JWT’s AnxietyIndex is designed as a place to discuss how brands and consumers are responding to the global recession. With daily content updates, AnxietyIndex.com includes contributions from around JWT’s network, offering a truly global perspective.
Manila constantly ranks in the top 10 worst cities in the world in terms of traffic. Congestion exponentially increases during the Christmas season, which means getting grumpy on the roads is a foregone conclusion at this time of year. Last Christmas, one company took the opportunity to lift the mood of Filipino motorists, in a move that exemplifies one of our 10 Trends from 2011, Creative Urban Renewal.
Bringing Christmas cheer to the roads, Fort Bonifacio Development Co.—the company behind Bonifacio Global City (BGC), the latest central business district in Manila—turned stoplights, construction cranes and trees into Christmas decorations. On the stoplights, a red star and a green Christmas tree replaced the usual circles. While the initiative didn’t improve the traffic situation, at least it improved a lot of motorists’ dispositions.
There has been a noticeable shift in how South Africans have been addressing the country’s alarmingly high incidence of rape. It seems to have been sparked by the brutal murder in early February of a 17-year-old who was gang raped. There was a strong reaction on Twitter, and in mid-February the public reacted with a national #BlackFriday to create awareness of #StopRape. On the same day, Lead SA—an initiative from Primedia Broadcasting that encourages citizens to “stand up and lead South Africa”—partnered with four radio stations, which emitted a beep every four minutes to remind listeners of the rape crisis. DJs at the stations also used the day to talk about rape (coincidently, the conversations were heavily amplified due to the Oscar Pistorius shooting two days before).
Now, many are asking what this really achieved. Did it simply give participants the perception of making a difference, or did it actually make a difference? As columnist Chris Moerdyk put it: “I get the feeling that we are resorting to a habit that we as a nation have developed recently and that is to complain to each other about something, hear government continually ‘addressing issues,’ holding incessant talkshops, making lots of speeches, but not actually rolling their sleeves up and getting something done.” Ultimately, he says, “We all get used to it and live with it.”
Is there a role for brands to play in helping to drive change? While this is a difficult topic to wade into, marketers like Gillette in India have found ways to respond to violence against women by encouraging men to change their mindset.
Understanding the anxiety associated with planning a visit to a large, culture-rich city like Los Angeles, the L.A. Tourism & Convention Board developed discoverLosAngeles.com (with help from Digitaria, a JWT company), which provides an organized setting to map out a trip. The site targets both tourists and locals, since finding new activities in your hometown can often be stale, as you get stuck in a routine.
The “Experience Builder” provides a dashboard for users to collect things to see, do and eat in a centralized place, alleviating concerns of manually writing down and planning in different locations. Titled “My LA,” the dashboard feels personable to the user, while a custom map pinpoints where selected activities are throughout Los Angeles, helping users minimize travel time and maximize quality time at each destination. Vivid imagery, celebrity guidance on specific places to visit and off-site content on social media channels are designed to inspire people to explore and interact with the city’s offerings.
Trip planning is a process that used to be streamlined—you’d go to a travel agent, who would book everything for you—but now most travelers try to plan it all on their own, ending up overwhelmed or feeling they’re missing out on the best of the best. This initiative helps to alleviate that anxiety.
Certain purchases, such as condoms, will be met with a degree of embarrassment and social anxiety, especially in sexually conservative countries. In Dubai, where premarital sex is actually illegal, Durex recently released the SOS Condoms app as a whimsical way to deliver the product with discretion. The idea is that users simply select their location and Durex product of their choice, and within an hour, a courier disguised as a pizza delivery guy, cop or tourist arrives to slip the customer the condoms. The video below illustrates how the service works, at least in theory (a Dubai reporter received his order from a man sans disguise, carrying the condoms in a plain bag). While Durex has reportedly halted the Dubai initiative, the company is asking consumers to vote via a microsite on where else to launch the service.
Meanwhile, in a Valentine’s Day promotion, Trojan plans to deploy so-called Safe Ride taxis in Manhattan for two days this week in an effort to counter myths associated with condom use, according to a press release. Participants will get a free ride in exchange for answering trivia questions, part of an educational campaign that includes the website FactsAboutCondoms.com.
The Durex app shows a novel way for brands to shift from simply selling a product to helping customers procure it in real time. The idea of helping consumers keep what happens behind closed doors a private matter is a smart one, though it remains to be seen if the initiative can be implemented on a wider scale or is more about PR buzz. In Trojan’s case, providing a real-life or digital forum for correcting misconceptions is always a good strategy for brands whose misinformed consumers may be too anxious, nervous or embarrassed to ask questions related to the product.
Midwinter, after the holidays are over, is inevitably a dreary time. Two years ago we wrote about a project called Smile for London that sought to combat the “January blues” for travelers in the city’s Tube system with “positive, thought-provoking visual stimulation.” Now, The Sun newspaper in the U.K. has launched “The Big Smile Giveaway,” looking to get people to “smile in the face of winter blues.” “January sucks,” declares a girl missing her two front teeth in a quirky ad that launched last week. But she urges that we “smile through the pain, the snotty noses and the rain” and confidently suggests we “kick January where there ain’t no sun.”
The campaign includes “smile squads” that will hit towns across the country to “purvey random acts of kindness, from paying road toll charges to providing cups of tea,” according to The Guardian. The effort is focused around a range of promotions, including bargain holidays and various family-themed offers. It’s the perfect time of year to position the brand as a source of cheer and positivity, focusing on “the things that make life fun,” as the toothless singer proclaims.
Last year Banco Popular, Puerto Rico’s largest bank, changed the lyrics to one of the country’s most popular songs in a bid to help end an almost eight-year recession. This week the campaign, created by JWT, won the Grand Prix Lion for public relations at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
The bank wanted to help stimulate the economy by challenging a reliance on welfare (among 60% of the population) and a mindset celebrated in a hugely popular salsa song, “No Hago Más Ná” (“I Do Nothing”), by the band El Gran Combo. The lyrics include the lines, “It’s so good to live like this, just eating and not working/It’s so good to live like this, just eating, sleeping, and not working.” Banco Popular worked with El Gran Combo on a new version of the song that goes, “It’s so good to live like this, always willing to work/It’s so good to live like this, moving forward, never backwards.” The bank then started a successful campaign to make the new song the No. 1 track in Puerto Rico, generating around $2.3 million in earned media in the process.
The campaign addressed the bank’s core need (a better economy means more business for Banco Popular) and also boosted its image and reputation. At the same time, it helped to spark a political debate and, ultimately, a movement of Puerto Ricans committed to the island’s economic progress.
Mexicans are pessimistic about their future. Crime, violence and corruption have become pervasive, and the upcoming presidential elections have only deepened anxiety (the Los Angeles Times reports, “Many Mexicans are utterly disillusioned with the candidates and dismayed at the choices before them”). Last month, a compelling video that quickly went viral asked the candidates, “Are you striving only for the [presidential] chair, or will you change the future of our country?” Interestingly, while the four-minute film features no branding, the insurance company GNP is spearheading the group behind it, Nuestro México del Futuro (Our Future Mexico).
Acclaimed director Mario Muñoz made the dystopian film, which takes viewers through a day in urban Mexico as child actors dressed like adults commit armed robbery and kidnappings, protest and riot, attempt to flee to the U.S., and even take cover from a drive-by shooting. Finally, a girl speaks directly into the camera, saying “If this is the future I can look forward to, I don’t want anything to do with it” and calls on the presidential contenders to stop making empty promises. The video concludes with the text, “We’re millions of Mexicans who want a better future” and directs viewers to the group’s site.
The video struck a chord, racking up millions of views in a few days, and became a hot topic on media outlets and among political leaders; it was banned from television and pulled from YouTube. GNP, one of the country’s biggest insurers, has been subtle about its connection to the initiative, with no overt mention of it on the company’s website, but some of the Nuestro México del Futuro videos (this, for example) are branded.
While the video could be said to foster anxiety, the website is more positive, telling visitors, “You can change the future of Mexico.” People can submit their visions for the future using various digital tools and could also weigh in via a truck that traveled the country. The initiative is an innovative way to help Mexicans feel less helpless and more assured that at least one of the country’s institutions is seeking solutions.
From boosting local retail outlets with Cash Mobs to advocating for an entire national economy, the DIY ethos seems to be coming out in full force lately. Launched in February by a team of Greeks across the globe, Up Greek Tourism is a private grassroots campaign to help boost tourism to the economically ravaged nation. “Governments are trying to find solutions, but we as individuals should not wait. We need to help ourselves,” says one lead fundraiser in a YouTube plea for donations. In just 20 days, the team was able to raise $20,352 on Loudsauce.com from 333 people, surpassing the initial goal of $15,000.
The funds were used to secure an electronic billboard in New York City’s Times Square for 30 days. The ad, designed by Greek designer Charis Tsevis, displays a montage of iconic Greek tourist destinations to tempt passersby into booking a Greek holiday. Just as we saw during the Great Recession, anxiety is stimulating proactive responses among consumers and citizens who are feeling let down by big institutions. Rather than accept defeat, some are taking economic matters into their own hands with the mindset that change is possible and that many small efforts can combine to help turn things around, whether on a local or a global level.
Piazza Italia, a low-budget apparel chain, is celebrating people Italians can be proud of. With the new tagline “Sponsor for the common people,” Piazza Italia leverages the economic and political situation here: Italians have continuously been submerged by corruption scandals in all the topics we love and fear the most: politics, soccer championship, taxes, pensions. … The campaign is for the ones who had the courage to say no to corruption, for the ones who wake up every day to do their job without falling into the temptation of easy money.
In its first TV commercial, the brand features close-ups of various everyday folks. A voiceover says: “We don’t sign autographs. We wait in line. We don’t have a foreign bank account. We don’t have the leather chair or long life pension. We are the ones who take the field every day without taking a bow, the ones without powers but with big responsibilities. The ones who dream, who get indignant but never throw in the towel. Somebody says we are nobody. The truth is that we are mostly everyone. We are the ones who make true miracles.” In addition, a print campaign portrays the role models Italians should look to, like soccer player Fabio Pisacane, whose refusal to accept €50.000 to fix a game started a judicial inquiry into illegal betting (“calcioscommesse”) on soccer games.
With local economies across the globe still in the gutter, civic-minded citizens are coming up with creative ways to inject some cash into small retailers. Back in 2009, the 3/50 project started asking Americans to pick three locally owned stores that they wanted to see survive the recession and spend $50 a month at them. Cash Mobs, the latest iteration of this idea, involves well-intentioned shoppers “mobbing” local retailers.
Consumers can nominate a small business in their town for a Cash Mob by contacting the owner. From there, Cash Mob organizers encourage their Facebook, Twitter and other networks to patronize the store en masse at the appointed date and time. Mobsters commit to spending at least $20, “to give the business owner a little bit of economic stimulus,” as the Cash Mob website puts it. Retailers report that the mobs can boost a day’s sales by two or three times, according to theInternational Business Times. After starting in the U.S., the movement is spreading—last Saturday was International Cash Mob Day, and nearly 200 mobs were reported around the world.
“There is no science to it, and there are also no hard and fast rules,” Cash Mob’s organizer told Reuters. Consumers are increasingly taking an improvised, DIY approach to improving the economy—frustrated by slow progress and losing faith in big institutions—and using the organizing power of social media to bring about community change on their own. Brands can help drive these efforts, as American Express is doing with Small Business Saturday, for example. Indeed, our research found that 79 percent of respondents in a survey we conducted wish a brand or company would make a substantial investment to improve their local community. At a time when CSR and more traditional marketing efforts are meshing, such projects present ways for big brands and corporations to show that they care and are tapped into the needs of the local communities in which the operate.