Isolation log: Creativity thrives and refuses to topple at hands of COVID-19

Agencies are mobilizing what they can for clients which are increasingly moving away from shouty, product-pushing to authentic messages of unity.

Oh, we cooking with gas now! 

The start of this whole thing was always going to be sluggish as people were forced to suddenly adjust to an isolated life in a pandemic world. Creativity took a hit. But it was microscopic. Now the industry’s settled in, it’s firing on all cylinders. 

Because, as the old proverb goes: "Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you've fed him for a lifetime." There’s probably a better proverb to illustrate the point I’m trying to make, but you get it -- adland’s learnt how to fish. And we’re catching marlins. 

Several recent campaigns prove that creativity is thriving and refuses to topple at the hands of COVID-19. 

One of the most standout came from a brand you don’t care about and an agency you’ve never heard of. The Ohio Department of Health teamed up with Dayton-based creative and production shop Real Art to make a viral sensation. In little more than 24 hours, the social-distancing "#InThisTogetherOhio" video had amassed around 10 million views. 

"There's a lot of ‘quick, get something out there’ messaging going on right now around the pandemic -- we knew it would be tough to cut through the noise and make something that resonated," said Andy Nick, design director and video team lead at Real Art, who shot the ad over two-days at a former client’s empty theater stage with a skeleton crew totalling three. 

This peeper-pleaser is a classic story of genius, bootstrapped creativity.

Then came noise from another category you didn’t expect to slide into the coronavirus conversation: Sex. 

Trojan Condoms and its AOR 72andSunny put a call out to all those horndogs in isolation, pleading with them to avoid texting their ex. "Sexplore at Home With Confidence" encouraged that stay-at-home mentality by asking us to appear in Torjan's DMs with an eggplant emoji for a little self-love in the form of free vibrators and lube. 

While the drive is obviously a lot of fun in its simplicity and creativity, there is a serious undertone. It was inspired by New York City’s Health Department’s Sex and Coronavirus Disease Guideline published at the end of March. It highlighted the importance of shutting down casual dating while COVID-19 tears through the world. 

Trojan’s push was Campaign US’ Ad of the Week because that one-two punch of hilarity and medical informance is rare to see and so hard to execute.

And you really need to know about the super nimble work that came out of Grey Group in New York. Feast your eyes on this chain of events below.

Friday night (April 3): Ohio Governor Mike DeWine phones Procter & Gamble CEO David Taylor. Taylor calls P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc S. Pritchard. Pritchard calls Grey Group. Grey phones TikTok. TikTok calls its most powerful influencer Charli D'Amelio (aged 15, 46M followers). D'Amelio posts the Distance Dance in a bid to get people to stay at home and social distance.

Saturday morning (April 4): Global viral sensation with participation from countless TikTok users and celebs. Grey counts nine billion impressions. NINE. BILLION.

Here's a headscratcher that'll make you gawp at the strange, modern day world we live in: Leaders at the top of political, medical, brand and marketing power combined all of their clout to ask a 15-year-old dancer to spread awareness about a global pandemic.


Then there was David and Goliath drive from Tourism Santa Fe and agency partner Vladimir Jones. 

Obviously, people aren’t traveling. So the industry is scaling back on its marketing efforts -- or temporarily shutting them down altogether. Experts noted tourism was among the first categories to pull media spend when COVID-19 hit. But they also warned that one of the worst things brands can do right now is go dark. The smart brands are already pivoting to engage with their consumers and stay relevant. 

Santa Fe’s done just that by taking its infamous Margarita Trail online via social media content from bartenders showing us their unique DIY cocktails. 

A tip of the hat, too, to the Burger King and FCB New York crew. The QSR saluted first responders (and all those regular heroes self-isolating) in suitable BK fashion -- lol-heavy. And the person who coined the new phrase "coach potatriot" needs a Cannes Lions for copywriting magic immediately.

Meanwhile, Reebok earns recognition for its efforts to remind us that we all need to take a break. "Permission to Pause" is a welcomed departure from the fitness brands, influencers and all-round annoying people who are cluttering our social feeds with workout routines at this time. Bro, we didn't ask to see your raging biceps over a five-round, 12-rep pyramid set.

Agencies are mobilizing what they can for clients which are increasingly moving away from shouty, product-pushing to authentic messages of unity.

There's no excuse to be making an upbeat montage of user-generated content from people in isolation -- that format was tired well before COVID-19 and has already used up its pandemic window.

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