How Brands Are Saving America; Return of the Dancing Banker: Thursday’s First Things First

Plus, lessons in leadership from Martin Sorrell

dollar bill with George Washington wearing a face mask
Brands have led the charge in supplying the Covid-19-fighting resources the country needs.
Getty Images

Welcome to First Things First, Adweek’s daily resource for marketers. We’ll be publishing the content to First Things First on Adweek.com each morning (like this post), but if you prefer that it come straight to your inbox, you can sign up for the email here.

How It Fell to Brands to Rescue America From the Coronavirus Crisis

American brands, often acting on their own initiative, are coming to the aid of the country more than at any time since World War II—and in hundreds of different ways: The hand-sanitizer shortage first prompted distilleries to begin making it, followed by Anheuser-Busch and Bacardi. Wire fabricator Marlin Steel has been turning out test-tube racks for Covid-19 screenings. Boston Dynamics developed a robot to help doctors treat patients remotely. Apple and Google have partnered on an app designed to determine whether people might have come into contact with the virus.

But behind these efforts is the debate over the degree to which it is the federal government’s job to swoop in and save the nation during a health crisis, or if the private sector shares some responsibility.

Read more: Explore this phenomenon and how the fact that the country does not make many of its own goods has, in part, led us here.

More Ways Brands Are Lending a Hand

How TD Bank Remade One of Its Most Popular Ads for the Quarantine Era

TD Bank is getting in on the classic ad reboot game with a spin on its popular 2019 ad featuring a banker dancing in his branch after everyone else has left. TBWA\Chiat\Day New York creative directors Jexy Holman and Nuno Teixeira came up with the idea for the reboot in which the banker instead dances inside his own home after depositing a check online. The agency had to get creative to shoot the spot, sending equipment to the actor’s home and enlisting his sister to be a one-person production crew.

Read more: Watch both ads, and learn how the creatives ensured that the spot balances the original’s “fun energy” without being tone deaf.

More Creative Campaigns:

  • The New York Times released an ad today titled “The Truth Is Essential” that refutes false Covid-19 claims, including President Trump’s insinuation that injecting disinfectants could help fight the virus.
  • Droga5 and Meek Mill have used the voices of real prisoners in a powerful new campaign to raise awareness of the coronavirus risk to inmates living in communal conditions for the Reform Alliance.
  • In a new PSA, Lego Batman is ready to take on “a dude named Covid,” and he needs a hand from kids everywhere.

Martin Sorrell on Leadership During Covid-19 and the New Normal

In a recent conversation with Michael Seidler, CEO of Madison Alley Global Ventures, S4 Capital’s Martin Sorrell offered some advice. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • “Cash is king,” but people are valuable: Sorrell noted how executive salary cuts helped alleviate the need to cut headcount in lower tiers.
  • Agencies that urge their clients to “spend, spend, spend” their way out of the pandemic will lose trust because “you may spend yourself out of existence.”
  • Flexibility is key, he said, citing the (poorly executed) example set by WeWork: “If you win a piece of business you expand, and if you lose a piece of business you can reduce.”

Read more: Plus, learn about Sorrell’s forecasts for the recovery of digital ad spend.

More agency news: In an internal memo today, Omnicom CEO John Wren announced that the company will maintain its current work from home policy through May 15 before opening “under a phased approach.” Read the memo here.

With Beyonce as the Soundtrack, the Sports World’s ‘Real Heroes’ PSA Goes Live

The official spot for “The Real Heroes Project” launched yesterday, marking the culmination of an unprecedented collaboration among more than a dozen marketing A-listers including the NFL, MLB, NHL, WWE, WTA and Electronic Arts. Timed to National Nurses Day with Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ as the soundtrack, the spot comes from Los Angeles agency 72andSunny and production partner Hecho Studios. The PSA features sports superstars like Wayne Gretzky, Carli Lloyd, John Cena and Drew Brees honoring doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers risking their own lives to save others.

Watch it: The campaign continues this week, and professional athletes are taking the lead, with those in the video and their teammates making digital tributes and sharing them on social media.

More of Today’s Top News and Highlights

Michelle Miller, Director of People & Culture at Madwell, Explains How to Keep Staff Engaged

“We’ve utilized Slack to setup lots of new channels to talk about topics that promote diverse conversation and interaction. It can be as simple as a list of recommendations of what to stream, a custom ‘chill’ playlist by our more musically inclined team members, or even an original song about quarantine. …

We’re also trying to inject levity into this very trying time. For example, we broadcast a Monday All Hands via Google Hangouts Streaming to our US offices and recently opened with a very wonderfully bananas intro sequence, before closing the meeting by having all the parents on staff celebrate ‘bring your kids to work’ day virtually.”

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