Like when you see a decent car ad just before the game starts and think to yourself, “Huh, nice car and mildly clever writing there.” But by the final whistle—after having seen that same ad 57 times in a two-hour span, you want nothing more than to go full Thelma & Louise on that midsize sedan.
Now, a month into sheltering at home, social distancing, and all the other precautions and awful news related to COVID-19, the advertising that started out hopeful and reassuring—whether telling us about getting a break on our car payments, or just an upbeat, branded high-five to hang in there—may now be starting to grate.
Coca-Cola rolled out a new ad/music video late last week that for all its sweet feels also feels a few weeks too late.
The first sign that we may be reaching our collective breaking point is when the first wave of ads acknowledging our new reality had already passed, and the rest just start to all sound and look the same.
The soft piano music. The empty streets, schools, and playgrounds.
We’ve been getting roughly the same message from brands across every possible product category. Doesn’t matter if it was beer. Or cars. Or insurance. Or tech. Or ride sharing. Or shipping.
Despite even the best of corporate intentions, it all blends together after a while. You know that when the parodies begin, people’s patience is not far behind.
This presents marketers with a compelling challenge: How do you advertise right now without getting lumped in with all that’s come before, while also avoiding being labeled tone-deaf for acting like everything’s normal?
Potential solutions have been served up recently. Budweiser, for example, changed things up from the somber earlier tone to a more fun-yet-not-ignoring-the-situation approach in its adaptation of its 1999 classic Whassup ad to the stay-at-home present.
Another is Ryan Reynolds’ new spot for Mint Mobile, which launched this week. The ad clearly stars the actor (and now Mint owner) at home. While he starts it all off by outlining previous plans for a more elaborate commercial, he never comes out and says why it was all cancelled. He shares just a raised eyebrow and a whispered, “Y’know . . . .”
Years ago, I got stuck in an elevator for two hours with three friends on a Friday night. We were all heading out after having some beers and watching a game. After the first 10 minutes of nervous laughter and jokes, the reality of our bladders began to take hold. Naturally, we started talking about it, thinking that sharing the experience out loud would help each of us deal with our individual inner turmoil. At first it worked like a charm. After a while, however, the constant complaint not only got really annoying but started to make us feel worse.
Three of us needed distraction, while one—let’s call him Steve—just wouldn’t. shut. up. about having to pee.
It got to the point where all the rest of us could think about to distract us from the gurgling disaster down below was openly debating all the ways in which we could inflict pain and violence on Steve for droning on and on and on about the same thing for what felt like days, before the elevator repairman got us out.
That was two hours.
We’ve now been seeing these ads for weeks on end.
Here’s hoping more marketers find a strategy that goes beyond just droning on about the consequences of being trapped in this shared nightmare.
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