The best, most creative and worst marketing moments during lockdown

It’s fair to say that lockdown restrictions imposed on the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic significantly affected the marketing plans of almost every brand’s campaign planning. Many will have inevitably pulled the plug on their shiny new multi-channel campaign due to the incoming, inevitable and in some cases total loss of revenue that most businesses in the country were going to face. For organisations that were going to continue big-money marketing campaigns, their approach was going to have to adapt to reflect the mood of the nation.

The country was hurting. The last thing everybody wanted was to see the Go Compare man screaming at everybody through their television sets. Television sets that everybody would be spending much more time with over the coming months. In fact, with reduced ability to socialise and much more time spent at home, we’d all be spending a lot more time with our devices, exposing us to branded content and marketing messages like never before.

Which brands smashed it through these unprecedented times? Who missed the mark during these unprecedented times? And how many times were we all subjected to hearing the phrase ‘unprecedented times’ during these unprecedented times?



The Launch of Disney Plus

In what must be described as the most fortunate co-incidence during this lockdown period, was the launch of Disney Plus in the UK the morning after the UK’s Prime Minister announced the country was entering lockdown. The feel-good content on the platform was the perfect antidote for the way everyone was feeling. And while, Disney could never have predicted the situation the world would be in when they chose the 24th March to launch, the promotion of the launch was unmissable. It was a friendly reminder that while the world is hurting, our favourite characters were just a click away. The British public were receptive, and since the end of March, Disney Plus has racked up over 4.3 million subscribers making it the third most popular streaming service in the UK.

Disney Plus


TikTok has been one of the fastest-growing social media apps in the world for the last few years now. Despite only launching in 2016, by the end of 2019, the Chinese app had already hit the 1.5 billion users. But undoubtedly, it has been this lockdown period where TikTok has really come into its own. It was the perfect way for people in the UK could escape reality with some light-hearted relief. TikTok dance challenges and lockdown challenges gave Brits something to, and people viewed the content in their droves. The #LifeAtHome TikTok hashtag generated more than 2 billion worldwide views. For the first time, TikTok launched its first-ever linear TV advertisement complete with well-known celebrities who had embraced the app.

TikTok Advertisement



Understandably, a lot of smaller brands were somewhat reluctant to spend money on marketing campaigns, particularly outdoor advertisements that would be seen by a much fewer amount of people than pre-lockdown. But snack brand Emily came up with a super creative outdoor campaign that harnessed the power of viral sharing on social media. Emily had plans to run their first outdoor campaign throughout April during the height of lockdown. Instead of cancelling the campaign, however, they embraced the fact that very few people would even see these ads. Using creative copy such as “Behold, our new poster. Now, we’ve just got to find someone to look at it.” The genius of this, of course, was that it was widely shared on social media, ironically, increasing the reach it would have got had we not been in lockdown. Bravo, Emily!Emily

Paddy Power – Darts from Home

Paddy Power have an excellent track record of innovative, creative marketing stunts over the years. The bookmakers have amassed a real rebel reputation for their campaigns poking fun at Ryan Giggs’ infidelity, Brexit and traces of faecal matter in iced drinks. But this was a slightly different approach as they became one of many brands producing ‘at home’ digital content, with their darts from home contest. Darts was perhaps the only sport that could be successfully broadcasted from the competitors’ houses and with the sporting calendar on pause it was the perfect fix needed for all sports lovers. What was even better was how the events were able to raise so much money for the NHS heroes charity. It also led to a great moment where one competitor had to withdraw from the competition due to dodgy Wi-Fi!


“Even though we’re apart, we’re closer than ever”

We’ve seen many brands latch on to this line or one similar during this pandemic. And, there’s nothing wrong with that in principle, and indeed it’s totally understandable why brands would want to take this tone. Wanting to share the pain of their customers while reassuring them that everything will be alright. The problem is, we all know that ultimately their goal is sell things. That’s the game. We accept that. We like that. But when you wrap your efforts to sell in such an emotional message, the emotional message loses authenticity and comes across as somewhat disingenuous. Especially when we’ve all seen countless companies produce what is mostly the same advertisement, and let’s face it, we’ve all had enough of hearing that ‘we’re all in this together’ by now.

Celebrities misreading the room

So, this mistake wasn’t made by a company or indeed a mistake in a marketing campaign as such. But we’ve included it because of how it affected certain celebrities’ personal brands. It’s also a great example of how easy it can be to miss the mark. Gal Gadot and her A-list friends teamed up to sing Imagine on just day 6 of self-quarantine. The video garnered a lot of criticism online due to the celebrities misunderstanding the way people were feeling. They were singing out of tune, with little effort from their million-pound mansions. It came across patronising and totally out of touch with ordinary people. On the plus side, it did seem to unite everyone. Unite everyone against this awful video.




Understand your audience, but don’t patronise them. It’s always important to deeply understand your audience’s pinch points. How they feel affects the tone used in the content you produce. But what is most crucial is not to seem preachy or even patronising as some of the examples have done above. The key thing here is research, research, research! If possible, pre-test your more expensive marketing with focus groups before it goes live. The more eyes you have on a project, the more likely you are to pick up on any mistakes in tone.

Good creative will always be king. While higher budgets will usually yield better results, there is no substitute for great creative ideas. Even if you’re working on a shoestring, good strong creative will always reign supreme. Consumers are always receptive to ideas that make them smile and, in this day, and age are likely to share them online. The good news is there is an ever-increasing amount of ways people share content now. Why not try to produce creative that can be shared on a new platform like TikTok?

Social media is the perfect complement to any campaign. Even if social media isn’t front and centre of your shiny new marketing campaign, it can still have a profound effect on it’s results. Whenever you start a new multi-channel marketing campaign, always think in the back of your mind, how can social media tie into this?

And Finally…

Sometimes things won’t go how you expect, and you have to be ready to adapt. When Emily had planned to run outdoor advertisements in April, they could never have anticipated the world to be in the state it was in. But they saw it as an opportunity and turned a negative into a positive. Just because you have an idea in your head of the direction you want your marketing to go, don’t be afraid to adapt when the situation calls for it.

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