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With lots of creatives and directors locked indoors for weeks on end (including our team), agencies have had to re-think how they make effective advertising. An uncertain financial future has led to tighter budgets, and some companies have made the decision to suspend advertising altogether; but with more of us at home sat watching TV and constantly scrolling through our social media channels, a lot of brands have actually ramped up activity.

It’s been interesting to see the approaches that different companies have taken during this period. For the first month of lockdown it seemed like we were going to be forever inundated with the same elements in every advert: shots of empty streets, softly spoken voice-overs that echoed the same messaging around “these uncertain times”, awkward Zoom videos and the promise that “we’ll be there for our customers.”

But in recent weeks there have been some promising steps forward. Škoda released a trio of homemade ads using miniature toy cars, while Maltesers mocked our new resilience on Zoom and Facebook created an ad made from content generated using its Messenger chat service.

So what makes for a successful lockdown campaign? Below we have looked at some of our design team’s favourite lockdown adverts and why they have stood out to us!

Maltesers – Isolation Life

Maltesers’ new campaign aims to tackle the challenges of lockdown through the use of humour, as it takes the long-term view on marketing through the coronavirus.

A pandemic-induced lockdown may not seem like obvious fodder for humour, but Maltesers is hoping to bring a “light side” to the current challenges people are facing in the hope it will help people cope. In the campaign videos women are shown chatting on Zoom about challenges including childcare, living alone and dating.

Standout topics under discussion include video dating and putting makeup on to impress a hot guy during the “Clap for carers” moment on Thursday nights. There’s also a call that gets “Zoombombed” by one of their mothers and another in which they sit in companionable silence. But what is particularly interesting is that unlike other campaigns created during lockdown, it does not feature user-generated content but instead uses actors, scripts and a director.

KFC – We’ll Take It From Here

At the start of the outbreak KFC were forced to pause their latest “finger lickin’ good” campaign after complaints that the ads encouraged customers to lick their hands at a time when public health officials were stressing the importance of good hygiene.

After this setback, we were pleased to see that their latest advertisement, to promote the return of their delivery and takeaway service, was a great success and one of our favourite adverts during lockdown. We love the use of user generated content taken from their #RateMyKFC social media campaign, with photographs and videos of customers attempting to recreate the Colonel’s famous recipe – to varying degrees of success – set to Celine Dion’s iconic “All by Myself”. Once Celine hits the big notes and the fried chicken drops into the bucket, you’re already scrambling for your phone to place an order!

KFC UK & Ireland marketing director, Jack Hinchliffe, told Marketing Week: “This shows the length our fans have gone to recreate KFC at home, some better than others, but the end result is we are saluting their efforts. We wanted to let our fans know we’re back and they can put the fryers down and leave it to us.”

Škoda – Shot@Home

The Czech car firm had already experimented with using toy cars to create stylish advertising in 2019 – but the restrictions imposed by lockdown gave them the chance to be even more creative.

Škoda enlisted three filmmakers to put their spin on a car advert shot entirely at home, using model cars – with each film using a different technique or medium from 8mm film, to digital camera, to stop motion. Forced to work under such restrictions, the directors found that they had to look for new creative ways to get their visions across.

“Limitations are always great for creativity,” said Johan Kramer, whose dog Paco was the breakout star of his short. “I loved that. What impressed me was that ŠKODA wanted to craft something home-made; something with a feel and a recognisable setting everyone can currently identify with. The number of people involved was also minimal compared to the usual shooting: this time, it was just me and my oldest daughter. And Paco the dog of course. We even had to make our own coffee on set – director, camera crew and catering all in one. Wonderful!”

Budweiser – Whassup?

WHAZZUUUUUUUUP! This advert was always going to make our list based purely on nostalgia, instantly taking us back to the turn of the millennium. The remake of the iconic 1999 ad encourages people to check in with their friends during lockdown, and uses the same footage as the original, but with clever redubbing – so that instead of saying “Watching the game, having a Bud”, they’re now “In quarantine, having a Bud.”

As well as the nostalgic value, this ad’s messaging is very on point and something that has became increasingly important during lockdown – the idea of checking in on friends and family. With people becoming isolated, loneliness is having a big impact on mental health, and checking in when you might not be able to meet face-to-face lets them know you are there to talk and ready to listen.

What’s more, Budweiser enlisted sports stars Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Candace Parker, and DJ D-Nice to create their own version of the ad, where they’re all on video chat asking each other “Whassup?”

This isn’t the first time Budweiser have revisited one of their famous campaigns from yesteryear. In 2017, Bud Light brought back the famous “Bud! Weis! Er!” frogs from 1995 – introducing a new frog to the swamp, Light. This makes us wonder what’s next from Anheuser-Busch – maybe it’s time for Louie the Lizard to make a comeback too?