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In-depth: Will coronavirus change the concept of creativity?

Consumer sensitivity has undergone a complete change because of the Covid pandemic and the challenges it has posed. A complete turnaround in our daily lives has forced brand advertising to shift its creative lever. India's top advertising minds talk to about this shift

In these times of gloom triggered by the ongoing health and economic crisis, brand communication cannot showcase a different reality. Ads showing someone happy just for the heck of it may not break ice with consumers. Experts say brands must be realistic and paint the real picture for the consumers in ads.

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There is different advertising for different seasons. But is there one for a gloomy season as well?

Azazul Haque

“'Fake emotions will have no place in advertising as people would want more purpose-driven communication now. They are seeking hope, inspiration, love, togetherness, positivity, optimism in advertising and even products will try and fill that emotional need gap,” says Azazul Haque, Chief Creative Officer at MullenLowe Lintas Group.

Showing fancy shots of cars zooming on the roads might not convince consumers to buy a vehicle but a car ad that shows what the vehicle adds value in the consumer's life might work magic. The same goes for food, fashion, beauty and other industries.

Josy Paul

Josy Paul, Chairman of BBDO India, said excellent communication has the power to flatten the curve even as it lifts the spirit. While safety, security, hygiene and cleanliness will be the dominant themes, advertising will also need to play a more optimistic role. To create and spread hope, joy and good positive energy and to nudge consumers to step out and explore the world outside while keeping the social contract of space and distance, he said.

"Products and services that are meant for the home will continue to be more relevant and will, therefore, need communication that reflects that need. Things that feel less essential will demand a different approach," he said.

Paul said any idea or concept that's useful and meaningful will work.

"People across the world have been hit by the worst reality, and the post-pandemic recession will make it even more painful. So any product, category and brand that reek of fake benefits might find it hard to survive,” Haque said.

Rajesh Ramaswamy

Brands should let go of what their actual tone of voice is and be more sensitive to figure out if its messaging is suitable as it was in pre-Covid times, says Rajesh Ramaswamy, Founder of The Script Room.

"Brands can alter its communication but not only by empathising, but rather the whole messaging could be on funny or joyous so that it lightens up the stress of the current situation," he said.

According to Ramaswamy, brands need to think about the role it can take in its category, and it will automatically dictate the message to communicate with a purpose and show value to consumers.

One such example is Hindustan Unilever's flagship tea brand Brooke Bond Red Label's recently launched TVC that emphasises the importance of compassion during these difficult times. Extending the brand's on-going campaign Taste of Togetherness, the film touches on the passive hostility often observed prevailing in society during this time. The campaign attempts to shatter the stigma through a simple message: Being told to 'stay alone' is not the same as being 'left alone'.

Swati Bhattacharya,

Showing glamour in creativity won't go, says Swati Bhattacharya, CCO, FCB Ulka. "A brand will not change its language because it is talking to a consumer in the time of Covid," she said.

Bhattacharya said different brands have a different connection with consumers. If people perceive a threat from a brand right now cause of circumstances around Covid, then it has to absolutely explain and convince its consumer on product safety. If one is selling a book or film, it will speak to its consumers as it was doing in regular times.

Creativity in the crisis

Experts said that there are specific parameters that they keep in mind before writing an ad copy, like not shooting with many people, keeping the copy simple as people are remotely working on the making of the campaign.

"We are trying to make campaigns that are not stunning but simple ideas that can be executed easily," Bhattacharya said.

"We think of much simpler formats where more dependency can be on the post than shoot or looking at a different kind of storytelling, operating with footages, stock images. Making audio precede everything else than video, thinking of VFX and animation," said Ramaswamy.

Agencies have to be creative in their storytelling format. In fact, because of restrictions, one can come with refreshing newer ways of storytelling.

Bhattacharya said creativity sometimes thrives when things are coming in the way of it. A very brilliant creative idea can be born out of a very tight brief. A big film can come out of a small budget.

According to Ramaswamy, agencies can take advantage of radio and print as shooting is restricted at most places. Production-wise, these mediums are much more natural, and these mediums have also evolved over the years.

"Print can become a big saviour right now, and I am not talking about the print ads which we saw pre-Covid. Print can be used as an effective communication medium which kind of moves you, connects with you and touches you," said Ramaswamy.

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