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Repurposing last year’s Covid communication will be insensitive and tone-deaf, suggest experts

To reach out and stay relevant, many brands may go for repurposing last year’s communications to save their ad spends as production comes to a halt. Experts, however, warn against the idea

As production comes to a halt in most places across the country and the Covid crisis showing little signs of abating, brands are getting mindful about their spending. In such a situation, some brands are likely to repurpose last year’s Covid campaigns, though experts advise against it, saying it might come out as insensitive and also affect the business of agencies.

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Rohit Ohri

Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman and CEO, FCB India, said they have not seen their clients repurposing communication yet. He, however, said a few brands might be insensitive to repurpose campaigns from last year and might end up sounding tone-deaf.

“The first and the second waves of Covid are different in scale and magnitude. In the first wave, the sentiment was around irritation and impatience. In the second wave, there is a deep sense of loss, despair and grief. Consumers are feeling a different level of emotional stress. Quite honestly, there is no comparison between the two waves.”

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Instead of worrying about communication and marketing, brands need to focus on what they can actually do to help humanity, he said.

“For instance, our client Domino’s is using their delivery infrastructure to help refill oxygen cylinders. Even brands such as Amul and Unilever are focusing on ways of helping the community. Another client, ITC, has done great work on ground by converting large public spaces into hospitals,” he added.

Dheeraj Sinha

Dheeraj Sinha, CEO and Chief Strategy Officer, South Asia, Leo Burnett, said people affected by the crisis are not looking for positivity in the situation and brands that put out messages for the sake of it might get called out. “Currently, the situation on ground is so grim that whether ads on TV are Covid-sensitive or not, is a very myopic conversation. People affected by the crisis are not looking for platitudes of positivity and brands that put out token messages will get called out. However, this does not mean advertising will come to a standstill. Brands that have the need will continue to advertise as the consumption economy continues to function. But brands have a larger role to play in this situation where the public system has failed. Brands need to reach out to people on the ground and work in a way in order to make an actual difference in their lives.”

Mithila Saraf

Mithila Saraf, Business Head, Famous Innovations, said they are continuously working with relevant insights for their brands, keeping an eye to the ground and coming up with ways to actually help rather than just send out shallow advertising. “What we learned from last year is that production of content goes on even in the absence of shoots. We keep employing new ways to keep the content fresh.”

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“The situation and consumer sentiment this year are completely different from last year. Brands need to be a hundred times more cautious, empathetic and genuine in their communication during such sensitive times. It would be very tone-deaf if brands repurpose communication from last year,” she said.

Nagessh Pannaswami

According to Nagessh Pannaswami, Director, Curry Nation, there will definitely be an impact on agencies if brands repurpose campaigns. “Everyone is doing fresh work that is specific to what is happening today. I'm not aware of what's happening with any other agencies. But if it (repurposing) happens, there will definitely be an impact. But my sense is that even if it happens, it will happen with big-ticket projects such as new campaigns that require a big production, filming, etc. These are the places where brands can think of reusing or editing last year’s work as that will not require putting in a lot of money.”

He said with the festive period fast approaching with the advent of Ganesh Chaturthi, clients will want to do fresh work.

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