Brands tackling the hurricanes of change
A view from Colman Sheil

Brands tackling the hurricanes of change

Colman Sheil chooses his favourite creative responses to Covid-19 so far.

2020! It sounded so amazing. It had such a great ring to it. It felt so assured. So balanced. A decade so solid, you could say it twice. No wonder we made great plans.

Then it actually happened.

Or at least the first 3% did. That’s how far we got before getting kicked upside down by the invisible predator. Sweeping change slapped us fast. That fun everyone-get-together activation brief that you were working on has suddenly become entirely inappropriate today. Yesterday’s logic went out the window like a bullet.

So, with no manual for these uncertain times, how are brands handling this new paradigm?

1 McDonald's 'Social distancing' (DPZ&T, Brazil)

Despite all the unknowns, there are some things we do know. Turns out the best way to stick together during these troubled times is by not sticking together. McDonald's Brazil skillfully visualised social distancing by separating its iconic arches. Clearly happy with the result, it posted this on Instagram.

But not everybody else was quite so ecstatic and took to twitter to lambast both the brand and the low-life creatives involved for exploiting our current global nightmare for an award-hunting opportunity. Personally, I felt this was one of the better Covid-19 logo augmentations (there are plenty of worse ones out there). 

2 Burger King 'Stay home' (Belgium and UK)

Meanwhile, fast-food rival Burger King has fared better with its own self-identity remix, advising customers to stay at home. It achieved this by altering the signage on its stores – its own closed stores. Where it cannot sell burgers at this time.

Of course, you would need to be a "go outside baddie" to see this campaign in the flesh, but you probably came across it online. Probably around lunchtime. Probably when that stalking cookie banner flipped you a reminder that it does online deliveries. Probably around the time when you realised that crossing out the word "Whopper" really draws your attention to the word "Whopper".

3 Guinness 'Stay at home' (Luke O’Reilly, Ireland)

Imagine a pint of Guinness so big that the head was the size of a sofa? OK, you don’t need to imagine it any more – just look at Luke O’Reilly’s clean and considered poster. This speculative piece gathered so much love in Ireland, Guinness picked up on it and went ahead and ran it online to advise people to stay at home. TBH, halfway through a pint that size, I doubt I’d be able to find the door.

4 Ikea 'I stay home' (McCann, Madrid)

Has anyone else noticed a marked increase in brands tugging away at our heartstrings lately? Showering us with pep talks about our inner strength, reminding us that we’re just humans after all, dogs love us and lamenting empty sandy roads etc.

Listen… things are bad enough already. Ikea, on the other hand, effectively demonstrates emotive storytelling here. And despite it being an old story (home is where the heart is), it’s delivered with enough compelling depth, visual interest and freshness of expression to feel sincere.

5 'Stop non-domestic violence' (Saatchi & Saatchi Croatia)

This staying-at-home lark is not easy. Being cooped up all day, boredom kicks in, cabin fever takes over – and, sooner than later, you’re crawling up the walls. It’s just not natural. Staying at home is tough. 

Or is it? Saatchi & Saatchi Croatia puts it into perspective by taking a long, hard, no-nonsense look directly into the tired but dedicated eyes of our healthcare workers, fighting the fight for all of us on the front line of the battle. If that’s not you, you got the easy job. Stay home.

6 Netflix (Seine Kongruangkit and Matithorn Prachuabmoh Chaimoungkalo, Miami Ad School, Hamburg)

Before we were all recently asked to retire indoors and watch TV, Netflix was already single-handedly gobbling up about 15% of the global download internet pie. Recent events doubled this figure, with a single week in March clocking up a staggering 45 billion streaming minutes. That’s more than 85,000 years if you stick them all together.

Clearly, it is doing something right. So much so that it was asked to down scale its resolution in Europe, because some of the other boring stuff such as Zoom/Google Hangouts/jobs/education/the economy etc wanted a look in too.

So did Netflix really make venturing outside an even more unattractive proposition than it already is by polluting the outdoors with spoilers to its famous shows? Ballsy idea, perhaps, but no, it didn’t. It’s fake.

7 CAFU (Dubai, UAE)

Sometimes actions speak louder than words. Hats off to on-demand fuel-delivery brand CAFU for a superb initiative – supplying Dubai ambulances with free fuel for two weeks. This is the type of action that will make a real difference. Well done, CAFU.

Agencies usually struggle when a brief "moves the goalposts". These days, you’re lucky to have a brief, and even more lucky if those goalposts are moving. There’s now a chance it might actually work. With the hurricanes of change upon us, the old goalposts don’t even exist any more – they date way back to the ancient world of a few weeks ago.

Colman Sheil is chief creative officer at Liquid

A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Middle East