Consumers are starting to see how brands tackle the pandemic in their holiday advertising. Eight months since Covid-19’s onset, more direct (and sometimes dire) messages started shifting to work that acknowledges the challenges the world faces, but with slightly softer touches. The holidays are a litmus test, and some brands are setting the tone for ads that address the issue while maintaining a hopeful note.
For its part, photo service Shutterfly saw an opportunity to take the pandemic head-on while reminding people that there is plenty of good to share even in tough moments.
The ad, created by San Francisco-based agency Argonaut, sets up its premise with a perfectly measured voiceover, saying, “This year … happened.” Throughout the 30 seconds, there are nods to thanking frontline workers, lack of haircuts, bread (so much bread)—and a little one who thought 2020 was the best year ever (though debatable, it’s part of the joke).
In fairness, the products marketed, like cards and other photo-centric items, are supposed to inject warmth into peoples’ lives. Yet 2020 has been fraught with tension, and striking a balance between levity and reality is a tough tone to manage.
According to Shutterfly CMO Craig Rowley, the brand did extensive research and found that, even though there were plenty of bad things happening, people felt a great deal of positivity and optimism. They took up new hobbies, adopted pets, baked (again with the bread), creating rich, emotional territory for the brand.
“Due to the pandemic, people felt disconnected in general,” Rowley said. “There is more motivation to connect in meaningful ways, and we feel that we can help capture memories and play a role in connecting family and friends. And that’s what led to the idea of ‘Let the Good Fly’ for the campaign.”
For his part, Hunter Hindman, Argonaut’s founder, thought a lot about where the world was at the moment and whether or not the creative concept was reading the collective room. Though there is tremendous gravity in some serious issues facing the world, there was much to celebrate.
“What’s great about this campaign is that we’re trying to inspire [people] and remind them of all of the great things that have happened,” he remarked. “These are the tiny moments that we featured in the ad.”
It’s sometimes easy to forget that Shutterfly has been around since 1999 and survived several permutations and tech ups and down. One of the upsides to its tenure is that the brand has a great deal of data to better understand consumer sentiment. With 2020 being so different, however, Shutterfly conducted a survey to find out how the brand shows up in peoples’ lives and how Covid-19 shapes consumer behavior.
Perhaps not surprisingly, only 7% of respondents plan to celebrate the holidays in person this year, which Rowley said contributes to a “the feeling of being disconnected.” Yet, on the plus side, 34% plan to keep in touch with family and friends by sending holiday cards, which jumps to 40% in the Baby Boomer demographic. Rowley also noted that one in five people plan to send cards for the first time, a number that jumps to 40% among millennials.
“We’re experiencing growth, and I believe that Shutterfly is more relevant than ever,” said Rowley. “That’s due to some of the issues around Covid-19, but I think that it’s also basic human behavior of wanting to say connected.”
Yet, in the end, the tactile nature of Shutterfly’s product plays an important role, as many people figure out the best way to navigate a holiday spent away from family and friends.