Campaign Review: Has the government nailed its COVID Safe advertising push?

Mumbrella invites the industry’s creatives and strategists to offer their views on the latest ad campaigns. This week: Hardhat's Dan Monheit and Cummins & Partners' Heath Collins offer their views on the results of COVID Safe's 'trickiest brief', Tourism Australia taking on Netflix and streaming content, and Qantas banking on some nostalgia.

Brand: Australian Government Department of Health
The verdict: A tough brief

Dan Monheit, co-founder and strategy director at Hardhat, says: 

Dan Monheit Mumbrella360 2018

“We’ve got to start by acknowledging that this is one of the trickiest briefs that could land on an agency desk. High-profile, of national importance, a target market of everyone, minuscule timeframe, super tight production constraints, and a goal of immediate behavioural change. All of this, set against a backdrop of ‘samey’ messaging, loopy conspiracy theorists and a culture that leans more towards individual liberties than group subservience. Woah.

OK into the work. Fundamentally, behaviour change comms need to gain immediate attention and leave residual memory structures, Oceans of research suggest that emotion is one of the most effective shortcuts for nailing both of these objectives. When faced with the choice of dialling optimism or alarmism up to a 10, these ads set both to a five, leaving us with work that’s entirely ‘correct’, but also entirely forgettable.

Objectively, they do a solid job of explaining what the app is, why it’s important and that our data will be safe. The visual device pulsating around the phone is also a clever inclusion. Unfortunately, they just lack the grandness of a mass media campaign that’s rallying an entire country to save lives, or the personal relevance that may be achieved with subsequent, pointier executions targeted at different audiences.”

Rating: 6/10 – One per million downloads of the app

Heath Collins, creative director at Cummins & Partners, says: 

“Given the inherent skepticism surrounding anything to do with the government’s perceived Big Brotheresque ‘invasions of our privacy’, this was always going to be a tough sell. Creatively they’ve done what I’d expect would be done with a government ad, and honestly there’s not much wrong with it.

The cute little animated spot does a pretty thorough job of explaining the app and why it’s a good idea, and across most comms they do try to stress that the info they’re getting is private. Maybe I suppose they could’ve lent right into the mistrust aspect and gotten a trusted celeb or someone to be a spokesperson who spoke to this and attempted to comically allay fears, but hey, there’ll always be folk out there who are terrified of the government knowing where they walk their dog…and shop…and other super interesting private stuff.

Seriously, just get the app.”

Rating: 7/10

Brand: Qantas
Campaign: I still call Australia home
Agency: The Monkeys
The verdict: ‘The right thing at the right time’

Monheit says:

“The wisdom (and the data) all point to advertising your brand in a downturn to emerge stronger on the other side, and Qantas has given us a shining example, especially given the circumstances.

This ad ticks all the important boxes. It features brand codes, taps into existing memory structures, is contextually relevant (even if it is now part of an entire genre of ‘ads comprised of Zoom calls’) and is sure to stir a mix of pride and happiness in many of us.

It’s easy to hate on an ad like this, but I unashamedly think it’s the right thing at the right time.”

Rating: 8/10

Collins says:

“I mean, holy cow, what do you do if you’re an airline during this shit show? I reckon they’ve done a nice enough job here given the situation, and I respect the decision to spend on marketing in a time where others might tighten the belt.

Sure, every ad on everything is shot using people in isolation, but hey, of course it fucking is. Choosing to tug at some nostalgic heartstrings by revamping Peter Allen’s classic is a no brainer. Kids doing stuff always feels a bit cheesy to me but the footage around them is epic and slick as you’d expect.

But yeah, I don’t reckon it’s a bad move to remind people of what they might be able to enjoy once this crap is over. Fair play Qantas, fair play.”

Rating: 7/10

Brand: Tourism Australia
Campaign: Live from Australia
Agency: M&C Saatchi
The verdict: Will struggle to compete with streaming giants

Monheit says: 

“Pulling off an initiative like this is really tough. In addition to ‘peak infinity’ free content across YouTube and the web, Amazon and Netflix spent a combined $25 billion (with a b) just last year on producing content. That’s a pretty big stake in the ground.

In addition to the insane levels of competition, most ‘live’ or streamed content (excluding sport) is terrible. We all know it can take days to film a 30-second spot, because most of what goes on sits somewhere between mediocre and downright boring.

While those deeply interested in the subject matter may hang in there until the end, experience suggests that expecting people to hang in for a 40-minute tour that doesn’t feature their favourite band/sporting star/celebrity is a huge ask.

Maybe the content will have a bright future as long tail or cut downs, but at a first pass, it’ll struggle.”

Rating: 5/10

Collins says: 

“Yeah. why not? Like with Qantas, I mean what else are you going to do in this predicament? If done well though this could become relevant content regardless of lockdown, so I’m down with their proactivity.

If you have it in the budget without screwing a bunch of your employees, then keep making ads brands. People are literally at home watching stuff, they’re right there on the couch with nothing better to do than to watch the ads of the brands willing to make them. If anything we should all be upping our game right now, in quality and in spend.

I dunno, you do the math.”

Rating: 6/10

  • As told to Zoe Wilkinson. If you’re a senior creative or strategist who would like to take part in a future Campaign Review, please email zoew@mumbrella.com.au

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