10 Ways Brands Are Getting Creative With Their Ads as Quarantine Stalls Production

From Burger King and Nike to Panera and Potbelly, marketers are finding clever ways to create content

A photo of a person washing their hands in a sink with the McDonald's logo
The Russian ad for McDonald's was created by Leo Burnett Moscow. McDonald's Russia

There is no doubt that we are living in historic times. And brands, in common with all businesses, have found themselves scrambling to adapt to the newfound reality we all suddenly find ourselves in.

Today, the idea of spending months developing and shooting an advert feels like a pipe dream from another era. But that hasn’t stopped major brands from rising to the challenge with nimble, creative workarounds that pack a big punch.

From ads made from recycled material and b-roll, to those created entirely on Zoom, we’ve rounded up the best from the lockdown so far.

Burger King: ‘Stay Home of the Whopper’
Agency: FCB

This TV spot, which tells people to stay home and order delivery, was created by agency network FCB using footage that was actually shot before the COVID-19 pandemic for an unrelated ad concept. In the spirit of creative re-use, the agency team realized the footage could still work for a campaign specific to the quarantine era.

Burger King has launched a number of timely global initiatives during the pandemic, including the build-it-yourself “Quarantine Whopper” from Paris agency Buzzman for Burger King France. While outlets there have been closed, the brand showed consumers how to make their own Whoppers and other popular Burger King sandwiches at home using store-bought ingredients—a trend that many other brands would soon follow by releasing their signature recipes to the public.

The brand also rolled out a social media campaign doling out free Whoppers to students who can answer tricky math, science and literature questions.

Nike: ‘You Can’t Stop Us’
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland

This 60-second spot by Wieden + Kennedy Portland was compiled using still and video footage of people exercising at their own homes during lockdown.

While it featured megastar LeBron James, as well as Nike-backed talents like Somali boxer Ramla Ali and beach volleyball star Sara Hughes, this ad focused on everyday people doing their best to stay fit indoors.

“To those playing in living rooms. To those playing in kitchens. To those playing in bedrooms,” the ad reads. “We may not be playing to giant crowds, but today we’re playing for 7.8 billion people.”

Apple: ‘Creativity Goes On’
Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab

With an initial rough cut assembled over a weekend and the entire production process completed in a whirlwind two weeks, Apple’s “Creativity Goes On” captured a fascinating cross-section of what creativity looks like in this moment of global quarantine.

The spot uses only “found footage” created by everyday users of Apple products and celebrities alike, but the uplifting tone of the spot avoids putting undue emphasis on the brand. Instead, it celebrates how innovation can thrive in the face of isolation.

Potbelly: ‘Potbelly Lunch Break’
Agency: In-house

Imagine: you’re the marketer of a food brand that generates 75% of its money from people making purchases in store–and now people can’t come to your restaurants because of a pandemic. That’s the reality sandwich chain Potbelly was managing day to day when the marketing dreamed up a simple and fun idea to keep the ida of the lunch break alive.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Potbelly had been launching a new positioning as the place to go for a lunch break with friends or colleagues.

With most of its 500 stores open for delivery and takeout, Potbelly created a charming, no-frills social video showing brand creative director Hassan Ali “delivering” lunch to others on the marketing team (including CMO Brandon Rhoten) by appearing to chuck sandwiches through the screen to each colleague on a Zoom call.

Domino’s: ‘We’re Hiring’
Agency: CPB

The idea of using Zoom as a primary means of workplace communication, let alone to film an entire ad, is one that just wouldn’t hold water until quite recently. But Domino’s and agency CPB have proved you don’t need fancy equipment to create an effective and topical ad.

“We’re Hiring” features real Domino’s franchisees sharing two messages: that they’re open for business and that, perhaps rarest of all, they’re hiring. The spot urges those seeking full- or part-time work to visit jobs.dominos.com to find current openings.

Jeep: ‘Same Day’
Agency: Highdive

Waking up every day in this quarantine moment really can feel like Groundhog Day–which Jeep perfectly encapsulates in this series of social media shorts that reprise the classic 1993 film Groundhog Day, featuring Bill Murray.

“We understand that every day is starting to seem the same,” begins one video as an alarm clock strikes 6 a.m. Sonny and Cher begin singing “I Got You Babe,” and Murray wakes up once more in a Punxsutawney, Pa., bed-and-breakfast.

The spot follows the brand’s wildly successful Super Bowl commercial featuring Murray. Jeep was the only advertiser to capitalize on the fact that the Super Bowl coincided with Groundhog Day this year by tapping Murray to relive his role as self-centered Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors for the ad.

Toyota: ‘Memory Lane’

This ad, to mark the end of ABC sitcom Modern Family after 11 years–which Toyota had sponsored throughout, was intended to be live action, but switched to an animated approach after most commercial production was shut down a month ago due to COVID-19 concerns.

Remotely narrated by Ty Burrell, who plays dad Phil Dunphy, the animated spot features a Toyota Highlander, which stops at each home from the show and recounts memorable moments from through Modern Family’s run before it drives into the sunset.

The ad was created by Disney Advertising Sales’ ad unit, CreativeWorks, with Saatchi & Saatchi as Toyota’s agency of record.

McDonald’s: ‘Unskippable Ad’
Agency: Leo Burnett Moscow

Leo Burnett’s Moscow office created an “unskippable” preroll ad for McDonald’s Russia, with a simple but well played premise. The spot shows someone washing their hands for 20 unskippable seconds–the amount of time recommended for proper hand-washing.

Launched for Russian viewers on March 23, the ad has been viewed more than 120 million times, according to the agency. It’s a great example of a concept that’s simple, but effective, and highly relevant to the present day.

Panera: ‘One Neighbor to Another’
Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Delivery drivers deserve our gratitude. While the world has paused, they keep things moving in our communities by dropping off essential goods including food. Panera taps into this reality with three social video shorts featuring its delivery drivers Leigh, Theodore and Velinda.

Created by agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners to highlight the bakery chain’s service but with limited production capabilities as a result of the coronavirus, the agency had the drivers shoot the commercials themselves inside their cars.

The spots, which the agency turned around in five days, were largely unscripted and and shot entirely on drivers’ smartphones. The drivers offer positive messages, including: “Stay safe. Stay inside. And I’ll bring dinner for you.”

Lego and 10 Downing Street: ‘Stay Home’
Agency: A+C Studios

The British government has been grappling with ways to keep people from leaving their homes during lockdown and a looming four-day Easter bank holiday weekend made the challenge even greater.

So it enlisted the help of Lego to help get the message across in an animated video released on social media last week in advance of Easter Sunday. The production firm behind the video,  A+C Studios, commissioned one stop-motion artist, who worked from home to position the figurines for the the creative while being supported, remotely, by a team of animators and post production specialists.

 


@saramayspary sara.spary@adweek.com Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.
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