We all know the phrase ‘business as usual’. But should it really be business as usual even during a crisis in the advertising industry? If there is one thing the Covid-19 pandemic continues to teach us it is to be flexible, to be able to adapt to the climate of our country and to be mindful of not coming across as insensitive.
Below I share my thoughts on how the brands we work with everyday can continue as usual with a few additions of being smart, impactful and sensitive in their approach.
There are three routes that can easily be applied to brands and life.
Read the room
South Africans, in general, are a very sensitive nation. Given the history of the country and all the sensitivities this comes with, advertisements need to be a balancing act of being creative while taking into consideration cultural, lifestyle and demographic factors that aren’t offensive to the audience.
When we look at the recent looting and unrest, not only did it result in the shortage of food in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng but also massive destruction to many large and small businesses. It also brought to a peak conversation around poverty and thuggery as an element, white privilege and deep race inequalities making it a rather frightening and sombre time for the nation!
There is no way that brands should have carried on as usual. Many brands and media agencies had to pull booked work or change messaging quickly. But one thing was certain: they did not to carry on ‘as usual’.
Make it count
While we can all agree that the show must go on, we need to look at being relevant and impactful while we advertise during a pandemic or crisis. What I mean here is that we must look at ways to advertise that helps and uplifts the communities our brands serve to avoid coming across as tone deaf.
For example, at the time of the looting and just after, one of our clients was approached by various community leaders in townships who were desperately in need of baby supplies. In response, we managed to co-ordinate and help out. Hundreds of the communities ordered stock from our client, which was delivered to a wide network of mothers and parents in need. This not only helped the communities but created goodwill for the brand where it mattered, and with who matters.
The core purpose is to build South Africa and that has never been more important than right now. Today, media is much more complex, and we need to adapt to the huge changes the consumer is undergoing in their personal environments.
The majority of ads we see today centre on the pandemic and the narrative currently encourage people to register for vaccination more than sharing basic information about the Virus, how it spreads etc. Brands that are ‘aware’ are creating messaging that we call ‘beyond pandemic messaging’ – hopeful and future forward.
One brand hit the nail on the head! The Heineken night is young campaign is messaging gold. It highlights the notion that future enjoyment is reserved for the vaccinated. They do this in a fun, upbeat, colourful and happy way, creating nostalgia and reminding us of good times. A reminder that we can have that again, providing we vaccinate. This is not only quirky but encourages vaccination without pushing the message down our throats.
Advertising is all about storytelling and resonating with people, whether for an occasion, crisis, or cause. Finding the balance between being sensitive and relevant is what sets brands apart. Brands that have a human touch will stand out from the crowd and resonate with the audience.
Charmaine Moratho is a media planner at Meta Media, a full service media agency, providing award-winning communications solutions for clients. Meta Media provides strategy, planning, and buying across both traditional and digital media platforms.
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