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Fortune will favor the brave in 2021

Advertising execs share recipes for success developed amid COVID-19
/ 05:02 AM March 05, 2021

GIGIL’s quirky RC Cola ads aired last year amassed 3 million views in just 24 hours and led to a 67-percent increase in the soft drink’s sales. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape the economy and everyday life, advertisers must keep up with trends caused or accelerated by the global health crisis.

In a panel discussion hosted recently by the Philippine Association of National Advertisers (Pana) via Zoom, advertising executives shared insights on brand building amid the pandemic. The event, titled “Odd For Ads Sake,” aimed to shed light on emerging trends in advertising, find out how great ideas are made and show brands how they can stand out without changing their values. Here are some of the tips advertising experts shared at the event on brand building and adapting to the COVID-19 crisis.

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Embrace cultural shifts

Melvin Mangada, chief creative officer at TBWA Santiago Mangada Puno, believes advertisers must pay attention to shifts in culture and integrate them into their work. “By involving our brands in what is happening in the world, we make our brands more engaging, relevant and meaningful,” he said.

Mangada cited proof of this in recent ad campaigns. His team identified “everyday influencers” as a cultural shift brought on by the pandemic, which kept people at home and gave rise to new influencers on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. What they came up with was a TikTok dance challenge for snack maker Oishi, based on the word hipon, which is also used to refer to someone with a nice body and an ugly face. The viral challenge, in which users with nice bodies hoping to gain influence danced with Oishi’s prawn crackers, was a huge success.

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Another cultural shift Mangada named was “we govern,” the observation that amid the crisis, people have begun to take governance into their own hands, expecting brands to do the same. “So we thought, what if we magnify the collective desire of companies to help through a message of optimism,” he explained. What resulted was a video campaign called “Ingat Angat,” in which the country’s biggest business rivals banded together to encourage safe economic recovery. Not only did these brands gain prominence—they also helped stimulate confidence and recovery.

Engage your audience

“We have to create entertainment if we want to succeed. We can’t create TV commercials and then expect them to go viral on digital platforms,” said Badong Abesamis, a founding partner of GIGIL, an ad agency.

He highlighted the need to go beyond traditional advertising: today’s advertisers have to treat consumers like audience members, not like consumers. People have moved into the digital space, where an excess of entertainment options require marketers to think up creative campaigns. “We have to be equally entertaining, and ask ourselves, ‘is anyone going to watch my video?’”

Abesamis noted that advertisers will increasingly need to inspire emotions to engage their audiences. “We need to make people laugh,” he said, showing how GIGIL’s quirky RC Cola ads, which went viral in late November 2020, sparked discussion through the use of a distinct sense of humor. The videos, in which people revealed they were made of RC Cola bottles, amassed three million views in just 24 hours and led to a 67-percent increase in the soft drink’s sales.

In a crisis which has upended lives and caused isolation, however, laughter is not the only emotion needed. Make people cry, and make them think, Abesamis added.

He explained how GIGIL’s heartfelt ad which featured a father’s Christmas gift to his blind son—a Levi’s jacket with braille on the sleeves—garnered over 30 million views. Similarly, an ad they made with comedians, perceived to be always happy, crying was a profoundly effective message from the National Center For Mental Health that it’s okay to cry.

Swedish oat drink brand Oatly has become known for putting up irreverent ads. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Know yourself

At the heart of a great campaign is complete understanding of the self, says David Guerrero, founder of ad agency BBDO Guerrero. “Distinctiveness comes from knowing who you are. It comes from understanding what you bring to the market, it raises the question  ‘What do you believe in?’”

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He named a few brands whose successful ad campaigns run on a distinct voice.

Swedish oat drink brand Oatly, for example, puts up irreverent ads that read “Go ahead and pretend not to notice, we know you’re reading this anyway,” and this unique identity has propelled them all the way to an initial public offering, expected later this year. Laundry detergent brand Ariel India, a firm believer in gender equality, launched a widely celebrated campaign asking the question “Is laundry only a woman’s job?” and gained 50 million views in 50 days, Indiatimes.com reports.

Guerrero added that the aim of communication is to create an authentic experience for your audience. “But you can only do that if you really know who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing,” he explained.

Be brave

The cherry on top of all these is having the audacity to do something truly different. Guerrero argues that it is more risky to play it safe than to try something new. “The risk is doing something conventional that won’t really cut through the enormous clutter that exists,” he said.

He comments that it is more expensive to invest in a mediocre idea than to come up with a great one—a groundbreaking ad will be picked up by people, by the media, and will create enormous amounts of organic reach. A brave idea will go much further: creative award-winning ads are 11 times more effective than regular ones, reports the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, a British trade association.

But of course, a risky idea must be handled with caution.

Guerrero quotes the late ad director Bill Bernbach, who once said: “You are not right if in your ad you stand a man on his head just to get attention. You are right if you have him on his head to show how your product keeps things from falling out of his pockets.”

Take the idea that you must get through all the noise to communicate your own distinct identity to your audience, reckon with relevant cultural shifts, and add a little bit of risk, and you will ride out this crisis and emerge on top.

—CONTRIBUTED
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