French Grocer’s New Spot Offers Helpful Tip for US Marketers: It’s Time to Move On

Coronavirus messages had their time and place, but consumers are focusing on the future

a guest knocking ona door
Intermarché's spot shows a series of doors, the last one with something people haven't seen in a while: a visitor. Romance Agency

Key insights:

Last week, the grocery chain Intermarché released a new ad via agency Romance. You won’t be seeing much of it stateside, since the company’s supermarkets are all in France. But its artful 60 seconds spotlight an approach that American brands might want to consider as they continue to tweak their Covid-era messaging: Keep it simple and start looking ahead.

Set to Nina Simone’s 1982 song “Vous Êtes Seuls Mais Je Désire Être Avec Vous” (“You’re Alone But I Want to Be With You”), the spot features no narrator and no actors leveling contemplative stares at the camera. Instead, it shows only a series of front doors as seen from inside people’s homes. At the very end, a chiming doorbell signals that a visitor has arrived—a dinner guest bearing a bouquet of flowers. And that’s it.

The idea here is pretty straightforward: Everyone’s looking forward to the day when we can open our front doors to guests again. And while Intermarché does remind viewers of its presence (specifically the home cooks who’ll be entertaining those guests), it’s a caption that lasts all of four seconds. Indeed, the ad is notable not for what it includes but what it omits: There’s no emotional piano music pulling at your heartstrings, no montages of dedicated company employees working in warehouses, and no reminder that we live in troubled times, uncertain times or challenging times.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with those messages per se, but they do seem to have run their course. A month into the pandemic, a Bynder survey found that half of brand executives regarded developing Covid-specific messaging as their highest marketing priority. Seemingly overnight, scores of brands trotted out new spots, and it didn’t take long to notice how similar they all were. One after another, brands reminded viewers stuck at home that we’re all in this together, that family matters most, and the unavoidable phrase “we’re here for you.”

That might have been OK for the first few weeks of April, but as much of the country moves tentatively through early reopening plans, it’s worth pointing out that consumers’ relationship to the pandemic is shifting.

At the very end of April, a Pew survey found that the vast majority of Americans—71%—were regularly switching off the news because they didn’t want to hear about the pandemic anymore. And earlier this month, a survey of 7,000 consumers by Mitto suggested that many consumers have had their fill of Covid-themed marketing messages, and quite a few (41%) are now ready for brands to talk about something else.

And while significant numbers of Americans harbor concerns that the country is reopening too soon, it’s also true that consumers are, by their own behavior, evincing a desire to move on. A recent analysis of cellphone data by The New York Times shows that more Americans are venturing out, and the number of us staying home has dropped nationally, in some places by 11%.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Intermarché’s agency, Romance, said the purpose of the new spot was “to send a message of hope and promise.” There’s no word on how the shoppers of France are responding to that, but the ones in America seem to be ready for more of it.

@UpperEastRob Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.