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NEW DELHI : As confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases have jumped to 29 in India, a clutch of brands across categories have started creating digital as well as print ads to create awareness around the disease. Video streaming platform Netflix, online food delivery aggregator Zomato, Hindustan Unilever’s Lifebuoy and Amul among others have leveraged public service messaging campaigns.

Advertising experts believe given that it is the age of moment marketing, brands find it irresistible to not jump into the conversation. The ideal way to be a part of Coronavirus is to help contain the spread the rumors.

“Given that panic spreads faster than the disease, and given also that the best scientists in the world won’t be able to find a targeted treatment / cure for it overnight, brands can help in reducing the spread of panic, find ways to soothe people’s nerves and provide factual counters to fear-mongering rumors," said Narayan Devanathan, group executive and strategy officer, Dentsu Aegis Network.

Sensing that there’s palpable fear among people, personal hygiene have actively started promoting precautionary tips. Lifebuoy, the hygiene brand from Hindustan Unilever (HUL), has been promoting the use of hand sanitiser to stay away from potential threat of the virus. HUL first released a public service print ad urging people to wash hands frequently using soap, use alcohol based sanitisers, tissues and masks if feeling unwell. It was lauded for its messaging since it mentioned its key competitors such as Lux, Dettol, Santoor and Godrej No 1 in the campaign and asked people to buy any soap they had access to.

“We have increased our efforts to ensure that consumers’ hygiene needs are fulfilled. We have also redoubled our efforts to educate consumers about proper hygiene habits as well as providing them with access to products that keep them safe such as Lifebuoy soap, hand sanitisers and home care products like Domex which kill disease-causing germs," said HUL spokesperson.

Like HUL, RB India owned hygiene brand Dettol and Godrej Protekt have also been using social media platforms to dole out information on precautionary measures.

Packaged consumer goods firm Dabur said that it is running a series of awareness campaigns across digital platforms, social media and mainstream media to educate the public about how keep themselves safe from Coronavirus.

“Our key healthcare brands such as Dabur Chyawanprash, ImmunoDab and Giloy Ghanwati have been running informative campaigns to drive awareness about staying protected from such illnesses. We are also organising a Q&A session, particularly for mothers, with Ayurvedic doctors on digital media platforms to address their queries regarding Coronavirus and how to keep their families protected from it," Dabur India Ltd marketing head-healthcare Mukesh Mishra.

Meanwhile, brand categories which are not being directly involved in the prevention of the disease are also taking steps to spread awareness. Dairy brand Amul, for instance, did a topical ad featuring its brand mascot the Amul girl washing hands as the copy read ‘Better saaf than sorry’ a clever wordplay of the phrase. The ad appeared in print as well as brand’s social media handles on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

"Such campaigns have two-fold advantage which includes the social angle on the awareness bit and the brand connect with the current situation. In the past also brands like Dettol /Lifebouy have used similar strategies during such outbreaks and relevance of cleanliness and hygiene even in social events such as the Maha Kumbh. The idea is to bring relevance and stay top of mind," said Anita Nayyar, CEO of Havas Media, India and Southeast Asia.

Zomato has also been running social media campaigns with a simple text in extremely small size against the red backdrop. Users have to zoom in to read the message which states ‘Germs are tiny. So tiny you can’t see them with your eyes. In fact, there might be millions of them on your fingertips that you see to zoom in to read this. Please wash your hands before eating.’

Netflix stuck to its category codes and used popular web series Sex Education screen grab with a subtitle that read ‘You should wash your hands, you detty pig’.

“Unless it’s crass or distasteful, there may be no harm done in being part of the conversation. Far better actually would be to do something useful in the situation, if you’re not a brand in the health and hygiene category," Dentsu’s Devanathan added.

Lata Jha contributed to this story

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