A Key Takeaway from the Pandemic (It Isn’t What You Think!)

As difficult as the year has been, 2020 has also boosted our creativity and kindred spirits

This year is not one we’ll forget, and it’s not going to end on December 31: the COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdowns, the social distancing, will last a while yet. But there’s also an upside.

“The pandemic brought us closer together,” says Feng Huang, CEO, Executive Creative Director & Partner at FRED & FARID Shanghai.

Simply put 2020 is the year we’ll realize we re-discovered the meaning of “teamwork.”

“We quickly realized that our bureaux in Shanghai, Los Angeles, New York, and Paris would have to depend on each other more than ever before in order to make decisions, pivot, and act quickly,” says Jalila Levesque, Head of Group Communications and Partner at FRED & FARID Paris.

We have all, as marketers, been challenged to pivot fast and act quickly — and even to start all over again from scratch.

“At FRED & FARID, we have a real culture of change, and — as we are in constant contact with our teams in China, Europe, and the US — we are accustomed to remote work” says Laurent Leccia, Executive Creative Director & Partner at FRED & FARID New York. “We discovered new sources of agility, learned how to use all our global resources, and basically got rid of conventional thinking.”

New Sources of Inspiration

This meant going beyond classic solutions such as producing projects in full CGI, animation, or tapping into User Generated Content or Influencers.

“We set up a Covid-compliant shoot, with the Fred & Farid team remotely managing the production in another country,” says Amanda Van Caneghem, Executive Producer at FRED & FARID Los Angeles

In this way, the FRED & FARID team in Los Angeles was able to help FRED & FARID Shanghai to produce a film in LA for Chinese client OPPO during the lockdown period in China. The first 3 episodes of a new Webtoon campaign were produced and launched remotely — that had the enduring benefit of reducing the CO2 footprint that’s a foregone negative byproduct of traditional on-location production when hundreds of pounds of gear and several dozen people are transported around the world.

The pandemic has made us as marketers more creative, resilient, and ready to go the extra mile to find a solution to complex problems.

“As an agency, our agile structures at FRED & FARID adapted very well and very quickly to this new situation, while large groups were busy reinventing themselves,” says Severine Autret, General Manager & Partner at FRED & FARID Paris.

Look around you at your colleagues, competitors, and customers and you’ll realize how the business community has adapted this year and how greatly conventional thinking has been put to the test.

“Marketers realized pretty quickly that cowering in fear over illness, lockdowns, the unknown, was useless,” says Peter Jacobs, Business Director at FRED & FARID Los Angeles. “As an industry, marketing was committed to preserving human capital — the mental and physical health of our and our clients’ employees — as well as the sustainability of our businesses.”

Up Close and Personal

That meant reaching out to the consumer in a more personal way than ever before. “We had to reach the consumer in his or her home,” says Anthony Bober, Head of Social Media and Influence at FRED & FARID Paris. “These potential customers were keen to make shopping online something more than a simple transaction. They wanted some entertainment, too!”

That goal was reflected in the #LaRedouteChallenge campaign designed by FRED & FARID Paris for La Redoute, the French online retailer. Aiming to increase its appeal to young customers, we proposed a contest inviting young customers to create videos and submit them for a chance to become a La Redoute model. From its launch in August through mid-December, the campaign set a record in France with 278-million views. This consumer shift to online shopping (with a bit of entertainment thrown in!) is not likely to change any time soon.

“The shift from physical commerce to e-commerce that had been underway for the past five years accelerated during the pandemic,” Peter Jacobs continues.

As a result, brands that eschewed the Internet have shifted more resources to their digital presence while adapting their communication agendas to include more social media.

“This means we will all be together in this online market that knows no physical boundaries and is impervious to debilitating circumstances…like another pandemic,” says Peter. “So that’s good news.”

But companies also recognized the need for teamwork on a grander scale: reaching out to communities in ways designed to build hope and trust. French outdoor advertising giant JCDecaux donated space in its bus stop units to an uplifting campaign across the US.

“Our LA and New York agencies created a number of slogans reminding people that we’re all in this pandemic situation together,” says Chelsea Steiger, Creative Director at FRED & FARID Los Angeles.

FRED & FARID in Los Angeles and Paris cooperated again on the launch of “Très Paris,” a new global brand platform for Longchamp. With an eight-minute music video (aficionados of Paris ’60s music will recognize ‘Il est cinq heures, Paris s’éveille’ by Dutronc, Lanzmann & Segalen), Longchamp takes us on a little tour of nightlife featuring young Parisians. Yes, a bit like a special Zoom tour…

Teamwork Counts

There’s also a lesson here for leaders and marketers. We can — and should — continually find new ways to reach and connect with teams, no matter who they are and where they work.

The pandemic was also an opportunity to get closer to customers and work with their teams, to suggest new formats and applications.

For example, this year we launched a campaign for Rémy Martin that builds on this idea: a new chapter of the “Team Up For Excellence” creative platform, “Ground’s Melody.” It’s a two-part documentary mini-series created and developed by FRED & FARID New York featuring multi-platinum Grammy-nominated artist 6LACK.

And just this month, OPPO — one of the world’s leading smart device-makers — launched a campaign in Europe by FRED & FARID Los Angeles with a film directed by Bob Jeusette featuring real people who have found some positive elements in this infamous year of 2020.

“Not only did working remotely bring us a lot closer together, it created a dynamic on which we can build to approach the post-pandemic era confidently,” says Colin Nagy, Head of Growths & Partner at FRED & FARID New York.

As marketers, we can see that our customers have taken note of what’s now possible with technology, creativity and collaboration. It’s up to us to work with them on these new business models to develop better teamwork and closer relations. And that’s something strong and positive to look forward to.

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FRED & FARID

CREATIVE / CULTURE AGENCY. Purpose driven company based in Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Shanghai.