Consumers are starting to see brands tackle the pandemic in their vacation advertisements. Eight months after Covid-19 began, more direct (and sometimes worse) messages shifted to work recognizing the world's challenges, but with slightly softer touches. The holidays are a litmus test, and some brands set the tone for ads that fix the problem while maintaining a hopeful note.
For its part, the photo service Shutterfly saw the opportunity to tackle the pandemic directly and remind people that there is a lot of good to share even in difficult moments.
The ad, which was created by the San Francisco-based agency Argonaut, stages its premise with a perfectly measured voice-over and says, "This year … has happened." During the 30 seconds there are nod to thank you at the front, lack of haircuts, bread (so much bread) – and a little one who thought 2020 was the best year ever (although controversial, it's part of the joke).
In fairness, the products marketed like cards and other photo-centered items are supposed to add warmth to people's lives. However, 2020 has been fraught with tension and it is difficult to strike a balance between lightness and reality.
According to Craig Rowley, CMO of Shutterfly, the brand did extensive research and found that despite many bad things, people felt a lot of positivity and optimism. They picked up new hobbies, adopted pets, baked (again with the bread) and created rich, emotional territory for the brand.
"Because of the pandemic, people generally felt separated," Rowley said. “There is more motivation to connect in meaningful ways, and we believe we can help capture memories and play a role in connecting family and friends. And that led to the idea of "Let the Good Fly" for the campaign. "
For his part, Hunter Hindman, the founder of Argonaut, thought a lot about where the world was at the moment and whether or not the creative concept was reading the collective space. Although some of the world's serious problems have tremendous gravity, there was much to celebrate.
"The great thing about this campaign is that we try to inspire (people) and remind them of all the great things that have happened," he noted. "These are the tiny moments that we featured in the ad."
It's sometimes easy to forget that Shutterfly has been around since 1999 and has weathered multiple permutations and technical ups and downs. One of the perks of his tenure is that the brand has a lot of data to better understand consumer sentiment. However, because 2020 is so different, Shutterfly conducted a survey to find out how the brand is showing up in people's lives and how Covid-19 is affecting consumer behavior.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, only 7% of respondents plan to celebrate the holidays in person this year, which Rowley says adds to a "sense of separation". On the plus side, however, 34% plan to keep in touch with family and friends by sending them Christmas cards, which climbs to 40% in the Baby Boomer demographics. Rowley also noted that one in five plans to send cards out for the first time, a number that climbs to 40% among millennials.
"We are growing and I think Shutterfly is more relevant than ever," said Crowley. "That is due to some problems with Covid-19, but I think that it is also a basic human behavior to want to say connected."
Ultimately, however, the tactile nature of the Shutterfly product plays an important role as many people figure out the best way to spend a vacation away from family and friends.
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