Thursday, April 16, 2020

Advertising, Creativity, Social Media, Video

Creativity in the Time of COVID-19

Remember that Super Bowl commercial where Sam Elliott and Lil Nas X had a dance-off at high noon?

That was nearly three months ago.

Seems like it was five years ago.

In times like these, creativity has certainly taken a backseat to legal teams and public relations experts, and we “creatives” certainly get that.

However, big ideas are still needed. Because big ideas can still resonate and connect with people if they are authentic, helpful and created with heart.

Press releases rarely connect with people—no offense to press releases.

Here are three big takeaways that I’ve seen during this COVID-19 pandemic, from a “creative person’s” perspective.

  1. Authenticity is Vital

Hawking your product with a megaphone won’t work today. However, I would argue that yelling in your advertising pre-COVID-19 rarely worked (with all due respect to Flex Seal®).

Authenticity is more important than ever.

BeSweetSaturdayLook what Cottonelle, Krispy Kreme, PetSmart and Target are doing right now.

These brands are answering the call for help, and they are stepping up—each in their own brand voice and with their own personality.

Krispy Kreme is about happiness. Tough times for happiness, yes, but if your brand is based upon delivering happiness, deliver happiness! #BeSweetSaturdays is a big idea that is helpful and fun and needed right now (photo courtesy Krispy Kreme’s Facebook page).

I would say now is the time for brands to be themselves, more than anything.

One of our clients supports industries that move America: farmers, truckers, construction works, etc. So instead of going “dark” and pausing all work, they’ve decided to actually thank those industries through social media, and we are currently working with them to find ways the brand can give back to those who are working their tails off to keeping this country moving.

Don’t just talk about help. Go help.

  1. Conference Calls Still Kinda Stink, but That’s Life

My presentation outfits have stayed in the back of my closet for weeks. My red, collared shirt is nicknamed “The Closer.”

Well, “The Closer” doesn’t work on a tiny screen on a laptop.

Conference calls and online meetings are here to stay, so we’ve got to make the best of it.

Presenting creative ideas via Join.me, Zoom and Microsoft Teams is definitely challenging, especially since my hand movements, hair and eyebrow raises are so darn mesmerizing in person.

But I’ve learned to keep my pitches short and sweet. Find the big idea. Explain it fast. And get on with it.

Conference calls are helping us creatives whittle down our ideas to the very best. No one wants to stay on the phone for longer than 30 minutes. If they do, they’re a masochist.

So, my online meeting rules are this:

  1. Get to the point
  2. Plan ahead (practice!)
  3. Take very good notes

These are all lessons I learned the first year on the job, but now they’re more important than ever.

Also, mute your phone when not talking.

  1. Audit Your Creative

When I first joined the biz, we had weeks to create a communication piece.

Today, when I’m not yelling at young art directors and copywriters to get off my lawn, I’m telling them to focus, because those weeks have become days, which have now become hours.

Many brands have gone “dark,” hiding in the recesses of social media, when, five years ago, they set out with giant wooden ships to seek new worlds of connectivity with consumers.

And now, they’ve been told to hide.

If you’re selling timeshares, OK, maybe you should wait this out.

But what we’ve learned during these last two weeks is that doing “business as usual”—especially on social media—will not work.

Address the situation. Audit your visuals and copy to make sure it’s helpful (which all advertising should be, right?). Don’t pretend the world is the same as it was one month ago.

Every post and every communication piece in your media plan need to be carefully looked at to see if they fit in today’s current world. (You’d be surprised what’s out there.)

What this requires is a serious audit of your work.

What’s running? What is planned to run? Will it resonate? Is it authentic? Is it crass? Will it help the customer?

The usual chain of command requires months of preparation and endless alterations to every visual, word and comma. Perfection is a nice goal, but now is the time to make sure your advertising actually helps people.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Authentic. Helpful. Lil Nas X. This could all change tomorrow, of course. That’s the beauty, and the madness, of this business. But for now, I’ve got to hop on a conference call.


Todd Steen
Kristie GraySmith
Jackson offices