Steve Jobs once said: “Focus and simplicity…once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Such is the spirit driving the ad industry’s latest campaign to get people to #stayhome to stop the spread of Covid-19, the virus that has taken more than 84,000 lives globally including 13,000 deaths in the U.S., according to research organization Worldometer.
The Ad Council, founded in 1942 to drive the industry’s support for World War II, is leading the charge with some 45 trade associations, media companies, ad agencies, and brands.
The non-profit is behind some of the most iconic messages in American pop culture, from Smokey Bear, the affable character behind forest fire prevention, to the “A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste” slogan to support the United Negro College Fund.
At the centerpiece of today’s campaign launch is a consistent message: “#stayhome. Save lives.”
Put a Roof on It
Google’s geometric design drives the visual: Two horizontal lines meet at an apex to form a roof. The icon is live on YouTube, Yahoo the American Advertising Federation’s Facebook page, and elsewhere around the web.
“We felt the simplicity and elegance of the roof iconography was easy for brands and companies to adopt and share across their social platforms,” says Kathy Kayse , the council’s chief media strategy and partnerships officer. “Its subtlety can be easily recognized by the American public and is a great reminder” to stay home.
The roof launch and #stayhome hashtag mark phase two of the multichannel initiative that began in March with Washington’s plea for help.
“We’ve had a long relationship with the White House and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” Kayse says. “And they reached out to us with their communication efforts to make sure the American public is warned appropriately with facts related to safety, high-risk populations, hygiene and social distancing.”
Public Meets Private
As plans got underway, Association of National Advertisers CEO Bob Liodice was talking to the private sector.
“I got a call from Norman de Greve, the CMO of CVS,” Liodice says. “He implored me to get the industry to do more. In particular, he was focused on 18- to 34-year-olds. We’ve seen plenty of videos of partying on the beach and playing basketball on the park playground, and essentially types of behavior that were exactly opposite of what the social distancing messages were about.”
And so the biggest names in the business have aligned efforts with the public sector that also includes the U.S. Surgeon General and Department of Health and Human Services.
The new messaging and roof icon are building on the success of March’s #AloneTogether social distancing campaign the council created in partnership with MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount, CMT and the Entertainment & Youth Brands of ViacomCBS. NBC Universal created the first set of assets in English and Spanish available for broadcast, print, digital out-of-home, radio, and social media. The #stayhome assets are available to all marketers here.
Stars in 30- and 60-second spots include DJ Khaled, rapper Taylor Bennett, and Michelle Williams, the member of Destiny Child’s who has since scored fame on Broadway and in London’s West End. Binge watchers—not to mention couples awkwardly adjusting to 24/7 togetherness—will recognize Giannina Gibelli, a contestant in Love Is Blind, Netflix’s reality show where people find love without seeing each other. She married fellow contestant Damien Powers after raucous fights and a break-up.
Urban news junkies may think the stay-at-home message is already passé, what with their collective requiem for WiFi at their favorite cafes and a burning question: Do I read the article from 38 minutes ago or an hour ago?
As most Americans adapt to the new normal and heed the safety messages, some elected officials and Christian pastors are defying stay-at-home orders.
A northern Florida pastor was arrested for hosting services last Sunday in defiance of the statewide ban to congregate, while some Idaho Republican lawmakers claim their state’s decree is unconstitutional.
“We will form a legal defense for you,” says anti-government activist Ammon Bundy in today’s New York Times. He’s searching for a Boise venue that could fit 1,000 people for Easter services.
Brands and Messaging
Surely then, the need for a prolonged campaign is clear. Of respondents in a GlobalWebIndex survey, 65% of U.S. internet users approve of brand responses that go beyond Covid-related messages to include the waiving of fees and flexible payment plans. Globally, only 37% of consumers want brands to continue to advertise as normal.
“This is the clearest sign that brands have to interact with the market in a fundamentally different way,” GlobalWebIndex North America General Manager Carrie Seifer says.
Indeed, when crises arise, creativity comes to the rescue. The industry is at its best when people gather—this time virtually—to brainstorm and make things for the common good. The results can be massive: The Ad Council’s initiative has already generated more than $32 million in donated, earned and social media, with messages seen over 1 billion times. Kayse expects phase two to double the media spend for #alonetogether and #stayhome.
For its part, the American Advertising Federation is distributing campaign assets to its 200 clubs and 45,000 members dispersed across the country. “I’m amazed at how creative and resilient our members are,” AAF CEO and President Steve Pacheco says. “When things like this happen it brings together the community in the deepest sense of community.”