by Elena Protulis (@elenaprotulis) Sometimes, it’s ok to not say anything, to not be creative or tactical. Sometimes, people just want space to breathe and deal with the anxiety and the unknown in their own way.

Some brands have felt the need to make a statement, such as McDonald’s, which ultimately received backlash, whereas others feel they need to educate and inform on preventing infection, such as Mercedes-Benz on its global Instagram page

“Unprecedented” literally sums up where we yet are. Nobody could’ve planned for this type of crisis and nobody has to plan. It’s ok to not say anything.

If I take a step back into my world, what have I filtered out? I delete mailers from companies saying whether they’re essential services or not’ I don’t watch or read most content forwarded on WhatsApp, which has become a cesspit for sharing fake news.

Who’s doing it well?

Who’s doing it well? Supermarkets have gotten it right and are relevant for now. Now, more than ever, I want to hear from brands which know I need them now and which are providing input and advice to how they’re helping — they’re an essential service for me to get through day by day.

Pick n Pay launched a great video to drive awareness on not panic-buying. Then, all the supermarkets came together to drive a unified front in the important role they play in our lives right now.

The real winners

But, for me, the real winners in all of this are the artists who’re handing out their intellectual property to sprinkle some magic, creativity and inspiration in households:

  • David Walliams is releasing a free audio book every day for 30 days
  • HarperCollins Publishers has relaxed its copyright to allow teachers to read books online for their students, and
  • JK Rowling has launched Harry Potter at Home to bring Hogwarts to you.

People are on lockdown and are looking for experiences — or even nothing at all — just trying to get through the day.

I don’t really want to hear from brands right now, unless they’ve something of value to add or there’s an injection of creativity or inspiration. Don’t tell me what to do or how to cope in this crisis; this is where the World Health Organisation and our efficient government’s communication is sufficient.

Time to step back

Most brands are in lockdown, too, and that’s ok. Following a trip to Cuba in 2011, I’ll never forget how there were no billboards on the streets, only music. Let’s calm down on the advertising and let the artists, musicians and authors feed our souls. Let the essential services provide us with the information we need.

It’s time for advertising to take a step back and reassess its values, its objectives and the incessant requirement that it’s not ok to always be on.

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Elena ProtulisElena Protulis (@elenaprotulis) is a seasoned publishing, content, social media and digital marketing professional. She has UK, South and pan-African social media and digital experience across blue-chip clients in the finance, FMCG, consumer, B2B, automotive, telecoms, tech and gaming sectors, and was previously head of social media and content at Aqua. Elena was at the forefront of social media marketing in London in 2010 and has gone on to clock up career highlights such as establishing MTN Group’s social media policies, guidelines and strategies across 22 opcos, as well as creating a social media command centre for a global beverage company.

This MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.

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