COVID Creative: The Best of the Worst of Times

I don’t know about you, but I miss sports. Deeply. 
Like, I just can’t come to terms with a long-term breakup.
March Madness came and went.
And the world was left with an empty bracket.

For brands around the globe, the competitive landscape has been completely leveled. We’re all playing in the same league, in the same division, with the same roster. The paradigm has shifted to unity-based messaging at every touchpoint, with brands trading their trumpets for indoor rallying cries. It’s storytelling first–complex set design and sweeping vistas are mere ghosts. Our primitive tools consist of drifting still shots, empty spaces, and powerful writing. There’s nowhere to hide. The best creative wins the day.

For some brands, humanity has always been in their DNA. Take a look at Nike: the G.O.A.T. of advertising. They primed our mental pumps by bringing back sepia tones and classic typography long before the hammer dropped. And when their number was called, they delivered this:

Return Of The Anthem

This new reality has brought the anthem spot home. From the City of Detroit’s Stay Safe Detroit campaign to ESPN’s There’s No Place Like Sports to Uber’s Thank You for Not Riding in An Uber, they’ve all boldly captured the voice inside. Oh, and there’s that Nike Spot.

Heroes Redefined

Those athletes we worship, the ones we put on a pedestal like they’re heralded gods, defined by their jersey numbers, their no-hitters, their one-handed catches, and buzzer beaters? Yeah, they’re all at home, too, grounded with the rest of us. 

America’s heroes have been redefined. The first responders are the ones coming out of the tunnel. The ones we cheer for, and the ones who suit up everyday to compete on the world’s biggest stage. It’s a wonderful portrayal of what really matters.

In the ad world, this region of the bracket is loaded. From #supportthedoctors real life heros to Mucinex’s Be a Hero, Be Boring to Dove’s Courage is Beautiful to Coca-Cola’s #clapbecausewecare, brands are putting our new heroes front and center.

Simplicity Wins

In advertising, there are few things better than a powerful visual solution. At the onset of the COVID Creative era, several brands delivered in a big way. 

From McDonald’s separating its golden arches, or Burger King changing their “Home of the Whopper” store signage to “Stay Home of the Whopper.” It’s pretty bold of brick-and-mortar brands to say, “Don’t come spend money here.” It’s a purely societal play and a strong one at that.

Granted, REI blazed the trail for this kind of thinking pre-COVID with the #OptOutside campaign, closing all of their stores on Black Friday to encourage both employees and customers alike to enjoy the outdoors in lieu of shopping for the best deals. The PR value far eclipsed sales projections. 

Simplicity can take on many forms.

Some brands are choosing to tap into simple human truths by embracing a sense of humor and lightening the mood at a time when we could all use a laugh.

Look no further than this out-of-home piece for The World Health Organization. The power of their smart, simple headline reminds us that laughter is truly the best medicine.

Look, We’ve Been Here Before

In 1918, an influenza pandemic rocked our nation. It was caused by an H1N1 virus that originated in birds. Dubbed “The Spanish Flu” based on Spain’s neutrality during World War I, some research actually points to the fact that it may have hailed from New York. 

As the world flocked indoors, brands put ink to paper to craft messages of hope, as seen in this print piece from Bell Telephone Co. “When in Quarantine, people are not isolated as long as they have a Bell Telephone in their home.” Brilliant play.

Fast-forward just over a century and here we are again. And instead of the telephone, we now lean into streaming video, which allows us to collaborate, stay productive, learn, laugh, and even do virtual goat yoga.

If history has taught us anything, it is that if our great grandparents got through this then so can we. So, let’s protect each other and celebrate the brands that keep us going. It won’t be like this forever. It can’t be. 

After all, football season is coming.

Shawn Perritt

Shawn Perritt

Shawn is the perfect storm of creativity, logic, and professionalism. With degrees in both Business and Design, the two sides of Shawn’s brain are constantly at war, but as an avid tennis player, he’s used to the back and forth.