Marketing Briefing: Why marketers expect ‘a lot more exuberance in advertising this summer’

maskless return

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Back in February, during the Super Bowl, marketers began to roll out campaigns with messages of hope and optimism as well as the possible return to normalcy. At the time, the idea of socializing in groups without masks felt impossible, like a distant future we could only hope for. But for many vaccinated Americans, it’s quickly becoming a reality. 

Now, of course, the return of socialization is becoming a dominant theme in marketing messages and media placements for this summer. With bars and restaurants reopening, Bud Light is offering to pay for people’s “first round back at [their] favorite watering hole,” according to a release the brand sent out this week. Earlier this month, Pepsi rolled out its 90-second ode to post-pandemic life showcasing people getting too close for comfort at times. Those are just two examples of how marketers are shifting creative messaging now to lean into and celebrate the return of some sense of normalcy this summer. 

“If you think about how depressed everyone has been this last year with lockdown, quarantine, with everything people have been rightfully concerned with, as things are beginning to open back up they’re excited and optimistic about that,” said Todd Kaplan, vp of marketing for Pepsi, adding that the brand wanted to “capture post-pandemic optimism” and that the marketing shows the “fun and playfulness that people are looking for right now.” 

Now that vaccination numbers are on the rise and Covid levels are lowering throughout the country there’s even more of a focus on this return of socialization within marketing messages. Briefs from brands are generally focused on “people coming together after a spell of being away,” said an agency copywriter on the condition on anonymity.

“You will see a lot more exuberance in advertising this summer,” said Barry Lowenthal, CEO of Media Kitchen. “People are so excited to get out and get back to normal. You’ll see that passion and excitement in the advertising.” 

Major marketers aren’t the only ones leaning into messages of return. Direct-to-consumer brands are also having to tweak messaging to reflect the changing moment. Katya Constantine, CEO of performance marketing agency DigiShop Media said that clients are taking “return” approach to advertising with celebratory messaging. 

Brandon Doyle, founder of Wallaroo Media, another agency that works with DTC brands, said he has seen a shift in content specific to people gathering as well as spending more time outside. Messaging that still focuses on working from home “isn’t working this year and we’ve had to shift messaging on quite a few brands.” 

Even as brands key on socializing and “emerging optimism” in their messaging, Dia Simms, CEO of tequila brand Lobos 1707, cautions that brands must be “honest and respectful of what we’ve just been through” as they do so.

3 Questions with Buffer’s vp of finance Caryn Hubbard

This year, Buffer has lowered its gender pay gap from 15% to 5% in 2019. How did your team manage to do that and are there plans to continue to close that gap?

Lowering the unadjusted gender pay gap is the outcome of several years of work and challenging conversations. There is no one thing we can point to, but rather acceptance of challenging our biases, inviting various perspectives to the table for discussions, and awareness of how important recruiting and hiring strategies are to impact systemic issues such as this.

What was the process to address this?

We worked to broaden gender diversity on the Buffer team. ​​In 2018, we had 21 teammates who identify as female and 48 teammates who identified as male. A lack of overall gender diversity was a factor for us as we had fewer teammates who identify as women in higher-paying, technical roles. We focused more on awareness of bias in promotions and stretch opportunities. This year, the gap is much narrower with 39 who identify as women and 44 who identify as men.

​​We also continued to diversity our hiring pipeline. When we first ran this report, it really highlighted for us that we didn’t have enough women in the higher-paying, technical roles on our team. For that reason, our People team was sure to actively promote our open technical positions on websites like TechLadies, 2020Shift, Women Who Code, and Power To Fly, among others so that we weren’t simply relying on our existing network, which wasn’t as diverse as we’d like.

​​We started tracking the gender pay gap more regularly. Previously, we tracked the pay gap annually, however as a fairly small team, one individual joining or leaving the team could have a significant impact on our analysis. We paid closer attention to this information by monitoring the data monthly instead of annually to get a better picture of how the quality of our recruiting efforts, hiring decisions, and overall management was impacting the gap. Weaving this awareness into relevant decisions led to higher impact outcomes, giving us more confidence that frequent data analysis is measuring real progress instead of revealing the results due to the movement of any one high-earning individual.

​​Over the years, Buffer has shared information on its gender pay gap publicly. Why is that transparency important?

​​​​We believe that transparency breeds trust, holds us accountable and can push our industry forward. We committed to continuing to share our gender pay gap — even as it was worsening — with the hope that this transparency would help publicly document our journey with equal pay and help other businesses who might be going through the same thing. It’s more difficult to have uncomfortable conversations, and we want to normalize having hard conversations.

​​​​In retrospect, monitoring the data even when it’s easier to look away, provides a measurement of progress. We can now point to specific moments throughout this journey that can help other small businesses or even large companies who want to push through the same challenges. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Gen-Z favorite TikTok is increasingly becoming a staple of ad spend in the brand playbook, with some brands and agencies prioritizing TikTokers over Instagram. In fact, the short-form video platform is reportedly launching a pilot program to help brands recruit talent. That could make the idea of becoming a TikTok influencer a viable career path for Gen-Z, but is it top of mind for the young generation?

Recently, talent cloud company iCIMS released research with insights from college students and recruiting professionals to find out how Gen-Z and entry level employees are thinking about the job hunt. Find details below: 

  • Despite the fact that the majority of 18- to 24-year-olds are very likely to report using popular video-based social sites in their personal lives, including Instagram (76%), Snapchat (75%) or TikTok (55%); they are not as comfortable with video playing a part in their professional lives.
  • The vast majority of college seniors (80%) prefer in-person interviews over video chats, believing that’s how they best present themselves to a potential employer. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“Right now, I think it’s a gradual move back to the energy and sociability we felt from beer and alcohol pre-pandemic. We’re seeing more sociability in advertising video and photography.”

— Brian O’Connell, Fortnight Collective agency’s strategy director, told Kimeko McCoy when asked how alcohol brands were marketing a return of the bar scene.

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