I’m not sure about you, but the thing I’ve struggled with most in lockdown has not been the confinement, home-schooling and lack of pub-poured-pints. It’s been the ever moving goal-line, the absence of being able to look forward to big life events with any certainty. The holidays abroad, the weddings, the days out at Croker, the concerts, the arts/food/music festivals, the big movie events – all on hold. Sure, we have a road map to re-opening some of this, but whispers of second waves have prevented us from properly rescheduling the big events, the ones where the collective buzz of thousands of people enjoying something in unison is irreplaceable. So we make the most with what we have, and for now, that remains in the virtual world.
While that virtual world can only ever be seen as second best to the real thing, in some cases, the video conferencing technology that almost everyone has adopted by now, from kids to the elderly, has enabled a more inclusive celebration of events, where the dialogue is no longer one way.
By the time the Irish Times had announced "Covid-19 shuts Irish culture” in early April, the global creative community was already doing what it does best, getting creative. New technologies had to be embraced and new skills learned.
The majority of the gigs I booked pre-covid are still awaiting re-scheduled dates, with next year being the most likely time frame. The annual Electric Picnic trip was surely going to go ahead, with it being so late in the year? Alas no, it’s gone too. Ireland isn’t alone, Glastonbury was set to have it’s 50th anniversary celebration, and Coachella was replaced with #Couchella where they encouraged people to get dressed in festival-fashion and watch a documentary on the festival, 20 years in the making, from their couches.
One can only imagine how frustrating this sense of uncertainty is for musicians struggling to make ends meet, but that hasn’t stopped them from getting creative and continuing to entertain and comfort us when we needed it most.
From the ad-hoc shot-on-phone living room concerts on Instagram Live and Twitch, to the highly produced “event” concerts, streamed live on TV and YouTube simultaneously - artists haven’t stopped performing for their fans. The Intel sponsored Other Voices – Courage series has shown how production quality for live streamed events doesn’t need to be compromised in these socially distanced times - the acts, locations, sound and photography have been simply breath-taking to watch.
But the real differentiator between these “concerts” and their pre-covid counterparts, is that the artists now have a direct dialogue with their fan base through live chat. Acknowledging the love (or hate - which is always entertaining), taking requests, giving guitar lessons and in some cases collaborating with fans to write new songs, with fans offering lyrics & chords in real time (as you can imagine, the results have been mixed).
While some ticketed music events have moved into the virtual world (both Fortnite and Minecraft being the main “venues” ), the majority of artists are still looking for new ways to reach their fan base, and support themselves. Hopefully brand sponsorship can help with this.
The welcome return of team sports on TV over the past few weeks has brought many of us great joy (especially this patient Liverpool fan). With all eyes back on sports, brands who have been in it for the long run with their sponsorships, can return to showing their commitment through the thick and thin, while getting brand exposure once again. The stadium experience has changed significantly though, with artificial fan reaction noise filling the empty stands and dividing fans. Technologists have been looking for ways to make the experience a little more “real”, with virtual crowds augmented into seats, and smartphone apps that allow you to add your voice to the audience.
While some brands have been “pausing” their sports sponsorships or redirected it to good causes (Budweiser moved all of its sports investments into helping the American Red Crosses blood drives via disused stadiums), others have pivoted into virtual spaces. In turn bringing the fans a little closer to the their sporting heroes.
Santander (sponsor of La Liga) moved into sponsoring an egaming event - headlining a FIFA 20 online tournament using players from the actual clubs themselves. The Twitch live stream, drew over a million viewers and allowed fans to engage with their favourite players.
Tour de France winner and Ineos backed Geraint Thomas raised £360k for the NHS as he cycled for 36 hours over 3 days on the virtual training platform Zwift, allowing fans to join him on the ride in VR.
Nike, like a number of brands, used the athletes they sponsor to challenge stuck-in-lockdown sports enthusiasts to show them what they’ve got through fitness challenges using the #playinside hashtag. They also gave away their ‘Nike Training Club’ app free of charge.
The parade, the mother of all festivals, the ultimate community binder. Nothing beats the camaraderie of being together in one place. There’s really no substitute.
Let’s be honest, without a parade in sight, St. Patricks Day was a bit of a dud. Sure there were flags waved and mini garden parades, but it wasn’t the same. We did the best with what we had, but we were all still reeling in our fresh new reality at that stage.
Did we take the learnings and upgrade the virtual parade experience for Ireland’s second largest parade –Dublin Pride? Most definitely.
This year’s celebration took place under the theme ‘In This Together’, and while it was a massive disappointment for everyone to not be able to celebrate on the streets, the show must go on. A small, socially distanced parade along O’Connell St. marked the occasion to honour the frontline workers (accompanied by a small convoy of sponsors such as Tesco and An Post), but it was the virtual events that really shone.
A tonne of events took place online over the month, from the virtual parade to concerts, talks, exhibitions, walking tours, pet shows, Pride Wellness Workshops and Ceillís - all living in digital spaces. Bank of Ireland hosted an online discussion about Safe Spaces for the LGBT+ community, and as Darius pointed out in our last edition, a national survey conducted by BeLonG To has shown that now more than ever LGBT+ young people need to feel safe and supported.
Hopefully in the future with technology enabling this new way to engage with Pride festivals, it will make it more accessible to those who, for whatever reason, can’t attend in the real world. Giving access to celebrate who they are and get the support of the community from wherever they are in the world.
Zoom fatigue is a very real thing, but we’ve spent all this time becoming pros at video conferencing and live streaming - so, it’s not going away, no matter how much restrictions loosen. Our lockdown time has shown how events can translate online and it’s opened up their accessibility to wider audiences and enabled a new level of two-way dialogue that didn’t exist before. We can expect opportunities to engage with audiences/fans/communities through digital events to increase far into the future. Brands should re-evaluate their sponsorships and ensure they are in front of eyes in both the real and virtual worlds.
While our public houses and venues have been closed, we’ve learned that live music doesn’t live or die because of them. Artists have found new ways of expressing themselves beyond traditional ticketed events. So, what does this mean for the future of gigs? Well quite possibly, when venues open their doors again, we could be given the option to experience concerts in person or at home on your smart TV/computer screen. We now know how to run these live events online at a high standard, so why not continue doing so?
The person in the cheap seats has a voice. In some ways, it’s easier for us to get closer to our favourite bands, artists and sporting icons. The interactions we have with them during online events is evolving and becoming even more personal.
Craft versus Speed, it's an age-old dilemma that has never been more topical. Infamous 'Good Fast Cheap' diagrams tell you that you can only pick two. Creatives recoil at the thought of creating work that's deemed fast and cheap. That's not what we do. We craft - we pride ourselves on it. We win awards for it. But is it always the right answer?
Ray Swan, Creative Director at Rothco, sets out to answer this question. In the first podcast from Inside Out, he talks with sound engineer Will Farrell from ScreenScene and Max Brady, executive producer from Pull the Trigger and gets their thoughts on this debate.
Thanks for listening, you will find links to all the work we discussed in this week's podcast below.
The biggest issue of lockdown? Roots! This week I dyed my poor wife’s hair for the first time and God-damn it I totally nailed it. And it’s all thanks to TV's Eva Longoria.
Eva is missing her salon while isolating at home with her family. So this week, the star shared one of her hair hacks with fans on social media. The Desperate Housewives star posted a video on Instagram revealing her secret for covering up grey roots during lockdown, giving fans a sneak peek into her isolation beauty routine. Eva showed off the product she's currently using to conceal her grey hairs at home. It’s L’Oreal’s Magic Retouch Temporary Instant Root Concealer spray if you’re interested. Now, while I used a more permanent solution on my poor Aileen, I feel Longoria’s breezy attitude towards hair maintenance gave me the necessary confidence any bloke needs when forced into this situation.
This was a big step change for me, but an even bigger one for L’Oreal. Before Covid, L’Oreal had spent years churning out bore spots featuring supermodels prancing around in slow-motion swirling their hair in circles and being generally delighted with themselves. But was anyone fooled by this bland crap? Did anyone seriously believe there wasn’t an army of hairdressers and re-touchers just off camera ready to make sure the hair was absolutely perfect? In the future, if we are going to pay a celeb a small fortune to appear in a campaign – let’s get them to do something believable.
I’m pretty sure the shot of Matt Damon in real-life with the Supervalu bag has done more for Dalkey retailers than all those awful multi-million dollar budget airport ads did for Omega watches. (I just googled it and Matt has never done an ad for Omega, he has only done terrible airport ads for Tag Heuer. Getting the brand name wrong makes the millions spent on these awful posters even worse).
Here’s the thing, sometimes nothing is as effective at evoking an emotional response than a rational message. Telling engaging yet useful product stories gives brands the ability to narrate exactly why their products will enhance a customer’s life, and a collection of these true stories can therefore strengthen the overall brand as each product story comes together to demonstrate how a company believably has the user front of mind.
Still, there are demo ads and demo ads. Here’s some of the best - Apple is a good example. Pretty much every Apple ad is a demo ad. Their 2018 ‘Shot on iPhone’ campaign elevates user’s photos to gallery status, and projects a powerful vision of what can be done with the device. Volvo’s ‘Epic Split’ was one of the most talked about ads of 2013 and Burger King’s genius demo stunt which prompted Google Home voice-activated speakers to start reading descriptions of the Whopper snagged the Direct Grand Prix at Cannes in 2017. These examples show that demo ads can be creatively challenging and don't need to compromise on imagination. In many ways, the restrictions of a demo ad strike an intriguing balance for a creative: tight enough to focus the mind, challenging enough to excite the mind.
These last few months have forced us all to face our own personal Eva Longoria moment - whether that’s making bread or considering trying wallpapering for the first time (I’m seriously considering it!) This Covid time has given us all that little bit of space to try the things we would have previously run a mile from. And if a brand can make that experience easier by being useful…well I might just remember them fondly when this is all over.
The bigger truth in all this is that every experience we have with a brand, good or bad, is a demo ad these days. Jamie Oliver’s app, articles, face on a jar. Each video in his ‘Keep Cooking & Carry On’ snippet series, every interview, banana bread insta story – they are all demo ads for Brand Jamie and the terrifying reality is that if even one of those touch-points disappoints, well, we might all just move on to Brand Nigella or Brand Gordon.
Anyway, back to L’Oreal - I love this simple lockdown video. It’s completely, brilliantly believable - you have a Hollywood actress cocooning at home having to do her own hair with no army of hairdressers waiting in the wings. If she can do it, so can I. And I did! Right now we all need something to believe in…even if it’s hair dye. Believability and being useful has made L’Oreal much, much better than before. That’s why you can no longer buy Magic Retouch Temporary Instant Root Concealer spray online. It’s completely sold out worldwide. I just checked.
My name is Stephen Rogers and I’ve been a corona parent for six weeks now. I have two small people that I’m legally obliged to look after, Evan (5) and Maggie Rose (1), and my wife and I both work full-time jobs from home. Home schooling is a real hot topic at the moment, but for me, the only people I see getting home schooled are us parents. Being around my kids 24/7 is opening a much wider window into my two kids as tiny balls of raw emotion and constant hunger.
Being a Creative Director in Rothco, I have the enviable pleasure of getting to work with some immensely talented creatives, helping them craft their amazing ideas to make them fully fit for impact. And to my surprise, the skills I’ve learnt during my 20-odd year career as a creative have transferred seamlessly to my new role as a reluctant, yet resilient, stay at home working dad.
For example, location scouting has always been a vital part of the pre-production process and now I find choosing the perfect location for my video calls equally as vital. The brief for me (and I’m sure for you too) is to be as far away from the kids as possible to ensure a seamless, uninterrupted and successful meeting.
But I also have a second key objective… to try and look somewhat interesting to my work colleagues. My advice, if you want to avoid being forgotten on your marketing catch ups, is to apply the same expectations you have on your marketing comms on yourself. Gain cut-through and be interesting. Try to steer clear of flat, undecorated and uninteresting beige walls. You may as well start your call by saying “Hi, I have absolutely no personality. How are you?”. Bathrooms should also be avoided for obvious reasons. Master bedrooms will, no matter what time it is, make you look like you’ve just gotten up. I did find the front seat of our family car nailed the ‘getting away from the kids’ brief, but unfortunately it also made me look like a creepy taxi driver on calls. So, I finally settled on my son’s bedroom due to it having a ‘quirky’ wallpaper that makes me look more aspirational, and satisfyingly projects me as a work colleague and father who’s fun, exciting and edgy. So, a very successful misdirect.
As a keen photographer, I’ve also tried to pass the time in isolation by taking photos of my family. Every aching art director bone in my body wants to craft a beautiful stand out image where the lighting setup is considered (shooting near windows gives you a perfect modelling light for your subjects), and where the rule of thirds is successfully applied (this rule is the best advice I‘ve ever received about taking better photos).
I also keep a keen eye on the background and its level of clutter, and ensure the range of expressions captured covers me for any tricky client feedback (from my wife). Unfortunately, the family shots I’m capturing right now are far from reaching Getty Stock Image levels, and even if they did make it onto the well-known stock site, I know deep down they’d have tag words applied to them like ‘Unhappy’, ‘Confused’, ‘Bored Looking’, ‘Not Aspirational Enough’, ‘Gritty’, and ‘Feral’.
As we all know, music is so important in helping brands set the right tone and elicit the right emotional reaction from their audience in their film, radio ad or social content. Funnily enough, the same rules apply to my kitchen and I would recommend the power of music to help set or change the tone of your home when it hits a bump along the way. Our kids are dealing with a lot of emotions at the minute and it’s hard for them not to get bouts of sadness and confusion.
Marco Bertozzi, a vice-president at Spotify said recently in Campaign magazine: “Every day is like Sunday. We’re starting to see a shift in subject matter”, in terms of listening habits as users seek out ‘feel-good’ music content and podcasts. So, our running brief is to do anything to stop the kids feeling down, and rather than reaching out to music search companies or briefing awe-inspiring composers to create the perfect track for us, we’re going with our gut when picking the soundtrack to our long days with the kids. It’s amazing how a track like ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen, or ‘Blinding Lights’ by the Weeknd, can charge its way into a sad moment and help blow the roof of our little kitchen, lifting everyone’s spirits up out of self-isolation and high into the stratosphere.
So as you continue to work from home, I advise you approach every day like a true marketeer. Laying out specific hard to reach KPIs for yourself, your family or your housemates and use creativity and guile to cut through the lockdown and have a real impact on the tiny world around you.
In just a few months, the way we think and communicate has been thrown out of whack. It’s time to look at how to find our voice within the uncertain, high-stress spaces our world has become. Can we use our brands’ messaging to both speak and listen? How can we show empathy while leading our consumer to safety at the same time? Did someone mention soup?
By now we’re all getting to know this Covid-19 soup bowl pretty well. In one way or another, we’ve been in it for weeks now. Months even, if you prefer a flair for pedantry. And navigating the madness of it all is testing us in innumerous mental ways.
We’re experiencing the different stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance) during our status quo. The thing is, we wake up each new day and run through each of those stages of grief from the beginning. Every. Single. Day.
As brand marketers, managers and custodians, this puts us in a tough position. How do you communicate to someone who is oscillating between feelings of grief, anxiety and meaninglessness? How do you build a brand’s standing and affinity in such a case? How do you empathise, sympathise and still find a way to add value to a consumer’s day in a single piece of communication? How do you string a sentence together from the proverbial bowl of alphabet soup?
There are many ways a brand could approach this. And far be it from me to act as if I know all the answers, but here are a few ways that I feel could help brands find the right space to play in to get their customers onboard.
Try being as human as possible. “We empathise with you and understand where you are because we are there too”. Where we as brands can, let’s try to think as humans first and marketeers second. I’m in no way advocating putting your bottom-line to one side but if we can be smart with a little heart, we should. Here’s a good example of exactly that.
Try being a pillar of support for your client-base and the population at large. If we can give people something to lean on, something to form a basis of normality and routine within their up-and-down Covid-19 world, we’ll be seen as a port in the storm, a constant that can show them the way in good times, and bad.
Try being optimistic. After all, both optimism and pessimism are contagious [Dr. Gordon Livingston (2010)], and if you want anything to go viral around your brand, it should be optimistic.
Learn from the past where possible. We have a storied past from which we can learn. Lean on how language was used to bring people together in tough times that have passed. Short of using propaganda, find a tone of voice that shows empathy and positivity. Use empowering language. Keep it as simple as possible. Why use “social distancing” as a term when you could ask people to “stay at home” instead? And of course, we can always use our current plight as a common enemy to fight against to build a better world tomorrow. Here’s an interesting read on how brands used their voices to become part of the war effort.
Try to listen as much as you talk. It’s difficult at the best of times, but if we can find the right balance between saying too much or being inward focussed and listening to how others feel during these times, we can support them as much as they need.
That said, you should absolutely try to say something. Saying nothing is often worse than saying the wrong thing. Put a message out there using some of the tenets above. Tell people you’re here should they need you. Tell people tomorrow will be better because we’re in this together. Tell people the truth. No-one was expecting this but we’re all fighting it as one.
Of course, we’re finding new things out every day at this point. And I’ll be the first to admit that there’s probably one hundred other tips out there that we could look to when trying to find a voice in the chaos that is our world right now. But so long as we continue to work together towards navigating the crazy soup bowl we’re currently wading through, we’ll be able to help those around us make more sense of it all. And that, at the very least, means our voice will carry to those who need it the most. Then again, if all else fails, at least we’ll have some soup.
This Easter weekend is the first four day holiday that we’ve had where we’re all stuck at home. But that doesn’t mean you can’t let loose. Try out our tips and make this the greatest darn four days at home that you’ve ever had. Whether you’re home alone, in a house share or living with family, there’s something here for everyone. So let’s get started! Check it out here.
In one week everything changed. But through creativity, we adapt. And so our very agile production team have pulled together countless ways you can still get your content out and help inspire the world during this difficult time. Check it out here.
After the success of the first ‘official’ handbook on “How to Handle Bored Kids at Home”, Rothco’s own Annika & Ciara have put together a super ‘scientific’ guide on keeping bigger kids amused during the lockdown; “How to Cope with Quarantweens”.