Key learnings for creatives to devise fresh ideas in a pandemic

It has been 12 months of ad spend cuts, working from home and creatives rushing to devise one new idea after another to keep their clients’ businesses afloat. In this grim time, how does the creative community—which has endured a raft of salary cuts and job losses—keep its wits about it and continue to churn out breakthrough ideas? 

At a session on ‘Creativity in Tough Times’ at Marketing Pulse Online, John Koay, executive director of Ogilvy Hong Kong, and Nathan Hau, group creative director of Isobar, agreed that the pandemic has driven “out of the box” approaches to creative briefs.

Koay pointed to an Ogilvy campaign in which Pizza Hut and Ikea combined forces to cross-promote one another’s products. The campaign included a special pizza that features Ikea meatballs, as well as a flatpack table designed to fit a pizza box. “This forced us to think differently about communicating with consumers,” he said.

Ogilvy showed off other ways it sought to brew unique ideas during the pandemic. For example, a campaign for KFC’s Popcorn Chicken aimed to replicate the restaurant experience home by matching two people’s phones together. A Pizza Hut campaign saw the shop design a foosball box in time for the English Premier League Football tournament, since consumers were forced to watch matches at home. 

Given the conditions of Covid, however, not all creatives can expect to be allotted such happy work. For example, Hau of Dentsu-owned Isobar said sister agency Dentsumcgarrybowen flipped a critical illness product from Manulife, an insurer, from one of foreboding and potential death to instead look at the possibility of healing and recovery. “During the pandemic creativity has become more personal and altruistic,” he added.

Brand leaders may be restrained from making an unorthodox creative move because of the fear of the unknown, but during these times, you must take this risk, both leaders stressed. 

As the industry continues to wait for mass immunisation and a return to a sense of normal, creatives for the moment are innovating by working on more digital and commerce initiatives, for both small and big clients, even as access to more data is allowing them to more sharply target their campaigns. “Innovation can happen in the smallest way .. the smallest change to a customer process can make an impact,” Hau of Isobar explained. 


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