Here's one possible lasting by-product of the coronavirus pandemic: national television advertising that's more relevant, authentic, and impactful with viewers.
Ensuring this by-product lasts after the pandemic subsides for good was the focal point of NBC Universal's virtual "Creativity Summit" last week, presented prior to NBC's combination 30 Rock reunion/Upfront highlights special. "Great creative both shapes and reflects our culture," NBCU Executive Vice President, Marketing and Advertising Creative Josh Feldman noted when introducing the event. "We hope this is the beginning of a conversation."
For Wieden + Kennedy Managing Director Neal Arthur, generating commercials that strike a connective tone with audiences the last few months has shifted the creative juices both advertisers and their marketing agencies contribute to the situations. "The shift has been wild," Arthur described as an opening panel member. "People want ads that are meaningful. You have to do and say something useful, that do something. There's very little space (now) for ads that just say, 'we're here and we understand."
Instead, there's a wide space for messages that clearly declare how companies will empower their consumers to live as best they can under pandemic circumstances, often by supporting community outreach programs and small neighborhood business. "What's freeing about this time is we're getting a more personalized environments (where commercials come across) as one person talking to another," Arthur continued.
A second panel showcased a trio of advertisers and the creativity they mustered with agency or marketing partners to get their pandemic-centric commercials produced. For State Farm Insurance, their creative on-air coronavirus reaction came from hasty yet close input with collaborator The Marketing Arm. They came up with a refresh on State Farm's long-running "like a good neighbor" motto, introducing policy access and payment options from the company's network of agents nationwide. "Speed to market (on the creative) was critical. Collaboration was key," noted State Farm Senior Vice President Kristyn Cook.
At Ulta Beauty, officials decided to pivot their advertising in an empowering direction for women, assisted by McCann's marketing team. The lesson learned here: "Creativity is not a skill you put on hold in a crisis," explained McCann New York Co-Chief Operating Officer Tom Murphy. "There's insane amounts of creativity going on, a renewed source of energy."
What resulted was "See Beautiful Today," a set of commercials building on Ulta's manifesto that in the darkest of times, people's inner and outer beauty can rise to the challenge. The spots also used information taken from a study project Ulta launched last year to monitor worldwide personal health and self-care trends.
"Beauty brings out the possibility in every person," continued Ulta Chief Marketing Officer Shelley Haus. "We choose to see the beautiful and the kindness."
For the last decade, American Express has partnered up with a division of Dentsu on various advertising and marketing matters. "In the end, that makes great creative," said Elizabeth Rutledge, American Express' chief marketing officer. "You appreciate it all."
With such a durable partnership, Dentsu and American Express' ability to counter fast-breaking pandemic developments around the country with effective and creative messages was a quick matter. The answer was new commercials built around the credit card organization's annual support of small business through its "OPEN" campaign. Viewers were urged to shop and patronize small businesses in their area as much as possible, while American Express launched additional near-term services to keep businesses afloat.
"We wanted to make sure we are hero-ing these businesses, (spotlighting) their grit and their agility," answered Dentsu Global President Jon Dupuis. "They're showing up for us, and we should show up for them."
When you agree on the beliefs to visualize on camera, "you know how to behave," Dupuis added. "This will be critical for any brand."
In the end, advertising creativity and innovation will roll on if executives are willing to embrace reinvention over and over again, according to Arthur. "There's all the impetus in the world for people to do things differently. We need new voices now more than ever."
One Piece of Advice to Generate Creativity:
SHELLEY HAUS: "Make people feel wanted."
TOM MURPHY: "Creativity is the only way to survive. It's never been truer.
KRISTYN COOK: "Focus on the art of the possible. Be courageous."
AMY ERSCHEN / EVP, The Marketing Arm: "Be bold, a builder, and let ideas breathe."
ELIZABETH RUTLEDGE: "Have a point of view and speak up."
JON DUPUIS: "Continue to look for outside inspiration. Bring it into the process."
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