Seven’s Nat Harvey on helping brands navigate the pandemic

A lot of brands have been forced to pivot their message, or deliver a completely different one, as Australians deal with a pandemic. Seven’s network sales director, Nat Harvey, spoke with Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston about some of the ways the media business has worked with brands to help them maximise their position during COVID-19 and reach more consumers.

Brands are faced with a tough proposition during COVID-19. For those in the industries under severe pressure, such as travel or hospitality, advertising might not be a feasible option, but other brands need to find the right way to connect with an audience who are stuck in isolation, potentially facing daunting challenges in their lives due to the impact of the pandemic.

Seven’s network sales director Nat Harvey and her team have, like most of Australia, been working from home since lockdown began. Through the use of Microsoft Teams and video chats she says they’re still managing to stay connected to each other and their clients, although jokes that they ‘are getting to the end of their tether and can’t wait to get back to whatever the new normal is’.

But what’s become apparent during this time, Harvey says, is how important media companies and specifically broadcasters, are.

“It’s reaffirmed what our role is within the marketing mix. Australian communities are turning to broadcast news because it’s the most trusted environment and we can’t underestimate the importance of Seven, Nine, Ten, SBS and ABC during this period,” Harvey says.

Nat Harvey says brands are still looking to connect with consumers during COVID-19

Broadcast news ratings have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 outbreak, as have digital news numbers on platforms including 7news.com.au and news.com.au. People are desperate to understand what’s going on in the world around them, says Harvey, and feel connected to the communities they are unable to access.

This gives media companies a very strong platform on which to help brands amplify their messages. Sunrise, a dominating force in the morning television market for many years, has been a favourite for businesses looking to tell their stories, says Harvey.

Optus partnered with Sunrise and weather presenter Sam Mac for its G’day a Day campaign which aimed to keep communities connected during COVID-19.

Optus recognised that lock-down created a unique window of opportunity for people to check up one another. It’s not only enjoyable – it’s necessary to stay connected during this time. The campaign launched with Optus’s ambassadors connecting to one another and those they are close to.

Optus then teamed up with Sunrise to encourage all Aussies to get involved and say G’day. Each day, Mac called a Sunrise viewer to connect with them and encourage everyone watching to contact someone and say G’day.

The purpose of the campaign was to help people remain positive and connected, fighting the isolation felt during lockdown. Optus approached Seven about amplifying the platform, with Sunrise and Mac the obvious choice for partners.

“It was a really nice way to connect with our viewers and some of the viewers who called in shared really interesting stories. I watched one conversation between Sam and a man who was just telling him what he’d been doing with his time. You could see they were both really enjoying the connection. The good thing with morning television is anyone watching can think, I better call someone today,” says Harvey. Sunrise boosted the campaign again for Mother’s Day, a particularly difficult holiday to spend without being able to physically see family members.

Harvey says Seven’s in-house production arm, Red Engine, allowed the media business to be very nimble on its response to briefs. When Coles approached Seven to partner on What’s for Dinner? it was just three days before the first footage was ready. Lisa Ronson, Coles’ chief marketing officer said customers have been very responsive to the campaign which aims to inspire them with cooking tips for isolation.

“We are so grateful to the Coles and Seven teams who have pulled this initiative together in record time to give practical and fun ideas on planning dinner every night,” said Ronson.

“We have been absolutely delighted with the response from our customers and the chefs who have welcomed Australians into their own homes to help in a meaningful and authentic way.

“We are also so pleased to be able to support some great Aussie chefs and cooks who may be doing it tough themselves and to keep them doing what they are really good at. And to be able to share their skills with the whole of Australia takes this to the next level.”

Harvey says the need to be quick during this time has made the team at Seven reassess how they work, providing efficiencies which will probably continue through the business when the COVID-19 lockdown ends.

“In terms of the way we work, it’s made us get less people involved so we can move as quickly as possible and make decisions quickly to get things right our end. Everyone is working at probably twice, or three times, the speed they were previously, but we’re getting better results. It scares me a little bit how much better we’re working,” she jokes.

Seven has also continued its work in the AFL space, despite the sport being postponed until very recently. Seven, and its partners, were faced with the challenge of connecting to AFL fans while the sport was offline, knowing they would still need to be there when it came back. Harvey says audience wasn’t the problem – 7news.com.au’s sports pages are hitting record numbers as fans are hungry for news on the sports return – but content was.

Enter AAMI and Backyard AFL. The concept, provided by Ogilvy, was for Brian ‘BT’ Taylor to commentate on entries from the public of themselves playing AFL. The resulting five episodes were played across 7AFL’s social media platforms and AAMI’s platforms. Harvey said the result blew her away and Toby Gill, AAMI marketing manager, agreed.

“With the AFL season on hold, we had to find new ways to keep AAMI present amongst fans, but to also entertain them at a time when they’re hungry as ever for AFL content. Working closely with the team at Seven and our agency partners OMD & Ogilvy, our AAMI Backyard commentary campaign was the perfect way to do this, whilst also giving fans their time to shine while in lockdown,” says Gill.

Another AFL focused brief the team at Seven worked on was Colgate’s #SmilestrongAFL. The social campaign focused on resilience, bouncing back from adversity and uniting footy fans around the country. Damian Facciolo, Colgate Palmolive marketing manager, says the brand wanted people to keep focusing on the future, when footy returns, and stay positive about the outlook.

“Colgate has partnered with the AFL and AFLW, becoming the Official Smile of the AFL and a supporting partner of the NAB AFL Draft and NAB AFL Auskick program. We believe that all Australians deserve a future they can smile about and our support of the AFL will focus on bringing optimism into the lives of fans and football communities around the country. Wavemaker further augmented this partnership by bringing Colgate and Seven together through Colgate’s broadcast sponsorship of AFL games on Seven throughout the season,” says Facciolo.

“Colgate embarked on this partnership during unprecedented times and significant disruption. Our commitment during this time demonstrates how remaining positive can have enormous impact and inspire optimism amongst the broader community.

“Whilst the competition has had a lengthy pause, we have had to adapt to the situation and the Colgate 7Social series is a terrific example of this. Even though we miss AFL games being played, we have seen the AFL community demonstrate both resilience and optimism during these uncertain times, inspiring people to Smile Strong.”

Harvey says it’s more important than ever before for media companies to continue supporting brands during these times, not just for those harder and harder to reach ad dollars, but to keep Australia running while we’re handling the economic impacts of the pandemic.

“A lot of our focus is around keeping these brands active throughout the period. It’s about helping them be able to rebuild out of this. We haven’t so much changed our thinking, but a lot of our focus is on how we can go above and beyond for these brands coming to us and help them execute their ideas,” says Harvey.

“It might sound cliche, but we’re trying to help them through a tough time and that’s helped us redefine what our role is within the marketing plan. It’s not just about trying to reach lots of people, it’s also about how those people connect with the assets so we can tell these stories in a more relevant and meaningful way.

“It’s a really good time to be in advertising, I think, because advertising has taken on a new meaning. You’ve got a lot of businesses that need to push out a heap of information quickly and we don’t underestimate our role in that, especially with government and the need to move quickly.

“It’s a mixture of keeping that positivity going but also providing the information consumers need.”


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