2020 has redefined what constitutes normal behaviour. One thing is certain: the time we’ve spent in isolation devouring content on our phones, tablets, and computers, has never been more extreme. Cognisant of this hunger for audio-visual content, many brands have leaned into Social Media and turned to video-based advertising to draw in consumers. However, in challenging times the tone of a brand’s message has to be pitched just right. In this blog, we’ll be breaking down how businesses have successfully modified their marketing messages to harmonise with life during a pandemic and keep in tune with the tumultuous events that have rocked our world in 2020.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that, although working from home isn’t the dream after all, it’s still possible to be productive while working remotely. Apple explores this in its video, The Whole Working-From-Home Thing. The seven-minute piece takes us through the plight of four co-workers united by video calls and struggling to meet a deadline. Throw in the demanding nature of single-parenting, an overbearing mother and a boss who lacks an ounce of empathy, and the team is truly put to the test. Will they be able to successfully create and pitch their product? Apple uses this framework to highlight the key features of their products that facilitate the adaptation to working from home. By the end of this unusually long piece you’re willing them on. In a world that has reduced nearly everybody to a screen and a mute button, the overarching reminder seems to be that just because the office is on pause, it doesn’t mean you have to be too.
Who said isolation couldn’t be glamorous? To the tune of Supergrass’ Alright, the models in Gucci’s The Fall Winter 2020 Campaign, are given free reign to express their youthfulness (and lip-synching skills), whilst sporting the brand’s latest couture. At a punchy two minutes, the campaign brings chic to the mundane and the ludicrous, as the models make the most of their time at home, doing the housework or painting lipstick onto berries.
With random jumps between portrait and landscape formats and a varying degree of camera quality, the models (and Gucci’s marketing team) don’t seem to take themselves too seriously; a refreshing take on such sobering times. As there was no script, and the models served as their own hair & make-up artists as well as DOPs and directors, it feels like the main instruction was to just have fun. With a price tag as intimidating as Gucci’s, the virtual campaign’s care-free ambience makes it clear that, whilst their clothing might be out of reach to most, joy is accessible to everyone.
Bringing Aesop’s classic tale bang up to date, IKEA anthropomorphises the titular characters of The Hare and the Tortoise in their ad, The Hare. With many struggling to rest properly due to uncertainty and anxiety, the video is a timely ode to the importance of a good night’s sleep. In its thoroughly modern take on the fable, the power of CGI gives shape to a human-sized hare that is distracted the day before a big race by its friends, take-away food, and the lure of its connected devices, into the early hours. Staying true to its source material, the neighbouring tortoise is, by contrast, well-rested (on an IKEA bed, of course). Come the morning, it’s ready for the race, while the hare is deeply unconscious. Ikea, looking to position itself as a sleep expert, draws on a classic to remind us of what’s important in the present, taps into the growing wellness trend, and looks to own the notion that a brilliant day starts the night before.
On top of our family and work life, our leisure time has also taken a serious blow. Nike has tapped into this with their video You Can’t Stop Us, which encapsulates their can-do vibe by reminding us how far sport has travelled to overcome seemingly immovable obstacles. Upcycling existing archive footage, editors from Wieden+Kennedy expertly juxtapose and unite sporting highlights in a split-screen format.
Combining 72 clips in 36 sequences, this artistic endeavour invites athletes of all ages, genders, religions and sports to be joined as a single entity against ever-present lines of division. With an empowering narrative, voiced by soccer star Megan Rapinoe, the ad also acknowledges social issues in the sporting world and beyond, paying particular attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and the push for gender equality in sports. Weaving tragedy, injustice, progression and optimism, the video creates a viral message of unity against adversity with the tage line that ‘Nothing can stop what we can do together.’
Procter & Gamble
This year the rise in awareness around racial inequality propelled an increase in racial representation in the media in many parts of the world. Procter & Gamble’s video The Look, created in 2019 and re-released in 2020, follows the day-to-day life of an American black man and the ‘look’ he receives from white strangers – at a restaurant, in a clothing store, at his workplace and on the street. The video ends on a softer note, however, when it’s revealed that the man has a successful legal career, contradicting some racial stereotypes. As a branded consumer packaged goods corporation, Procter & Gamble’s choice of content, which doesn’t refer to any of its products, is bold and refreshing. Their sensitive take on the African American experience (also seen in their award-winning ad The Talk) provides a platform that promotes introspection in some of its audience and increases awareness of modern-day racism.
The Christmas spirit has been somewhat dimmed by the events of 2020. Amazon’s The Show Must Go On, serves to ignite the warm feeling of the holidays that for many is sorely missed. Supporting the call for more varied on-screen racial representation, the ad stars a young, black ballerina who has been cast in a leading role. When the ‘Stay at Home’ rule is enforced, she continues to practice wherever she can. Nuanced by the inadequate inclusion of people of colour in ballet, her disappointment is made all the more profound when her performance is canceled due to the pandemic. Backed by a moving rendition of the eponymous Queen song, her younger sister sets out to revive her spirits.
She invites neighbours to watch an outdoor show in their building’s courtyard, with one admirer using Amazon to buy a torch to spotlight the young dancer’s solo. The ad has a domestic, homely quality, and extrapolates the underlying themes of the year: community in adversity and together though separate. Charged with the emotion expected from a Christmas ad, it goes to show that some things never change, even when everything else does.
Supporting on-screen racial representation and also working towards removing the stigma around youth homelessness, KIA’s Tough Never Quits commercial provides an interesting vehicle (pun intended) to advertise one of their latest models, the KIA Seltos SUV. The ad features Josh Jacobs, a rookie American Football star who grew up homeless, taking a drive through his home city of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
On the city tour Jacobs’ shares advice with his co-passenger, his younger self, encouraging him to foster self-belief and to be tougher than the world around him. The green-tea coloured SUV stands out against the muted backdrop of Tulsa, a rookie vehicle with a tough, contoured exterior competing in a saturated market. While the ad is fairly formulaic on one level as a car commercial, it harbours pertinent messages, which KIA develops further in an accompanying six-minute documentary, The Josh Jacobs Story. This mini-doc shows multiple shots of Tulsa’s dilapidated areas, highlighting the urgency for housing reform. Through interviews with Jacobs, his father, mentors and friends the film presents an unexpected and authentic insight into male vulnerability and the power of perseverance.
Until recently it’s unlikely that an ad for a biscuit company would focus on socially topical issues such as on-screen representation of race and attitudes to the LGTBQ+ community, but that’s exactly what Oreo did with their #ProudParent campaign. This three-minute ad has the polished cinematography and compressed film narrative of the best indie short. The story follows a young woman who is hesitant to return to her family home with her girlfriend. Throughout the ad, the woman’s father seems unable to embrace his daughter’s identity. However, in a heart-warming twist, he proves his acceptance to everyone by transforming the family home’s white-picket fence into the rainbow colours of the LGBTQ+ community. In this sentimental metaphor for progression, Oreo reminds its audience that societal evolution doesn’t mean the destruction of what stood before. The product placement is subtle, quietly scattered in home-videos and embedded in scenes that signal other plot developments. Simply, Oreo presents an understated take on the common advert, allowing the story to outshine the product.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, those we treasure most have never felt further away. In their third instalment of their Stay Connected campaign, Virgin Media brings Stay in Love, Stay Connected, a sixty second ad highlighting how their broadband brings loved ones closer. A ‘celebration of relationships in the new normal’, the ad takes a vibrant approach to love lives under lockdown, featuring couples of all ages, races and sexualities, and from those just starting out on romances to others deep into long term partnerships. Through TikTok dances, online gaming, even falling asleep on video calls, staying in love has apparently never been made easier. Set to a bubble-gum pop-beat, the ad offers a light look at how we’ve learned to redefine relationships in the digital age, and under lockdown in particular, in a way that neatly fits with Virgin Media’s fun and progressive brand image.
2020 has been a reminder to all about the importance of home and shelter. WWF’s Elephant Trail visits a town deep in crisis, beset by ruin, and presented in joyless monochrome. A young girl returns home from her friend’s house and witnesse scenes of disarray: cars on their sides, parks completely destroyed and, finally, an elephant in a basketball court. Out of context, the scene could be absurd, but it becomes deeply poignant as the subtext of this juxtaposition grows on the audience. The girl has somewhere to return to, the elephant does not. Our wanton destruction of the natural world does not register as keenly as would the decimation of our cities. The black & white imagery makes the metaphor all the more impactful by dissolving the situation into two absolutes. The choice is ours, and it is binary. As social issues closer to home have risen to the fore, the fight for conservation has been deprioritised. The final shot of a tear rolling from the eye of the elephant reminds us what is at stake if we fail to remember that all life is part of nature and that we must co-exist for any of us to survive.
This blog was written by Summer Gamble as part of her work experience placement at NextShoot. For more information on the NextShoot work experience programme visit our internship page.
NextShoot is a corporate video production company in London. We produce video content for internationally recognised organisations and brands. Our video marketing agency creates a wide range of content including video production for Social Media.