In the last week, there have hardly been any new creatives of note. Some cautionary stuff around the virus by well meaning brands, and some stay-home-stay-healthy advisories by others. Newspapers are mostly printing e-versions.
Television channels are airing re-runs as their content pipeline has run dry. The IPL has been cancelled and all you can see is old curated content or edited capsules of matches India won in the past 20 years, or even before. Social media platforms have seen a surge in usage, but contextually the environment is not conducive to any messaging about celebrating purchases or buying new stuff; and in any case all shops are shut and e-commerce supply channels are either over-stretched or just supplying essentials.
In all of this general gloom, no wonder Earth Hour on 28 March got drowned in the virus cacophony. But to be fair, many brands put out some good ads showing solidarity with Mother Earth, and urging that everyone switch off lights between 8.30 to 9.30 pm that evening. Unfortunately, despite the messaging, there was very little awareness, and also very little mindspace for the switch-off.
Honestly with the lockdown, the stay at home, the wash-your-hands and so much more on everybody’s minds, Earth Hour kind of came and went.
The good news however is that the advertising put out on Earth Hour was of very high quality, across almost all brands. All of it ran on digital. The creatives also showed how brands are learning to tell a story in digital differently from cutting a television commercial.
Tata Power ran a very nice video on social media putting out empirical figures on power consumption both at micro and macro levels. And how even an hour of ‘switch-off’ would give the Earth some respite, and respect. With dolphins being spotted on Marine Drive in Mumbai and with deer and leopards being spotted on city roads in Chandigarh in recent days, no one can dispute what a bit of slowing down could achieve in our immediate environment itself. So, the Tata Power messaging is relevant and timely for sure. The one-minute video has good graphics, crisp content and focused communication. A good tribute to the Earth, and, to sustainability.
Starbucks joined the Earth parade with a video on #SmallSteps. From talking about paper napkins made from recycled fibre to paper cups and compostable lids to wooden cutlery to other Earth friendly initiatives, the video is a simple narrative of what Starbucks’ philosophy and orientation is. What looked best in the coffee chain ad was the clean, uncluttered and refreshing presentation of facts. No hype. No lofty claims. Just a statement of what they do everyday with every coffee cup to help the Earth stay good. Commendable.
The Manforce condoms ad is subtle. Perhaps too subtle. Because Manforce celebrates Earth Hour every night! The creative is cute. And intelligent. But also therefore the reason that many perhaps didn’t fully comprehend the quick, brisk action in the dark! Kudos to the client, and the agency, for an exceptional piece of creative work, quite uncommon in the product driven compulsions of contemporary advertising.
The Taj Hotels ad is equally subtle. A very short video, it shows a graphic rendition of The Taj Mumbai, with its lights switched on and the moon shining. Then the lights get switched off. There is darkness for a few seconds but then the sky lights up with stars that accentuate the silhouette of the majestic hotel, and enhance its beauty. Beautiful video. Great sense of timing. And very well executed.
The HDFC Bank ad is clever. The body copy needs you to increase your device’s brightness to read it. Clever ploy. But unfortunately, the increasing or decreasing of the brightness has no real connect to Earth Hour or to the bank. Sure it does entail ‘switching off’ but the messaging is at best obtuse.
The OYO Rooms ad uses the room card of the hotel, and inserting it or taking it out of its slot, as the visual connect to switching off to support the Earth Hour. Its an interesting creative usage but adds little to the narrative. OYO might as well not have run the ad.
The Earth Hour provided a valid window for brands to advertise beyond the virus, sanitisers and the lockdown. The Tata Power ad mentioned earlier is strong on stats and facts; and makes a compelling case for the hour-long switch off. Starbucks’ ad is reiteration of a green-commitment that is now part of the DNA of the global chain. The Manforce and Taj Hotels ads are creative gems.
For the rest, honestly, the connect with Earth Hour was a bit forced. Most of the other brands were maximising the now immensely popular aperture of ‘moment marketing’ … a piece of communication created by some smart kids in their brand team or digital agency to try and make the brand look good. While there is nothing wrong in attempting such periodic make-overs for the brand, if there is no intrinsic commitment to the cause, then putting out small creative nuggets on Instagram is really shallow and pointless. Unless ofcourse one treats it as a welcome escape from the curfew and the pandemic!
Dr. Sandeep Goyal blogs cover all that is current and contemporary in advertising.