To pass some time during lockdown, Hope&Glory took on a collective project to capture these strangest times in our industry, in book form.
Over the course of a week, the agency pulled together We Live in Interesting Times – a compilation of its favourite 150 campaigns from around the world.
Here are my 20 favourite campaigns (in no specific order).
1. BORUSSIA MÖNCHENGLADBACH – Cardboard fans
German football club Borussia Mönchengladback invited its fans to send in pictures of themselves so they could be printed onto life-size cardboard cutouts and sit in the stands when matches resumed behind closed doors.
It did go a little awry – as is the way when brands don’t moderate contributions from the internet – as some images of mass murderers were uploaded. But the club recovered and managed to pull off a campaign that illustrated its affection for its fans and, at the same time, the passion fans feel for their team.
2. THE WILD DETECTIVES – Bookshop becomes travel agent
A Dallas book shop, The Wild Detectives, launched as an online retailer to get through bricks-and-mortar closures. As it did so, it launched a campaign in which it claimed to have “pivoted” to become a travel agent.
A website appeared offering “holidays” to destinations including Cuba, Alaska and Brazil. In reality, they were selling books that could transport customers to far-flung climes while being read during lockdown – selling holidays for the mind. Remaining creative under duress is a quite remarkable quality and this campaign is a great example of a brand capable of doing so.
3. EARL OF EAST AND UNCOMMON – Scents of Normality
For those missing their favourite pub, Earl of East and Uncommon landed on one of the finest lockdown puns with “Scents of Normality,” a series of candles that smell of “the places we miss the most”, including music festivals and cinemas.
Making brand candles using unlikely smells is an age-old PR trope, I’d openly admit. This use felt immensely appropriate, however. And it also demonstrates the importance of a name because, in truth, it’s the pun that makes this stand out.
4. ZARA – Self-shot models
In an effort to maintain its reputation for styling, while simultaneously keeping people safe, Zara sent its newest products straight to the homes of its go-to models.
The result was a set of refreshing self-shot, yet still high fashion, photographs of the aforementioned models wearing no make-up and being creative in their living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms.
As well as causing a stir across the fashion media and the models’ social channels, it made the brand brilliantly relevant to its customer base and went a long way to make it feel like the business was going through the same experience as the rest of us.
5. PADDY POWER – Darts from home
Paddy Power launched its 'Darts from Home' video content series in which sporting icons, including Jamie Redknapp, Fallon Sherrock and Phil Taylor, went head-to-head in lo-fi living-room duels filmed on iPhones.
In a world where sport was on hold, the brand deployed its social channels to keep fans and followers entertained. At the same time, though, as much as the sport may have been taking place at home, matches were as eagerly contested as ever, and the production values were spot-on.
6. DETROIT LIONS – The schedule in Animal Crossing
Detroit Lions used a film made in (or with) Animal Crossing: New Horizons to announce their match schedule for the next season.
The Nintendo Switch game has been an undoubted “COVID winner”, at least in publicity terms, and the Lions took full advantage of it hitting the cultural zeitgeist to turn the announcement of its calendar into global news.
This was a triumph of tactical PR, eschewing “strategy” and “brand positioning” for just a moment. It shows what happens when you embrace an idea that is just too good to ignore and hijack a trend.
7. VISIT VICTORIA – Penguin parade commentary
With no sport for the foreseeable, commentators have been getting creative, as you will no doubt have noted.
None have embraced the opportunity for “alternative commentaries” more so than the BBC’s Andrew Cotter, who teamed up with Visit Victoria to commentate on the famous Phillip Island penguin parade.
Usually attended by thousands each night, the destination was keen to keep interest in the nightly “waddle” high, with Andrew’s inimitable tones added to the experience. For a destination halfway around the world, it was a brilliant way to keep Victoria in the minds of global travellers starting to dream of heading to far-flung destinations at some stage in the future.
8. EMILY CRISPS – Ooops…
A number of brands that had booked outdoor space during the lockdown took a creative approach to misfortune. This campaign, by Emily Crisps, was the one that most caught my eye.
Apart from the fact that it genuinely made me laugh, this campaign was fast out of the blocks – and a clear demonstration of the benefit of pace in the work that we do. It was also elegantly and economically written, a craft always to be applauded.
9. BRAVE – “Notflix” ads
Art director Seine Kongruangkit and copywriter Matithorn Prachuabmoh Chaimoungkalo (aka Brave) came up with concept Netflix ads to encourage people to “stay home”. The message: avoid the show-spoiling OOH by remaining indoors.
With the lockdown still in its early stages, this spec campaign (the brand had nothing to do with it) landed wonderfully in culture. The fact that Brave used Netflix as their canvas and piggybacked some iconic shows further served to accelerate the posters’ spread.
10. GETTY MUSEUM – Recreations at home
The Getty Museum challenged the social-media-using public to recreate works of art from home. The results were truly fabulous, ranging from classical and renaissance masterpieces to modern art.
It was a campaign that truly engaged – whether you were an observer or a participant. And it gave scores of social-media users something to do over a lockdown evening as the brand provided entertainment and distraction for art fans worldwide.
11. THAI AIRLINES – Stay home miles exchange
If I had to pick any one campaign that I admire the most, it would be this one. Apart from the fact that it put a travel business at the heart of a lockdown (and in a way true to the brand and product), it was just so stunningly clever.
Thai Airlines offered three million free air miles to members who stayed at home. The idea was that users would register their home and allow the airline’s app to track their location. They were then awarded one mile for every four hours they stayed put.
12. BBC ARCHIVE – The joy of sets
The obsession with releasing Zoom-friendly backdrop images became something of a pandemic in its own right during the lockdown. That said, they did offer a much-needed way of disguising increasingly unkempt workspaces.
However, while it was late to the party, when the BBC made classic show backdrops available, it cleaned up in the media worldwide – a clear demonstration of the brand’s iconic status as the home of British TV. Oh, and if you want to look like you’re straight out of AbFab, well, now you can.
13. JULIA DONALDSON AND AXEL SCHEFFLER – Social distancing for kids
The Gruffalo's creators, author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler, released a series of images of the much-loved monster and his friends to help children understand life in lockdown.
The 12-part series shows the duo's best-known storybook characters practising social distancing, home schooling, and staying indoors. All in perfect rhyme.
Lockdown was a spot-on time to be selling your books if you’re an author and illustrator. This campaign combined a sales message with social good, and brought those two normally unhappy bedfellows together with something that felt totally authentic.
14. STEAK-UMM – Beef with fake news
An unlikely saviour in the US has been Steak-Umm, which turned its Twitter channel into a haven of fact and reason about everything COVID-19-related. It’s a weird nation where people can trust a frozen meat brand over the leader of the free world.
friendly reminder in times of uncertainty and misinformation: anecdotes are not data. (good) data is carefully measured and collected information based on a range of subject-dependent factors, including, but not limited to, controlled variables, meta-analysis, and randomization— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 7, 2020
I loved this piece of work because it’s one of the clearest examples of communication in which a brand has so absolutely been willing to take a stand – even engaging in arguments with followers about the situation.
15. SILENT POOL – Silent Treatment
When the nation started running out of much-needed hand sanitiser, UK-based craft gin maker Silent Pool swiftly switched its distillery from making artisan gin to hand gel.
Loads of brands did the same, of course, but what made Silent Pool stand out was the fact that, by lobbying the Government to remove the duty and so reduce the cost of production, its actions not only supported its local community but also helped other small distilleries to follow suit.
16. CARLSBERG – Adopt a keg
With many bars remaining closed in Denmark, Carlsberg was keen to support its homeland pubs by asking Danes to “adopt a keg”. People could fill their adopted keg virtually and exchange it for real beer in real bars when they reopen.
While many brands – particularly the AB InBev businesses – came up with “pay now, drink later” campaigns to support bars and restaurants, this Carlsberg campaign just felt altogether slicker. Perhaps it was just the beauty of the art direction, but on this occasion, the Scandinavians did it better.
17. BILLIE – Are we doing video?
As the lockdown came, so did the influx of video conference calls and family Facetimes.
Beauty brand Billie launched a campaign to confront negative self-talk and tackle the pressures women face to look their best on camera. It suggested that no one should be apologising for just looking like themselves.
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A lot of time spent on Zoom ????? = a lot of looking at ourselves = a lot of knee jerk apologies for how we look. Sorry for my bags! my roots! my grays! You name it, we’ve apologized for it. But when we say sorry for that stuff, aren’t we really just apologizing for looking like… ourselves?
This piece of work came from an insight gleaned from Billie staffers’ own experience, the brand claims, which somehow made it all the more authentic.
Regardless of the truth behind that claim, it struck a chord with its audience. To be honest, it also struck a chord with me, having not been to the barber’s for well over eight weeks now.
18. VERVE – 20-second soap
A campaign from the early days of the crisis (a full two months ago).
How do you encourage the public to wash their hands for a full 20 seconds? Simple: you create the first bar of soap that lasts exactly 20 seconds. This was a genius idea from Irish brand agency Verve, and is proof that big messages can come in small packages.
19. OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH – Stop the spread
In a country where the comms approach to the coronavirus has been somewhat unhinged, it was great to see some crystal-clear messaging delivered in a smart way in this short from the Ohio Department of Health.
They say that a picture can tell a thousand words and that was 100 per cent the case with this piece of work: illustrating, by means of ping-pong balls and mousetraps, the benefits of social distancing in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
20. BUDWEISER - 'Whassup' in quarantine
Budweiser brought back its iconic “Whassup” ad to encourage people to check in on their friends during the coronavirus lockdown.
It used an updated voiceover in which the characters were “in quarantine, having a Bud”, rather than “watching the game” and enjoying the same beverage to get its “Buds support buds” message across. From there, the brand has taken the message to social media, using the hashtag #TogetherAtADistance to stimulate a conversation.
At a time when necessity is the mother of invention, this piece of recycling to get an important message across was elegantly timed and delivered. The beer brand also released a special 'Checking in' version.
We Live in Interesting Times is available for free to read online. However, if you do read and enjoy it, we’d be grateful if you’d consider a small voluntary donation to CALM – we think a fiver is a small price to pay for 280 pages of inspiring creative work. We hope that you’ll agree.