Creativity in times of restraint

Consumers are keeping an eye on their budgets and being urged to consume less energy. Is there a way of making moderation fun?

von Mark Tungate , Adforum

The British are confronting alarming electricity bills and rising supermarket prices. The French are talking of “sobriety” in difficult times. All of us are being challenged to reduce our impact on the planet. So how is this impacting advertising, which in the past has tended to focus on more, rather than less?

For the automotive industry, the answer is clearly about promoting the shift to electric – and even rental versus ownership – instead of showcasing style, status or performance. As Marco Venturelli, chief creative officer of Publicis Groupe France, recently pointed out, this evolving landscape has given his client Renault new and positive messages to send to consumers. In fact, it’s rejuvenated auto advertising in general.

This next light-hearted spot features Einstein, who apparently has a dog called Chico, educating UK consumers about how to cut their electricity bills. Note the chatty, humorous tone that eases the delivery of a serious and somewhat technical subject. You don’t have to be as smart as Albert...

Advertisers themselves are setting an example by vaunting their own efforts to consume less energy. In the UK, the Royal Mail postal service – once again with the help of the ever-creative AMV.BBDO – uses fancy footwork to express its low carbon footprint.

In Belgium, the postal service even went so far as to design a special bag – made from recycled materials – to urge people to pick up their own parcels, thus reducing the impact of “last mile” emissions by delivery vans. Here it’s the design itself that makes a climate-friendly act feel not only positive, but cool.

In order to promote Back Market, a vendor of refurbished (and therefore greener) mobile phones, French agency Marcel cheekily hacked Apple Stores with a message using AirDrop. The faintly risky feel of the campaign was perfectly calibrated to appeal to young consumers.

Talking of refurbishing, IKEA encouraged consumers to return their old furniture, then reconditioned it and sold it at lower prices, in a striking example of the “circular” economy.

In a period when retailers are under pressure to offer discounts – or at least more value for money – Tesco Mobile and BBH in the UK found an amusing way of depicting prices that are “going down”.

Staying in the UK, here’s retailer Asda with a highly colourful spot from Havas London, designed to convince consumers to download its money-saving app. The grown-up act of saving money is positioned as a game.

Finally, if you’re keeping an eye on your food budget, you may need the help of math genius and chess champ Maria, who scowls at us from this well-crafted spot for McDonald’s by DDB Romania.