black lives matter posters

Thursday Thinky: Life, Boycott & Happy Meal

As we are still getting used to what “normal” means, brands and organizations continue to be inventive to grab their target audiences’ attention. Here’s a roundup of creative strategies and tactics from the past week.

Happy Thursday!

Creative & Brand

From Amy (SVP Brand + Creative): If you needed another reminder that while the rest of the world is slowly emerging from COVID-induced hibernation, everyone here in the US is still bracing for another battle with the virus, look no further than the return of powerful, emotive outdoor art installations.

In keeping with the other passionate conversation that dominates our global hearts and minds right now, a hand-curated exhibition called Undivided Divinity is bringing the work of 12 artists of Afro-Caribbean backgrounds to the streets of London. The exhibition’s creator describes it as a way of “educating the public with knowledge of often pigeonholed artists within our own city of London,” bringing diverse styles and perspectives to neighborhoods throughout the sprawl of the city where voices of color (and visual expressions) often go uncelebrated.

The impact of these large scale exhibitions is undeniable. They’re visible and accessible to all, able to spark conversation in any context, and often give rise to other efforts to further their shared mission. So what do we do, stuck at home here in the States, when most of our experiential canvases aren’t available? Could we think about the emotions and tactile sensations of outdoor art, and come up with other ways to achieve the same affect without the shared physical space? I don’t know the answer. But it’s one I’d like to find out.

Bodyform – Why are #wombstories need to be heard (Bodyform)

From Amy (SVP Brand + Creative): I don’t have a lot of words to explain this incredibly powerful, moving, beautifully illustrated and orchestrated act of female storytelling—it really just needs to be watched. Fair warning: it explores the sensitive topic of pregnancy loss, along with a whole host of other issues that women deal with throughout the course of their lives, but very rarely talk about openly.

And yes, it’s from a brand. But it’s a brand that knows that these stigmas are only holding us back. Until for-profit AND nonprofit communities (and our society as a whole) become more comfortable discussing the hard things—mental health, racism, women’s health and the right to choose—we’re never going to create a better future. BRAVO, Bodyform. You did it again.

From Amy (SVP Brand + Creative): Seniors and elders have been the hardest hit by COVID, not just here in the US, but around the world. It’s been especially hard for those living in nursing homes or other care communities, as their access to in-person family visits has been pretty much cut-off entirely. You might expect a brand that typically speaks to an older audience to step in and try to bring a little joy to their everyday lives, but you probably wouldn’t expect that kind of gesture from, well, a fast food chain best known for its clown mascot. This time, though, unlike their incredibly trite separation of their famous Golden Arches to signal that they support social distancing, McDonalds (in Sweden) actually got it right.

They tapped into the global cultural tradition of grandparents buying Happy Meals for their grandkids, and flipped it on its head to encourage kids to buy a “Happy Meal Senior” for their grandparents instead. “We wanted to let the kids surprise their grandparents with what they themselves love most, along with a surprise that we know the grandparents appreciate,” says Sofie Lager, senior marketing manager at McDonald’s Sweden. “We hope the initiative has made the lives of the grandparents a little more enjoyable.” It’s a pretty simple gesture from an unlikely place, but it rings true to the ethos of the brand—and because of that, it works.

From Amy (SVP Brand + Creative): With typical on-location commercial productions still on hold, brands are having to continue getting crafty with their video content. Of course, technique alone doesn’t make for a great spot—concept, story, narrative, timing, editing, typography, and sound design all play a role.

This recent spot from Audible, best known in my household for being the “also get an Audible version of this book for $5 with your Kindle purchase” provider, combines all of the above for a playful, if not entirely original, take on the power of books. Playing on the format of vintage travel ads, Audible touts it’s product as the best way to experience the world while we can’t physically go anywhere–from taking the train to Hogwarts, to flying fictional Audible Air to Mars. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that most of the footage is likely stock or from archives. They created the story to require very few scenes that would need to be shot, and even those (the woman wearing headphones on her patio lounger, for instance), could easily be set and shot in someone’s backyard.

While I don’t know that the spot sells Audible itself over the imagination-power of books in general, it’s a great example of how we can still get crafty with our ideas and our comms, even when our resources are a little more limited than usual.

YouTubeLife in a day project (YouTube)

From Amy (SVP Brand + Creative): This is one of those really big, yet also really simple ideas that make you say “DOH! I should have thought of that.” But even if you had, you wouldn’t have the same visibility and clout that YouTube does, nor the ability to get Ridley Scott on board to help bring it to life, or a pre-determined premiere spot at the Sundance Film Festival.

If you haven’t clicked on the link yet to see what I’m talking about, here’s the summary: YouTube is crowdsourcing a feature film, stitched together from submissions from people all over the world, that asks us to show “What 2020 looks like to us.” The film, which will be called “Life in a Day,” will become the narrative of all the experiences, emotions, struggles, triumphs, fears, feelings, and everything in between that have been more intense this year than any of us could have imagined. This effort, of course, feels natural for YouTube—it’s essentially a documentary of all of its viewers, using its own platform as the launchpad for connection.

It’s not an entirely new idea, of course. Brands have been crowdsourcing video content for years. But where this feels different is the magnitude, and the execution. It’s not just a marketing ploy (although it is one, of course, when you peel back the onion), but a really brilliant way of driving engagement and encouraging diversity of perspective and experience. While YouTube may have a unique advantage in being able to pull off something at this scale, there’s a lot we can learn from their approach, and apply to our own work in the impact world. One of the biggest insights it reinforces for me? The best stories we can tell aren’t those of our organizations, but those of the people with whom we aspire to connect with and serve.



What brands can learn from the Facebook Boycott (Ad Age)

From Melvin (Account Director): Midway through the Facebook boycott, the first insights are coming in from brands that are participating in the #StopHateForProfit campaign. The bigger takeaway from the data is that moving away from Facebook “doesn’t hurt nearly as much as some people might have feared.”  Of course, we also have to take into account that the data is coming from big players (Coca Cola, Unilever, Dove, Disney, Verizon, etc.) that have the means to spend significant amount of money on other platforms. The story might be different for smaller businesses and non-profits. However, it is not too late to start testing other platforms instead of putting one’s eggs in Zuk’s basket.


Phone 2 Action – Combining Advocacy and Fundraising Made NEDA’s Numbers Soar (Phone 2 Action)

From Clara (Senior Account Strategist): BREAKING NEWS: when you break down silos and start seeing strategies and programs holistically, you win! Okay, that’s not breaking or news—but you wouldn’t necessarily know that given how many of us are still thinking of fundraising and advocacy programs from a parallel rather than perpendicular viewpoint.

This case study on NEDA (the National Eating Disorders Association) proved how impactful a holistic approach can be, yet again. A good reminder to all of us not to see our audiences as the segments we might have put in place on the backend, but rather to build journeys and plans together to bring supporters into deeper engagement.


Thanks for reading today’s Thinky. See you next week!

PS: If any of the above made your wheels spin, we’d love to hear your thoughts — get in touch with us!

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