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COVID-19 Crisis: The World is Getting More Creative

7 MINUTE READ | April 10, 2020

COVID-19 Crisis: The World is Getting More Creative

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

PMG is providing near-daily briefings on the COVID crisis, today’s briefing for Friday, April 9th, 2020 is written below.

We made it to Friday. Drinks on me tonight. Virtually, of course.

If you haven’t already, consider joining the 50M subscribers that have signed up for Disney+ in the past six months. I can’t recommend (to dog and cat lovers alike) the Disney+ original Togo enough. Fair warning — only watch if you’re ready to feel all the feels for the real-life canine hero of the 1925 serum run.

Today’s briefing covers:

  • The week in review

  • How the world is getting more creative

  • New ways to use Big Tech’s Data

See you back here on Monday.

It’s been a taxing seven days. 

After a rough start, the Payment Protection Program is nearly out of capital, with Senators eager to push through additional funding to help soften the economic blow and reduce income loss to millions of Americans. The attempt to add $250B in funding was stalled as of Thursday night due to disagreements along party lines. The Administration reportedly will also create a second dedicated coronavirus task force to tackle the pandemic’s economic impact, likely including prominent Cabinet members and the nation’s top economic advisors. 

Their job: Identify how and when to reopen America for business. For idealists, the goal is to get back to business by the end of April. For others, like Broadway theaters, summer seems more likely.

As we enter the fourth (or is it the fifth?) week of quarantine, layoffs are hitting the tech and marketing world as well as media companies. The latest being Yelp laying off 1,000 employees and furloughing just as many while Group Nine Media, Rover, 20th Century Fox, ThirdLove, and ZipRecruiter also remove workers from payroll in masse. In total, 6.6M jobless claims were added last week, bringing the total to more than 16M unemployment filings across the U.S.

In other news, consumer confidence and the stock market perked back up this week after early, promising indicators (including a reduction in hospitalizations) demonstrate that social distancing seems to be minimizing the spread of disease. On the other side of the planet, Japan declared a state of emergency and Wuhan removed its quasi-house arrest restrictions for its population of 11M. As more details come to light, greater stock is put into the theory that the pandemic may reoccur in waves, with parts of China already facing a potential second round of lockdowns

On commerce: Given the fragmented state of retail and ecommerce operations, one resource I kept coming back to this week was Stackline’s ecommerce report outlining the top ecommerce category gains and declines. Consumer shopping behavior has shifted to meet the needs of more time spent at home, with top ecommerce sale categories including kitchen appliances, home fitness products, office equipment, and pet supplies.

[Welcome] distractions from the pandemic and economic turmoil are needed now more than ever as people continue their stints of extreme social distancing and no-real-pants-wearing. As such, brands, creators, and advertising folks like you and me are getting creative and making the best of the current reality. 

Many initiatives have rolled out in recent weeks to promote local shelter-in-place measures, with the latest being the Ad Council and Google partnering to push “#StayHome. Save Lives” in an advertising and tech industry-specific movement. #StayHome joins #AloneTogether in encouraging social distancing, but to demonstrate their commitment, brands will update their logos with a roof icon and promote PSAs across owned and paid media.

In a unique move, the UN released a global brief a few days ago to encourage creative minds to submit ideas and ways to support messaging across six key areas: social distancing, hygiene, symptom education, donations, global solidarity, and myth-busting. Recently, the UN announced that the best ideas will be reviewed by advertising’s top creatives in an incredible cross-company collaboration

Brand social media managers enjoyed simpler times before the crisis began. As noted by Ad Age, jokes and self-promotion are out, “and there are only so many times brands can post or tweet about their philanthropic efforts.” To fill that void, some brands are changing their tone and messaging to provide essential nonprofits and organizations the awareness and audience garnered by big brands through takeovers with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Most notably, Steak-umm took to Twitter in an out-of-brand-character Tweetstorm to share guidance on the importance of authoritative news during this time. 

The commentary was met with resounding praise from companies and fans alike. TikTok joined other platforms, such as Facebook and Google, in promising $375M in relief funds, ad credits, and ad space to organizations helping to fight the pandemic. As a result of ad space donations and reduced competition, many platforms are experiencing record low rates for brands still in market

Brands and talent are getting creative in their ways to support social distancing, pay homage to the realities of our current circumstances, and find good news wherever they can. Brewing company Natural (Natty) Light will be holding “Worldwide Commencement,” a virtual graduation on Facebook Live in May with special celebrity guests, including Mark Cuban, Jane Lynch, and sports commentator Stephen A. Smith. In the announcement, Natural Light sought to reverse the unfortunate inconveniences for the class of 2020 as best it could to help honor their accomplishments. 

The second episode of John Krasinski’s mega-popular ‘Some Good News’ YouTube broadcast, featuring the cast of Hamilton, gave millions of viewers plenty of reasons to smile. And of course, by now, New York Governor Cuomo has become a household name and national hero for his no-frills, insights-driven daily briefings on the situation unfolding in New York.

Countless brand campaigns are getting incredibly creative with new ways to encourage solidarity or offer consumers a much needed mental break from the headlines (and an opportunity to escape to the open road), like Nike and Audi’s latest brilliantly shot TV spots.

Looking ahead: ‘Saturday Night Live’ is coming back with remote skits and more this Saturday after their “coronavirus-induce hiatus.” Pepsi’s “One World: Together at Home” is generating hype as a modern-day Live-Aid, which is set to air on April 18th. 

Earlier this week, I covered some of the incredible contributions being made by brands and celebrities to those on the frontlines and most impacted by the economic impact of the outbreak. And in recent days, those contributions have shifted to offering up the technological capabilities of Big Tech, and how anonymized data can be used to help researchers understand population density and social distancing efforts. As such, aggregate data by Facebook and Google is now available to researchers and analysts who wish to access and overlay disease prevention maps with community mobility reports and Facebook’s Social Connectedness Index

Plenty of online commentary surfaced with concerns for consumer privacy over this newfound accessibility, but with governments barred from accessing the data, the concerns are largely overshadowed by the fear surrounding the spread of disease. Similarly, Twitter made sweeping updates to its privacy policy, outlining how it shares data with other platforms for ad measurement and verification purposes.

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One last thing: In case you missed them, be sure to check out our team’s latest thought leadership surrounding COVID-19 on the PMG blog.