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Advertising agency versus Covid-19

Advertising agency versus Covid-19

Béla Hlavacsek Head of Strategy 07/09/2020

Head of Strategy

Nowadays a popular topic is what challenge Covid-19 posed to brands and how marketers should respond to them. There has been less focus on advertising agencies, even though we as advertisers have an important role in making the new world work as it should. Months after the declaration of the emergency, it is worth summarizing the lessons learned just before the second wave arrives.

Some people get cold feet. Yet, the work of agencies - converting business problems into communication problems and developing the best solutions to them - does not end when the traffic light is red, or the traffic is only flowing. An agency cannot become passive, whether the client is uncertain or freezes the budget because of the expected economic impact or does not want to react to the situation because it is a negative topic. The worst thing an advertising agency can do in this case is to go blind, expecting the client to solve the problems on their own or the agency solves the tasks based on the old routine.

Based on research, consumers expect brands to play an active role during the epidemic - and of course it matters how it is solved. To answer the questions how it should be done, belongs to the advertising agencies. The advertising agency's task is to pick up the vibrations, develop solutions, and transmit them even though when it is not its responsibility.

Situation assessment, flexibility, proactivity, innovation, digitization, brand awareness. These have become the keywords of the last period.

The reduction on marketing spending has been a common reaction in the markets. But how can consumers trust brands that disappear when there is a problem and only reappear when everything is working again. The crisis has reinforced the need for brands to find a connection with their consumers even when the world is upside down.

There are products and services that did not need communication support. For example, the popularity of e-commerce, the success of home sports equipment, or Netflix shall not to be explained. We could see an example that went well, when a brand had nothing to say, for example, by offering outdoor advertising spaces.

There are also other, passionately communicating brands that we could still wonder where they are and when they will arrive. It is also true that people need stability and positive thoughts. People want to go back to their good old lives, leaving all the worries behind. But burying one's head in the sand is not the solution.

What do consumers want? They expect getting help on how to cope with the crisis. It is all about the several layers of help. Empathic and stress-relieving communication is needed. The fact that a brand considers new norms, routines and displays them so that people do not feel left behind. Ideas on how to deal with challenges. Getting help on creating new routines in solution increasing comfort. Getting help to get rid of boredom. Strengthening community relations in a more fragile world. Offers to meet new needs. Consumers want to be sure that the brand is adapting to the changes and it keeps the consumers safety. People expect social responsibility to get help in difficult situations.

It is important that actions are needed, and these are real help. The attic is full of encouragement and good humor. How much more lovable was when some restaurants, which by the way were also in crisis, delivered lunch to the medical workers revered as heroes than the many “we are with you” message. Humor should also be treated with caution. The Stay the f * ck at home song is a good gag, but to play with the slogan and say, "this is not the end", especially in connection with a 30% online discount, is already quite deep.

Help must come from brand values, from brand benefits, and from the role of the brand in our lives. If the agency provides a good solution to the challenges of a brand, it is less likely that we will encounter the same messages from different brands. And how many times we had a Déjà vu feeling! Authenticity and originality are legitimate professional expectations. For example, a grocery brand that does not forget about their consumers working from home and helps them by providing quick recipes or makes it possible that people can ask from professional chefs on their social media page.

Responsible communication fitting to the situation seems simple, but it is not as quite easy. Most likely, the correct messages do not work in a whole new context. It is worth to take our time, for example, in the advertising of cataract-relieving and cough suppressants: is it responsible for reinforcing the image that if the symptoms occur it is enough take a medicine and we can continue our business. There are also other unique situations: it is bad, for example, when digital channels remain available even in an emergency with a fun-filled promotion that encourages the consumers to sit next to a random person and give them a kiss. In addition to health, there are other problems in this campaign as well.

When do consumers want to get help? When it is needed, so immediately. Proactivity or rapid reactions are critical. Those advertising agencies can be successful, who constantly thinking in collaboration with their clients, knowing its consumers and brands, and key benefits.

From one day to the other, new habits and solutions emerged, and new things arrived into the digital space. The compulsion to a sudden change is also an opportunity for innovation and development to make something work better than in the past. Digitization has made its own ways in many areas. Just think about personal trainers who kept their clients in shape with online lessons. Or the beauty industry, where brands helped their consumers with personal advice and in addition, they applied content marketing solutions. Social entertainment opportunities have been less successful in the digital space, but several attempts have been made to do so as well.

Those advertising agencies that are open to technological innovation and digitization are able to provide faster and more effective responses to challenges. For example, event organizers were hit hardest by the crisis. With digital, virtual conferences, we were able to respond to the otherwise constantly present customer’s needs.

Going back to the initial thoughts… An advertising agency has an important role in making the world work as it should. Especially if it knows the brand, an agency can think in strategies and cooperate with their partners on a strategic level, moreover, an agency is also flexible, proactive, and innovative. Months after the declaration of the emergency, just before the second wave arrives, we are prepared to face the new challenges. Go home Covid, you drank too much.

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