Isolation Log: Where to channel creativity now that 'thank you' ads are officially tired

Marketers are making the mistake of not concentrating on what people expect of their brand.

The worst thing a brand can do right now is go dark. 

The second worst thing is to launch a "thank you" ad in lieu of concentrating on what consumers expect most from the brand. 

If your company has the ability to solve real world problems, crack on with that and let the organic PR weave your narrative. Look no further than the U.S. technology giants. They are truly leading the charge. 

Google and Apple are working together to create contact-tracing tech that will be able to notify people via smartphone if they've come into contact with someone with COVID-19.

Amazon is in the process of installing fever-screening machinery at all of its physical locations, including Whole Foods. Meanwhile, it has utilized Alexa to become a pandemic hub of information people can access from their living room.

Seen any ads about these efforts among the casserole of "thank you" spots? Nope. 

AT&T came racing out the gate in early March as one of the first brands in its sector to waive internet data caps for customers as countless Americans moved to a work from home environment. It changed the brick and mortar experience by bringing its retail stores to us with product delivery, express shipping and curbside pickup. It committed millions of dollars to institutions and incubators creating long-distance learning tools for the education sector. It vowed to provide three months of free wireless service for frontline nurses and physicians nationwide on the FirstNet network – built in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority.

Chief Brand Officer Fiona Carter’s mantra of "action, not ads," is bang on the money. Save for a few clever media placements here and there, like sponsoring John Krasinski’s "Some Good News" YouTube show, the company’s narrative has been spun through old fashion word o’ mouth. 

Microsoft is doing its share too, and making ads to underscore what the company does best. 

It enlisted the help of its agency partner, McCann Worldgroup, to compile footage from the likes of L’Oreal, the London Metropolitan Police, hospitals and more who have added to the explosive use of Microsoft Teams amid COVID-19. 

Chief Brand Officer Kathleen Hall said she wanted to inject "positive energy and hope" into the campaign while consumers endure an "empathy overload" with countless congratulatory commercials. 

"I wanted to get something out there that says, ‘hey this is what we do -- we figure out how to work together and we keep going and we’re going to figure this out.’ I love that raw and realness."

It’s not always about solving real world problems. A little levity goes a long way, too. 

Clorox’s Glad and agency partner FCB Chicago had a lot of fun with a new cultural moment this week: Taking out the trash. It’s become an event we relish, owing to isolation -- the one day we get to go outside guilt-free. The duo played on this and is encouraging people to dress up for the occasion. They kickstarted the campaign with a cheeky influencer push, and cemented it by launching a fund financially supporting sanitation workers affected by the pandemic.

"We saw that people had started making an event out of taking out their trash," said Lisa Bright, EVP, executive creative director at creative partner FCB Chicago. "And while most of us are under a shelter-in-place, and life can feel pretty isolating right now, this was an effort to bring a little joy into people’s days."

View this post on Instagram

I PUT ON MY WEDDING GOWN TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH! ?? #ad // Thanks, @gladproducts, for bringing some laughter & joy to our day!!! This ?? is my #TrashDayCostume… my wedding dress + Michael’s huge slippers. I was inspired by some hilarious photos I saw online of people who have been getting dressed up in fancy clothing and/or costumes on trash day. It's the one day of the week (besides grocery runs) when those who are isolated at home are going outside. TBH I've been SEARCHING for a reason to put on something pretty ?? ... so why not turn the week’s most mundane chore into THE EVENT of the week?! ?? The next time you take out your trash, dress up to your heart's content, snap a photo and use #TrashDayCostume for the chance to be featured by @gladproducts! It'll put a big smile on your face and bring some humor to your community! Our neighbors were on their front lawn when we took this pic and they were CRACKING up with us from a distance... ?? #TrashDayChallenge // photo by @mike_morris2, my trashy groom ??

A post shared by LUCIE FINK MORRIS (@luciebfink) on

Creative efforts should fall on innovation right now. If it doesn't make sense to innovate, then make us laugh. But please, for the love of God, no more "thank yous." The window for "we're all in this together" montage work of first responders and Zoom meetings closed a few weeks ago. 

If brands which have the ability to answer are not answering, they do not deserve business in a post-pandemic world.

Step up or step aside and do it fast -- we'll be back in the office soon.

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