It’s official – The COVID-19 crisis has become our generation’s great global battle. The U.N have declared it as humanity’s worst crisis since World War II, half the planet is under some form of lockdown and last night The Queen praised the national effort and compared the resolve needed to the blitz.

As with any war, the need states of the nation and cultural landscape have changed. To borrow from a recent ITV Media webinar, we’re seeing the need for community support and reassurance rise to top priority, and a rise in creative hobbies, investment in well-being, sharing laughs and levity becoming key coping mechanisms.

So firstly, bravo to any brand that’s tried to contribute to the war effort under these tough conditions, but looking at the recent work there’s a pattern emerging to the brands and ideas have successfully adapted to the crisis:

Think war over worthy.

War – Feed the front line, take care of our troops, protect supply lines, foster community, extend government messaging (where you have credibility), manufacture munitions, build alliances, adapt or maintain your service, boost morale, create jobs, deliver acts of gratitude, caremonger, stay visible or help to entertain the nation.

Worthy – Actions that treat the crisis as an awards opportunity, that aim for headlines over helpfulness or attention-grabbing stunts.

In the first amongst the brands to join the battle there’s been small victories and losses that reflect the above, there have even been brands that have experienced both:

ASOS came under fire before the crisis for marketing chain mail face masks as a flu season fashion accessory, whereas Zara and H&M have had operational overhauls to help manufacture munitions in the form of PPE, since the crisis took off.

Similarly, Brewdog adapted to manufacture Brewgel hand sanitiser, but received criticism until it was made clear they were giving it away for free.

Rather than cash-in on St Patrick’s Day, Jameson’s and Guinness cashed-out, by donating money to bar staff and extending government messaging of staying in, on a day where they both have significant cultural relevance.

And, of course, there’s McDonald’s, missing the mark with the separation of their logo but hitting the right note in the UK with feeding front line health and care workers with free coffee.

Just like actual war time conditions, marketers are having to understand new need states, circumvent supply chain issues and adapt business models to both of these factors accordingly.

Call me an optimist but I think this dynamic could lead to even more ground-breaking and inspiring ideas, particularly as agencies have started responding to the UN briefs. We could finally make good on closing the gap between ‘problems advertising folk could solve’ and ‘problems advertising folk are asked to solve,’ to borrow a Rory Sutherlandism.

So this is a call to arms for our industry to support our clients now more than ever; Keep calm and carry on, gather your troops, get inventive, draw up battle plans, keep up the lines of communication, roll up your sleeves, dig trenches for the months ahead, do your best during the difficulties and prop up your purpose because there’s a job to do.

And let’s think war over worthy.


Ketan Lad | Creative Media Director