Making ads during lockdowns: Blink’s advice for brands

Film shoots might have ground to a halt but that doesn’t mean that brands can’t still create content. We talk to production company Blink about getting creative with animation, embracing lo-fi video and why going back to basics could be a good thing for the ad world

With countries around the world adopting strict social distancing measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, advertising shoots have been put on hold until further notice. These issues pale into insignificance in the midst of a global crisis that has cost hundreds of lives, but it has left brands, creatives and their production partners with a dilemma: whether to put campaigns on hold for an indefinite period of time, scrap them altogether and reallocate budgets to other parts of their business affected by Covid-19, or to try and create something else altogether.

Most clients so far seem to have chosen the first option, cancelling upcoming campaigns or putting them on hiatus. In the short term, this feels like a wise decision. Consumers right now need helpful advice and content, whether it’s workout videos that can help them keep active indoors, or creative and educational resources that can keep kids occupied while schools are closed. What they don’t need is to be bombarded with ads for products or services that are irrelevant to their current situation, or promotional emails thinly disguised as sympathetic messages of support, and no brand wants to be seen as trying to capitalise on a devastating situation. But if lockdown measures continue for an extended period of time, brands will need to consider how to communicate with consumers, and they may need to figure out how to do that without being able to shoot live-action films involving a large cast and crew.

Music video for New Breed, by Blinkink directors Stevie Gee and Essy May 

One medium that brands can utilise is animation. At Blinkink – the animation arm of production group Blink – executive producer Bart Yates says most of its projects are still continuing under quarantine, with teams working remotely. “We’ve had 100% of our projects postponed or cancelled on the shooting side of things, but on the animation side, probably 75% of our work is still ongoing. Everyone’s working from home at their kitchen tables, doing 2D and 3D animation, and they’re all networked into the server and talking on Slack,” he explains.

Blink is now pooling its resources, moving live action production staff on to animation projects, and has also begun exploring how live action and animation directors can potentially work together to create mixed media films or make content using stock footage. “We’re trying to get our heads around how we can turn this into an opportunity to pair up talent, so if there’s someone on the live action side of Blink who isn’t able to shoot in the way they normally would, how do we hook them up with the people that Bart works with at Blinkink?” says Paul Weston, MD and executive producer at Blink.