Advertising is a high-energy and often high pressure career at the best of times. When you add in a global pandemic… well it’s made the last 18 months interesting to say the least.
One of the things I’ve always loved about this industry is how much you must keep one foot firmly in sales objectives, launch strategies, KPI’s and data and the other deep into society, culture and human beings. It’s one of those industries where the saying “it’s not personal, it’s business” doesn’t really apply.
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Staying Grounded In the Chaos
When the pandemic began, advertising was aggressively hit, and an already stressful industry got a whole lot more stressful. But that’s not my story or at least not the one I want to tell. We all experienced extreme stress through this. We’ve all been there. We’ve done that. I want to talk about one of the things that kept me rooted as I was going through all this chaos. The story I want to tell is about my advertising agency, The Local Collective, and the incredible roster of clients that I get to work with every day and navigate this chaos with.
Shopping Local on Roncesvalles
To kick this off, let’s talk about one of those major topics of the pandemic: shopping local. We’ve all heard it, we all believe it’s important, yet the reality is, that we are lazy. I am lazy. That one-click, next day arrival lure of Amazon is real. It’s seductive in fulfilling my laziness. Cue the Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Association (BIA) approaching us to remind the community they needed to shop locally over the holidays as they struggled to keep their doors open.
The BIA had never worked with an advertising agency before and really didn’t have a budget that was ever going to compete with the big retail giants they were up against. Simply putting up advertising that said “shop local” wasn’t going to give them what they needed. We took a different approach.
We made the entire main street, over 100 different local businesses, look like they went out of business. Don’t worry, they weren’t. They were very much open, but it shook people in a way that made a difference. It made National news, and the community really rallied around their local shops for the season. Truthfully it made a difference on me as well, even though our team developed the idea, it gave me a shake to see a whole street out of business and as you would expect, I made sure to shift my shopping habits to local stores. What can I say…good advertising works!
Feeding Canadians one Donation at a Time
Next, Food Banks Canada (FBC), is a client we have a tonne of love for. When the pandemic hit there was this incredible need and demand for food banks, and we got a front row seat to how resilient the team at FBC were in that moment of crisis. With no notice they needed to raise $150 million, a number much higher than they had ever attempted to reach.
Already working 20-hour days for months, the team at Food Banks came to us requesting an urgent campaign and we were happy to jump into the trenches with them. The best part about this was that during all their own chaos, Canadians really stood up and gave back. We created a very fast digital and billboard campaign with a very simple message. A message to make sure that every Canadian would be able to say “I ATE” today because of the donations made by people, brands and communities across the country.
This was a campaign that at times felt really overwhelming, reviewing numbers and how the campaign was performing, regardless the donations kept coming in. It was amazing. They made it, through a gruelling year, Canadians gave $150 million to Food Banks Canada, results that make me feel intensely proud to be Canadian.
Let’s Talk About Sex
Lastly, let’s talk about something completely different. Let’s talk about sex. As the first summer of the pandemic was drawing closer, our clients at PinkCherry.ca and WeVibe approached us to do their first TV commercial ever, because sales in their category were through the roof.
Among 1,000-piece puzzling and making bread, apparently people were also having a lot of sex. (Side note: masturbation is sex. It’s sex with the person you’ve loved the longest). As you can imagine, advertising for this category is tricky, there are lots of regulations and restrictions and on top of it, we were all in lockdown. TV productions were all but halted. We couldn’t see our own families and friends so a film crew of a hundred strangers seemed very out of the question. But again, in advertising, which is fuelled by creative problem solving, there is always a way.
Primarily through found footage and a playful use of a famous classical orchestration, we were able to pull together a commercial that was cheeky, TV-friendly and a fantastic moment for the brand. Amongst staring at the nightly news getting freaked out just before we went to bed, it was a nice 30-second break that was bright and (hopefully) made you smile. And clearly people are looking for a positive outlet.
Sex, it’s good for stress people, get after it ☺.
So, that’s my pandemic diary. Less about the many tears and mental breaks I had and more about what I was able to create with my partners and teammates during it. It was hard and I’m happy to start seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. But I have to look back to the part of me that stayed rooted in society, culture, and people, and what I saw was a lot of hope. I saw us helping each other, looking for positive ways to get through this and deeply caring for our neighbours and neighbourhoods. Although I’m happily saying goodbye to what we have been going through, I’m grateful for the good I saw in all of you.
Written By: Kaitlin Doherty