Aishwarya Ramesh

Ad spots, media planning and postponement in times of Coronavirus

In light of COVID-19, citizens all across the country have been advised to stay indoors and isolate themselves. But, some ads tell a different story.

The world may not have ended in 2012, as the Mayans had predicted, but some people still have a pretty bleak outlook. March has been a tumultuous month for India and its economy. The Coronavirus outbreak has forced schools to close, colleges to declare leave, employees to work from home, and much more. However, the ad industry seems to be painting a different picture altogether. As more and more bleak news plays out on various channels, the ad breaks show people shopping, partying and frolicking in large groups, with plenty of close contact.

The contrast between the content that plays before and after the ad breaks is quite stark. Doctors and journalists alike are urging citizens to stay indoors, so as to prevent the spread of the disease. However, ads are still showing people moving around public spaces freely, without a care in the world. Here are the most recent ads that illustrate this point.

The brands and agencies work together on these ads for months in advance. Scripting, pre-production, shooting, and post-production take months. The decision, then, has to be made if the ad will be aired, and on which medium, irrespective of the Coronavirus scare and warnings that have been issued.

On creating an ad spot for Facebook, with a message of togetherness in the time of isolation, a Taproot Dentsu spokesperson says, "This particular ad is part of a larger campaign that was conceptualised and created in the last quarter of 2019, as India's version of the global ‘More Together’ campaign for Facebook. The first commercial aired before Holi, and this is the second in the series. So, it’s an ongoing campaign, not a new one, and the point of it is not to show a community, but to underline the spirit of people and what they can achieve if they join forces and come together. We do recognise that social isolation is the need of the hour and it is imperative that each one of us does our best to participate. In fact, it is our individual and collective duty, and only when we come together is when the power of a community at work is seen."

As things became more serious, on March 16, most ad film shoots came to a grinding halt. A press statement issued by the Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association (IMPPA) said, "In view of the epidemic spread of Corona COVID-19 throughout the world, including India, an urgent joint meeting of IMPPA, WIFPA (Western India Film Producers' Association), IFTPC (Indian Film and Television Producers Council), IFTDA (Indian Film and Television Directors' Association), and FWICE (Federation of Western India Cine Employees) was held. The meeting held on March 15 decided to stop shootings of films, TV serials, web series and all other entertainment, including digital video formats, from March 19 till March 31, 2020."

There were concerns when India celebrated Holi on March 10, but a lockdown of states had not been implemented then, and citizens had also not been advised to isolate themselves.

Himanka Das, CEO, Vizeum, a media agency, points out that at the time of social distancing and self-isolation, viewers are consuming video content on multiple screens, more than ever. "Consumption of products will not stop at this time as that is not related to the spread of the virus. It can be seen as an opportunity to communicate in the right context. Having said that, in order to control and deal with such a biological disaster, we need to seriously practice social distancing and self-isolation," he says.

 Himanka Das
Himanka Das

Das adds that decisions related to airing of an ad or not can't be taken overnight. "If it is an ongoing campaign and overlaps with such a challenging situation (in this case, the Coronavirus outbreak), it's not the norm that one can pull down the ad, overnight. It is usually executed within the consensus advisory agreed between IBF, AAAI and ISA," he signs off.

Have news to share? Write to us