Advertisers hoping to connect with consumers who are still dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 need to demonstrate how they are “enabling life to continue”, according to Orlando Wood, chief innovation officer at research firm System1.

Wood discussed this subject during an online session, entitled “Where the lemons bloom”, at Lions Live 2020, a virtual event held by Cannes Lions – which, like WARC, is owned by Ascential. (To watch a free video of his session, click here.)

System1 tests every TV spot that airs in the US and UK, and, based on these insights, Wood reported that impactful ads during the COVID age have shown how brands are “enabling life to continue – and enriching life.”

Messages that achieve this goal are “connecting very well. You see it particularly in food retailers. You see it also in telecommunications companies,” he continued. (WARC subscribers can learn more by reading an in-depth report: System1 recommends creative, life-enriching ads during a time of crisis.)

A case in point comes from 3, the telecoms brand, in an ad from Ireland that featured a grandfather soothing his grandson’s fears about a monster over a video call – reflecting how social distancing need not limit human connection.

“The sort of work that isn't performing well normally shows empty streets. It tells people what to do, what to think, what not to do … It sort of feels like it’s preventing life in some way,” Wood added.

An example of such material could include ads that show abandoned cityscapes and feel like they are instructing people to behave in a particular way:

Elaborating on this topic, Wood explained how System1’s research has found that “the types of ads that were connecting slightly better were more right-brained in their nature”.

This meant they were more creative and less literal and tended to make use of brand characters (such as Geico’s gecko) and other fluent devices, the name System1 applies to enduring brand assets like logos and taglines.

Another widespread feature of commercials that performed strongly: “They looked at things through a historical lens. They focused on local places and community. These things are more likely to connect during times like this,” Wood said.

The types of advertising that didn’t connect well, by contrast, were more mechanistic and left-brained, the research guru revealed. Consequently, they “focused on things rather than people, and looked at things in terms of control, precision and performance,” said Wood.

Sourced from WARC