Business and Inspiration

The Future of Advertising: What Will Content Look Like in a COVID-19 World?

By August 9, 2020 October 5th, 2020 No Comments

Lately, we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what production might look like in the COVID-19 era. We know safe social distancing and disinfectant-level deep-cleaning will be among the new norms on set. But what about the content? Based on what we’ve seen emerge during the first few months of quarantine, one thing’s for sure: the human experience is more important than ever.

Take Nike, for example. On April 8, just a few weeks into the national lock-down, Nike released an ad called “Play for the World” (Wieden+Kennedy Portland) featuring grainy black-and-white UGC (user-generated content) of athletes training at home. Over a stirring cello soundtrack and low-fi footage, simple messaging reminds viewers that while we can’t play for the crowds, we’re playing for the 7.8 billion people all over the world — by staying home.

Almost universally, brands and companies have picked up on the fact that we’re going to come out of this with a greater need for human-ness — as humans in our individual lives and stories, as humans in touch with ourselves, and as members of families. The idea is that even though we’re in isolation, we’re united as a human race. As we’ve slowed down, we’ve been listening to our hearts again. And that translates to authentic, emotional content.

For Dove, real-life superheroes on the front lines of the pandemic battle are portrayed in gritty, full-color, hospital-scrubs portraits — a reminder that “Courage is beautiful” (Ogilvy London and Toronto). AT&T released a poignant spot reminding viewers that “AT&T Provides Essential Connectivity” during the pandemic, which helps to keep first-responders connected. Meanwhile, a handful of production and sound design companies collaborated to produce a series of creative, upbeat animated clips reminding people to keep donating blood. 

Regardless of where the footage came from — mobile-phone shoots, socially-distanced portraiture, motion graphics software — all of these examples have one thing in common: they underscore the idea that real people are saving the world right now, and deserve recognition. 

As we begin to adjust to our new normal, we’re going to see this idea of human authenticity pushed further, both as viewers and creators. Something as big as the coronavirus leaves a huge imprint on everyone, which means it will shift how we receive information going forward. In turn, ad agencies will really have to talk about how pitching new business and thinking about ads will change from here on out. We’re guessing that means we’re going to tell more real stories of people, and focus on togetherness — especially if and when we’re allowed to start socializing more. What’s most interesting to us? This heightened celebration of human authenticity is not only going to change the end result of productions, but also how we get there.