Monday — October 18, 2021

Only Watching for the Ads — How Advertising is Adapting to COVID-19

A regular column by David Born, Director of Born Licensing on all things relating to the advertising space all around the world.

Like most industries, the advertising world has had to pause and learn how to deal with the new parameters 2020 has created for them.

At Born Licensing we have had a number of incredibly impressive scripts featuring licensed IP in creative ways which have either been put on hold indefinitely or cancelled entirely.

Some of those were due to the impossibility of shooting the script. A lot of the bigger projects we work on are significant productions with over a hundred people on set, something that is extremely difficult if not impossible to happen with the social distancing measures in place around the world.

Others were simply because the advertiser wanted to shift the creative to be more reactive to what was happening in the world. Very quickly an abundance of adverts appeared showing empty streets with piano music from companies we never knew cared about us so much.

It wasn’t long before someone had created a video mash up of COVID-19 themed adverts that seemed to all blend into one. The same flow, same messaging and not enjoyable to watch for those viewers who turn to television and other media platforms for a source of escapism. Not only were their lives being upended with lockdowns, face masks and restrictions, they couldn’t even watch advertising without being reminded of it.

Enter Snoop Dog. A veteran when it comes to advertising, the rap star appeared in a smooth campaign for Just Eat (or MenuLog in Australia) that demanded you to nod along to. And most importantly — no mention of COVID-19 whatsoever!

This campaign was a huge success and was celebrated by both the advertising industry and amongst consumers. Although it involved the use of a celebrity rather than the licensing of IP, I believe it was the turning point, giving permission for advertisers to start considering campaigns that were not related to COVID-19. Around that time our phone started ringing with enquiries coming in almost at the level we experienced prior to COVID-19.

With advertisers ready to start considering more creative scripts, the challenge still remains of how a major advertising production can take place given the current social distancing measures and travel restrictions in place.

At Born Licensing we’ve found the briefs and scripts submitted to us over the last 6 months focused more on the use of existing IP assets, rather than in scripts that require major shoots such as the Moneysupermarket campaigns with He-Man and Skeletor or the Direct Line campaign with Donatello, Bumblebee and RoboCop which I discussed in the previous edition.

One example was when US based agency came to us with a brief for Ritz Crackers. They wanted to license a clip showing a group of well-known characters hugging. We presented a number of ideas to them and they selected a fun clip of Squidward, SpongeBob, Patrick and other SpongeBob SquarePants characters hugging it out.

We also worked with Samsung’s creative agency who wanted to license gameplay from a well-known app. We shared with them a number of options and they selected Candy Crush Saga.

Another example is a Christmas campaign we’ve just launched with Old Navy, which licenses a scene from Love Actually. They cleverly incorporated the iconic Dancing Prime Minister moment starring Hugh Grant into the spot which stars RuPaul.

It’s great to see the licensing of IP still being popular in advertising despite the challenges faced over the course of 2020. The good news is that over the last month or so we’ve started to see a big increase in briefs and scripts which involve major advertising productions. Although it will be some time before things go back to ‘normal’, it looks like the industry had adapted.

If there was ever an indication of advertising returning to top notch creativity and capable of major production, it’s hard to look past this incredible spot for Advance Auto Parts. We see the return of Bruce Willis as John McClane from Die Hard in an action packed 2-minute spot.

We want to see more of this. If the briefs we’re getting are any indication, there will be some more amazing campaigns that license IP just around the corner!

This article was originally featured in our October 2020 magazine

Edition 34

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