What a crazy time to be a visual storyteller. We’re generally out in the world, surrounded by inspiration and bombarded by stimuli. Of course, we still have our devices, we still spend lots of time devouring news of the virus and we still binge an infinite number of great shows. Nevertheless, social isolation due to coronavirus is having an impact. Something very different is going on here that is akin to Thoreau separating from the world at Walden Pond to get to something deeper and more meaningful.

Throughout quarantine, I’ve been following brands that are trying to find an authentic and thoughtful way to connect with their audiences. What do you do when you can’t write a script, hire a director, put a crew together and go shoot and edit a story? You have to be open to exploring new ways to create moments for telling those stories. 

Here at Ayzenberg we’ve been on the R&D path since the very first week of the “lockdown” and are already pitching ideas to clients on how to adapt to this new reality. There are incredible opportunities to tell a story that is screaming to be told, one that is authentic and socially resonant.

Each week, I’ll be sharing my take on a few brands that have been brave enough to put something out there that really hits all the marks.

Ikea – Make Home Count

Ikea’s 55-second home-made spot celebrates “the simple joys that come with making home count,” spotlighting parents reading to their son, a woman watering her plans and a little boy sitting on his working-from-home dad’s lap. This was the first spot I encountered that really had a clear perspective on what we were all going through. I love how Ikea positioned the glass as half-full.

Why it matters: Right now, our heads can’t help but be filled with fear of the unknown and it’s so easy to let that consume us. Brands that focus on what’s really important—the things that make us who we are and our connection to the tribe—in such a poignant way will stand out amid the pandemic. It’s also a reminder that whatever you are doing today or tomorrow, to just make it count.

The details: I love that creative agency TBWA\Singapore asked their staffers to film themselves at home to capture all of these human moments and to showcase the fact that our homes have now become our playgrounds, our schools, our offices and all things in between.

Goodby Silverstein – Toilet Paper

In this video that advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners posted to its Instagram channel, staff are shown at home passing a roll of toilet paper to each other on a conference call, accompanied by the message, “Please don’t squeeze or hoard the Charmin. Pass it on!” Apparently the idea spawned from the way the agency was using video conferencing in a 5×5 grid to conduct their internal meetings. I also love that they used the Benny Hill theme song to give it it’s appropriate tongue-in-cheek tone. So fun!

Why it matters: For me, in its simplest form, this is a celebration of who we are as creatives and why what we do matters. Yes, the video was solely created as a morale booster for the agency, but the takeaway here for brands is to use a comedic vehicle to comment on what is happening in our world—in this case, people who panicked at the news of the lockdown and hoarded more toilet paper than needed. I doubt a toilet paper shortage is anything any of us have seen in our lifetime, so good on Goodby for entertaining us while landing an important messagedon’t just think of yourselves, be kind and share.

The details: As the father of two middle schoolers, I was amazed at how quickly and seamlessly we were all able to transition to work from home and school from home using video conferencing technologies. This piece showed up right as the toilet paper shortage issue was affecting everyone, and what’s really inspiring is that this team decided to use their video conferencing technology, while working from home, in a playful way to land the message that some things that we take for granted can easily take on new meaning in our lives. Hats off to ya’, Goodby!

Activista – Social Distancing And Classic Album Covers

After noticing people were ignoring stay-at-home orders amid coronavirus, founders of the agency Activista, Beto Fernandez and Paco Conde, redesigned vintage album covers to help enforce the safer-at-home message. The ensuing project, which they named 6 Feet Covers, displayed acts of social distancing through updating images that already resonate in popular culture. For example, they revamped Abbey Road to show all four Beatles spread out down the road instead of in the crosswalk together.

Why it matters
: Activista landed the stay-at-home message in a more personal way that highlighted the seriousness of staying inside—a balancing act marketers must achieve in today’s climate to ensure they’re showing consumers they’re doing their part to respond to the pandemic without being insensitive.

The details: I’m an unapologetic classic rock fan so I was instantly drawn to this work. Unable to create content from scratch, Activista took a very simple and artful approach to mirror the new normal and promote the important message of staying home to flatten the curve. Be it ‘The Beatles’’ Abbey Road or ‘KISS’’ Destroyer, these iconic images have been in my life for as long as I can remember. Seeing them now through the lens of proper social distancing protocols just nailed it for me. The power of Activista’s idea is that it carries that spirit forward into our current reality.

(Editor’s note: AList is published by a.network.)