The rest of the ads can go along as normal until we get up to speed; just like always, the consumers will tune the boring ones out. We should put our minds together and come up with ways to produce some fun entertaining work, using our social distancing as a challenge to flex our creative muscle before it atrophies.
Give me a car commercial with an insight and idea. Or a beer commercial that's actually funny. If this past Super Bowl (and really the Super Bowls in recent years) are any indication, the industry, by and large, hasn't been bringing its best in a while, never mind on a regular day. Whether they are acutely aware of it or not, the public could use our creativity now, and in the months to come.
Make no mistake, there is nothing trite or crass about this suggestion. The entertainment created during a time of strife and sorrow isn't being "part of the problem." It's one of the reasons a lot of people were able to endure the Second World War and The Great Depression.
I would rather we resolve to disrupt the press conferences, news programs and social feeds with something, anything that doesn't have to do with the coronavirus. I would rather we take some chances even if we fail (you know, that thing we're told every day that we're supposed to do) than see another self-isolated logo or brand-sponsored hand-washing effort. Lifting people's spirits during a time of dark despair is just as important as washing their hands.