Picture: 123RF/SSILVER
Picture: 123RF/SSILVER

Television advertising themes in the second quarter of this year started revealing consumer anxiety over the Covid-19 lockdown and the critical role brands needed to play in offering advice and comfort to consumers.

This is clear from research consultancy Kantar’s top 10 most-liked ads for the first two quarters of 2020. The agency says: "It should come as no surprise that ads from Q2 start reflecting a sense of collaboration and fighting our unseen enemy."

This comes through in Dettol’s "The Fight" by McCann1886 SA, in second spot for the second quarter, with visual cues of a fluttering SA flag "adding a sense of patriotism to the sentiment that the whole of the country is in a fight to protect our loved ones".

Kantar says Pick n Pay’s "Feed the Nation" by Slingshot Media, taking third spot in the second quarter, also brings home a message that, despite the need for social distancing, the country is stronger together, with a focus on doctors and nurses on the frontline fighting Covid-19 and masked cashiers doing their duty as the less fortunate receive food parcels.

The sentiment is echoed in the "Heroes" ad from Lyceum College coming in at No 6 for the quarter, which celebrates and acknowledges the efforts of everyday heroes on the frontline.

Kantar says that from the beginning of the year marketers have found themselves on shaky ground as budgets were slashed to save costs. And the hard numbers prove this, with television adspend falling by 16% between January and August 2020 compared with 2019. That was similar to the global drop of 16.5% in the first half of the year.

Consumers, notes Kantar, wanted a distraction from the new normal and at the start of lockdown television was "by far the most appealing way to step out of the everyday and into a world of whimsy".

According to Kantar’s Covid-19 Barometer study, 98% of South Africans still wanted to hear from brands, and that resulted in an average increase in claimed media consumption of 24% in March and 38% by the start of May. Kantar says: "For marketers, the shift was all about how to creatively reflect Covid-19 in their communications without being bland, and to help consumers adjust to the new normal."

In the first quarter, says the agency, the pandemic was still on the distant horizon, with little hint of the upheaval it would bring. The ad in first place from Trustees School Shoes, "Back 2 School", by the Wisdom & Youth agency, saw classic first-day-of-school scenes, from a mom’s pride at her little boy wearing his full school uniform for the first time, to the joy of playing outside together during break and happily walking hand in hand into school together.

Ads from Debonairs Pizza and KFC, in seventh and eighth place respectively for that quarter, saw consumers rushing off to get a fast-food fix, with tangible SA humour used to engage with audiences. But by the second quarter, South Africans were reminiscing about what they missed most and thinking ahead to what they were looking forward to doing once normality returned. This was strongly reflected in television advertising. Volkswagen’s Polo Vivo "One Horse Town" ad by Ogilvy SA, in fourth spot for the second quarter, showed a not-so-fictional future with a dash of hope, as local businesses were finally given the go-ahead to cautiously start welcoming customers against the backdrop of "support local".

Kantar says its research shows this tied in with the fact that 21% of SA felt local was better and wanted brands to bring their production and factories to SA. Almost half of consumers were also paying more attention to the origin of products, and 78% said shopping at local stores was important for individual communities’ economic recovery. Jameson whiskey’s "Until We Toast Again" ad by FCB Joburg, coming in at ninth for the second quarter, celebrates a cautious air of recovery and splashes further fresh perspective on the fact that good things are worth the wait — especially over the months when the sale of alcohol and tobacco products was banned.

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