By Katana Lemelin
December 22, 2020
Most people likely entered the year 2020 with a sense of optimism and seeking a fresh start that is associated with a new year. The adage, ‘hindsight is 20/20’, is likely to hold more weight with the previous year than most others in recent history; however, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves, our wants, needs, and what we consider to be important. During the COVID-19 pandemic, several brands held their audience’s attention through creative, engaging, and COVID conscious advertising.
In 2020, the majority of people became physically isolated and spending priorities changed, which encouraged brands to adapt. Researchers at Clicksuasion Labs studied advertising campaigns from brands across the globe and shared their top 5 ads for 2020. The ads were chosen based on several criteria, which included the application of behavioral science, the impact on brand and consumer, time and brevity, social impact, and concern for the COVID conscious consumer.
In 5th is Heineken’s ‘Back to the Bars’ campaign where the brand humorously reminded us to keep our distance while staying safe. Their upbeat video presented situations we can relate to as we ventured out following stay-at-home orders where the Psy-Feld effect was cleverly applied. Presenting the minutiae of everyday life that North Americans were slightly reminded to rediscover, which ranged from the elbow bump greeting to the mistaken touch of the bathroom sink after washing our hands. Their ad shared unique ways to socialize responsibly that related to their audience. When ‘Back to the Bars’ was released earlier this year, many people were more than ready to escape the confines of their homes.
Fourth on our list is Burger King, who crafted a video that might seem counterproductive. The quick-service brand’s video featured a moldy Whopper. The deterioration of the sandwich is shown in both photo and video format as a 34-day speed-run that held its viewers’ morbid attention.
This promotion offered an unseen amount of transparency for the food industry. There’s a long history of creating ads that make their food look as appetizing as possible (hint: the food shown in visual advertising is rarely food). Consumers are becoming more conscious about the food they consume, it appears Burger King is attempting to remain relevant.
Overall, the moldy Whopper was a clever way to create conversation. The average North American is exposed to 5,000 ads per day. Capturing an audience’s attention and enticing their engagement is often a difficult task. While the ad campaign may be controversial, there was a positive impact for Burger King.
In third place is Domino’s Pizza with their “We’re hiring” campaign, which placed an order for full- or part-time workers in a commercial primarily recorded with Zoom. At the time, this type of videography was novel and groundbreaking for an advertisement. Television series Modern Family once recorded an entire 30-minute episode, ‘Connection Lost’, using only FaceTime, iMessage, and select social media channels.
Domino’s Pizza featured a montage of employees from locations across the United States. When a friend or family member recommends a product or service, you’re more likely to consider their suggestion: the referral is from a person you know, like and trust. More than likely, you don’t know any of the people in the Domino’s Pizza commercial. The use of Zoom allowed Domino’s Pizza to bundle their employees with people you know, like, and trust: co-workers, friends, and family. Domino’s Pizza applied social proof and bundling to connect their audience to their employees.
Additionally, Domino’s Pizza embraced low-resolution video quality, which likely built a connection between the experiences of their customers and those who have been using video chat communication for work or play. Domino’s Pizza’s ad is effective because it created 10,000 jobs. Furthermore, the quick-service pizza brand donated 10 million slices of pizza to local communities, thus being effective and COVID-conscious in one slice.
Our second-ranked contender is Uber with their video “No mask. No ride.” Uber featured drivers and bicyclists making deliveries. Uber applied effective altruism and auditory stimuli to capture their audience’s attention. Altruism is likely to be more effective without voiceovers, influencers, or human input. Uber capitalized on social proof to deliver a message that sticks.
While donating to your local community can appear as altruism. Uber used this concept by presenting how North Americans contribute to society and safety by wearing facial coverings. We give up a little to gain a lot.
All while priming us with auditory stimuli, which will likely create empathy. Hand clapping and a single piano note prelude transitions in the video. The familiar background noise of everyday life pulls us into experiences we may envision as our own. Such as a moped engine, bicycle wheels, cars, sirens, the ring of a doorbell, or the sound of an opening gate.
Uber’s ad is potentially controversial because it thanked us for not riding with them. Not only is Uber’s ad COVID-conscious with the prevalent message to wear a facial covering, but the ad also supported healthcare workers, first responders, local restaurants, and delivery rockstars. Uber pledged 10 million free rides and deliveries for frontline workers.
Finally, first places goes to Red Wing Shoes’ #LaborDayOn campaign. On September 7th, 2020, Red Wing Shoes forewent the promotion of shoes to post job openings, which tied into a multi-brand cooperation to provide work opportunities across the United States. Each of their locations were employment hubs for the day; their windows filled with text featuring available careers from Red Wing Shoes and other brands. A clear message of “Shop for Jobs” instead of boots.
Red Wing Shoes applied effective altruism to connect their audience with other brands at their brick and mortar locations and the use of a job search hotline. The impact resides in the collaboration of brands and the number of people hired. More than 40 brands partnered with Red Wing Shoes, who used a non-Labor holiday that is synonymous with discounts and sales into a day for the American worker. Red Wing Shoes addressed one of the significant challenges caused by the pandemic: unemployment.
The 100-year-old company presented footage of its employees, a family dancing, and various video calls. Such as guitar jam sessions, meetings, and birthday parties. Highlighting all the ways we may stay connected. These clips were examples of social proof.
Most people felt the change in their daily lives, and AT&T’s messaging stated they want us to stay connected to the people we care about. Including news, information, education, and entertainment. Even stating that keeping us connected is what they’ve always done and what they’ll always do. As homes became schools, AT&T created a $10 million fund to support distance learning, which offered unlimited data to consumers, kept public Wi-Fi hotspots open, and waived late fees. Communication was (and still is) a key service to keep the economy operating and our families learning from home.
Our second honorable mention is Policygenius, an insurance company whose NYC subway ads captured their audience’s attention. Their 1960’s era design called back to “The Jetsons” cartoon, which presented the message, “the future is impossible to predict, so let’s get insurance right”. A statement that applied the availability bias to messaging and impact. Giving their potential customers a taste of what they could experience with their product: stability in a world where we can’t predict the future.
These ads spread over 500 subway cars and digital platforms in NYC. The ads will likely remain in place until the end of January 2021. Phrases such as “Compare insurance for your car that doesn’t fly and your home that’s not on mars.” As humans, we generally get the future wrong.The Jetsons did predict telemedicine; however, Policygenius applied psychology to the unknown and what people often miscalculate for the future.