Unable to plan for the long-term, Mars looks for other ways to stay relevant in lockdown

Unable to plan for the long-term, Mars looks for other ways to stay relevant in lockdown

Keen to stay relevant by re-imagining its long-running ‘Light Side of Life’ campaign from lockdown, Mars' Maltesers is working on a week-by-week basis with its ad agency AMV BBDO as long-term planning continues to be scuppered by the pandemic.

“My ultimate aim is to get our brands into culture,” insists Kerry Cavanaugh, business unit director UK Mars Wrigley, “it’s not just about reach. For us, it’s a question of how do we appear relevant and how do we react appropriately.”

The ‘Light Side of Life’ in lockdown

Created by AMV BBDO, the ‘Light Side of Life’ brand platform was Maltesers’ winning entry for Channel 4’s diversity of advertising competition back in 2016. Commended for normalising the representation of disabilities in advertisements, the platform celebrates universally awkward situations, using laughter as a means of breaking down barriers.

The latest installment of the ‘Look on the Light Side’ campaign follows a similar format to those previous: a group of pals, sharing a poignant message under the guise of hilariously awkward anecdotes. Only this time, due to lockdown regulations, get-togethers are limited to video chats.

Reinforcing the #StayHome message, the 'Isolation life' plays on relatable tales from lockdown that hit the right note and support those who might be struggling. Covering day-to-day challenges of self-isolation, the ads take a look at awkward bakes, digitally inept mothers, clapping for the NHS and hiding under the stairs to get a respite from parental duties.

“We see it as a new generation of our 'Look on the Light Side' work," explains Cavanaugh. "Maltesers has a real history of trying to connect with women about topics that are difficult - but they need a laugh."

"That's why this work is so relevant for everyone living in lockdown. Our focus when we got started was to look at the situation and find ways to make campaigns that really cut through. It's a great laugh but its also really relevant," he continues.

With the global lockdown leaving many unable to leave the confines of their homes, the concept of being able to organise and shoot an advertising campaign anywhere in the world feels alien.

As advertisers knuckle down to produce campaigns remotely, this period will be remembered for its series of video call ads, from the likes of Microsoft and Nationwide.

Created entirely during lockdown, over a five-week period, Cavanaugh admits that ensuring the ads stood out distinctively against the mould was a concern.

“There have been so many ads,” agrees Cavanaugh. “What we wanted to do with this work was ensure that is was relevant, but also on brand. I think this work feels really Maltesers.” Though he adds that the toughest part of the work was “just being true to what the Maltesers’ 'Look on the Light Side' is all about.”

During the lockdown, advertisers have been grappling with how best to market items that are not deemed essential.

While chocolate falls under the non-essential category, Cavanaugh argues that it is certainly an item that can offer people some comfort during this time. “ [It is] an item that when you’re going through a moment like this, you begin to realise that it brings a smile to people’s lives. People want to feel small joys."

The conversation throughout the coronavirus thus far has centred on advertisers' quandary of whether to spend or not to spend. According to fresh research from the World Federation of Advertisers, 89% of large multinational companies have deferred marketing campaigns this month, which was up from 81% in March.

Yet while the Coca-Cola Company has reduced its marketing spend globally, P&G has ramped up its marketing amid coronavirus demand, arguing that this is not a time to go off-air.

“Because of the situation, everyone is looking at every marketing dollar we spend, and figuring out how to spend the best for us," Cavanaugh shares on Maltesers decision to launch a marketing campaign during this time.

“My aim with the team has been to find opportunities for our brands to fit into people’s lives and invest behind those. This is how I think we can get our brands into culture, which is my ultimate aim," he continues.

While global brands cut ad spend in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Cavanaugh admits that “we have certainly shifted budgets around, as you would expect. You have to be real about the challenges that our partners on the customer side have faced.”

He shares that the team has taken the decision to reallocate ad spend from this time to a later period. "We've been looking at everything from the lens of ensuring that we have the right ideas backed when we have the right availability," he explains about the move.

With people in lockdown, Maltesers is shifting its media plan around to take into account this change in consumer habits, with the team recognising a greater opportunity for content across its social platform with more people at home, online, and socially connecting.

"We’re also going to market on our video-on-demand platform because we know that people are at home streaming," he adds.

Looking ahead, Cavanaugh notes that it is difficult for the team to plan ahead for the year given the circumstances.

"It impossible to look and say, what should we do in November? In reality, the next three months present a number of new opportunities for us because people are going through real changes in how they live," he explains. "So we're not getting ahead of ourselves on what 12 months from now looks like, we're figuring out what now looks like and how our brands can respond to that."

He points to Mars' long-term ad agency as crucial to this strategy. "It's enabled us to be even more agile because we’ve got a really tight relationship. Our teams are trying to look specifically at what our consumers are doing differently week-by-week, to seek out different opportunities."

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