With the unforeseen and jolting arrival of the pandemic, came a massive hit to the advertising industry in India and other nations, rendering decades’ worth of conditioning useless.

While it is imperative for this industry to keep the creativity flowing since it is pretty much the essence of its being, does the quest to stay relevant have to come at the expense of empathy and sensitivity?

Here’s our take on the unsolicited effects of the pandemic on the creativity of the industry that we call home.

The past 15 months have truly highlighted the power social media holds, the good and the bad and the ugly

If one really thinks about it, the  Indian ad industry reacted to the pandemic just like the normal person did. Here’s a breakdown on the change in the perception of creativity for this industry as the pandemic took over us-

 

The First Wave- Of the virus, of helplessness and of bewilderment

 

Along with the virus, many emotions arrived. People felt scared, confused and clueless, so did the entire industry.

The mere magnitude of what had taken the entire world by storm was too much to process in a short span, and so they did exactly what the common man was doing.

Almost immediately, the social media calendars changed to content with whatever little information was made available- around how one could be safe. Social Media feeds were flooded with posts about social distancing, wearing masks, and staying In. While some brands did it extremely innovatively, others stuck to the vanilla content, which was still very commendable. For a change, intent was more important than content, rightly so.

Brands went beyond their mission statements and marketing targets and worked towards the greater good, humanity came through.

 

The Realisation- of the virus’s long unwelcome stay and the new normal for the industry

How brands talk is reflected in the way people talk. When people finally processed what had happened and that this was not just a week off, but the fact that it was going to be here for a while, they quickly adapted. Just like the normal person, the industry eventually did come to terms with the realization, and just as the common man had to get used to the new normal, so did the industry. Budgets were re-visited, strategies altered. The  Ad Industry was now looking beyond precautionary messaging, it now also took into account the socio-cultural impact. Musicians doing virtual live concerts, heartwarming videos of families spending increased time together, artists changing their platforms became the new normal. It taught us to appreciate the small things and filled everyone with gratitude.

 

The Rise of the Graph- and the fall of empathy

Moving on to address the elephant in the room- the ongoing unfortunate and forced commercialization of the crisis. With the pandemic hitting the nation like a truck, it is understandable that businesses need to stay afloat, but brands have failed to realize that there is a very thin line between a Public Service Announcement and growing their business. A sentiment analysis exactly a year ago would have shown the people feeling it couldn’t get any worse, but a year in, 2020 sure looks good. The tolerance of the people has dropped during the second wave. The general sentiment has naturally been critically negative. This time, instead of frustration or helplessness, the general emotion has been anger, and everyone has been finding someplace to direct it to.

Now is the worst time to make a mistake, and brands need to realize that this is not just another trend boat they can get in and row, which is the inherent tendency of this industry. So what can a brand really do? 

Apart from the most important thing, knowing when to speak and when not to, the industry should do just what it has been doing till now, reacting to the situation just like a human is. 

This is the time when the common man has let go of their ego, their hesitance of raising opinions, their fear of being perceived a certain way, and are doing this nation a huge favor, by simply helpingIt is time brands started using their platforms for a larger good and paused finding ways to meet their targets. This is the time when the brand puts itself in the shoes of a human, and not the other way round.

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