This article first appeared on Little Black Book here.
Labour have recently called upon UK advertising and PR agencies to help stem panic buying.
The image of an elderly lady hunched over, reading her shopping list in front of baron shelves so poignantly shames #COVidiots. And we could well extend this theme to other deeply selfish, antisocial and dangerously stupid acts, too.
I’ve seen a German public health message; “wash your hands like you’ve just chopped chillies and are off for a wank” build those all-important memory structures. And, predictably, brands have been super-quick to respond to the crisis. Burger King with ‘Stay Home of the Whopper’ and McDonald’s with the separation of their iconic Golden Arches. Some have called out such marketing tactics as opportunistic and crass. But in the grand scheme of things, every message that promotes our safety can only be a good thing.
But ‘ads’ like these only scratch the surface of both the crisis, and the capabilities inherent within all creative people to help communities and global economies recover.
What we require are more ‘acts’ that will help combat the spread and impact of Corona.
And we need those acts fast. Like the clever ‘upcycling’ of Decathlon snorkel masks to form respirators (main picture). Genius.
As with all great ideas, the truly behaviour, business or society-changing ones, come from deep collaborations. So, to understand not just the problem, but the cause of the problem, the audience, and the potential impact of the solution is absolutely crucial.
By way of an example, we need retail to keep supply chains open, and front-line staff in stores to fill shelves. And we need the heroic NHS workers to continue the fight in our hospitals. But to achieve this we need public transportation, if on a limited service. The issue with this becomes; less tubes + less space between commuters = greater risk of mass infection. The mission critical public transportation system which is meant to mobilise our heroes, effectively become moving petri dishes.
If that creates the mother of all briefs, what’s the idea?
The solution isn’t going to reside in conventional or traditional media ideas. It’s likely to be born from a combination of lateral creative thinking, wedded to the logistical insights and expertise of say, the military. For instance, do we create rigs like the ones we see at marathons that provide a cooling mist for athletes, and spray commuters with a sanitiser? These might also have motion-reactive hand sanitisers which dispense liquid with zero friction. And perhaps these are placed in strategic locations at major rail stations – providing not just antibacterial defences, but confidence too.
I’m one creative marooned on my kitchen desk. And I’ve no way of knowing whether this is a brilliant thought starter or terrible logistical nightmare.
So, what if in this instance my creative partner wasn’t a writer, planner or account handler – but someone in the Royal Army Medical Corp – a person who is every bit as creative in their field as we are in ours? They might quickly identify the extreme challenges of an idea like this which would render it impossible, or indeed identify a far better way of executing it that’s a bounce away from the original thought.
Pairing together unlikely creative bedfellows might conjure some truly groundbreaking ideas.
If technology had started to evolve the way we work, the way we’re structured and the way we’re organised, then COVID 19 has accelerated the need for radical transformation – making it life or death not just for businesses, but for people. So a giant government or brand sponsored hackathon would give creative people of all backgrounds, and all walks of life, the chance to collaborate on some of the biggest challenges humanity is ever likely to face.