August Culture Report

Culture is one of those words we throw around without much thought, assuming we all agree what we’re talking about. It’s the human noise – music, art, language, fashion, graphics, books, scenes, nightlife, food, politics, technology – that surrounds us in a particular time and place. Most big words are metaphors and its literal meaning is helpful. A culture is what grows. Culture is the colourful furry blob in the test tube that tells us what’s inside. And a society’s culture is how we connect with the things that made it – people.


In our recent brand survey we asked questions about brands and culture. Results are still coming in, but the majority of brand managers felt they could – and should – play in culture. For some brands it’s an easy fit, others may need to take their time and earn their place. But in our connected world, and especially in this increasingly disembodied one, culture reaches us in thousands of splintered messages flashing past our thumbs and eyes. If you want your message to survive amongst the noise it has to arrive in the same channels and engage, inform, entertain or astonish in the same way.


The perfect post-lockdown therapy? Screaming into a wild volcanic landscape. Iceland’s tourism campaign shows real insight.
>> Inspired by Iceland – Let it Out

Pornhub’s big stimulation package: making free ads for small businesses and hosting them on its giant platform.
>> Pornhub – Big Package

Flawless observational laughs at pubs re-opening from Heineken.
>> Heineken – Back to Bars

We love this surreal purpose-driven ad (dir Michel Gondry) about… cow farts, for its disarming honesty: “Since we are part of the problem”
>> Burger King – Cows Menu


Contrary to personal perceptions, lockdown has not made us drink more. But it has radically changed how we do it. As pubs limp back, what’s the new normal for alcohol brands?

The biggest change is the struggle of the on-trade with venues re-opening at greatly reduced capacity, if at all. With beer worst hit, brands are responding with new occasions away from the pub. Corona (no relation) is now the perfect tipple for a rambling staycation, Coors Light offers a Zoom-fooling clone to sneak a beer into meetings, Peroni’s Walk With Us campaign revives the evening stroll La Passeggiata, while Stella is now the beer for daydreams – fridge-based punctuation for your monotonous stay-at-home day.

Spirits brands are helping develop consumers’ home cocktail skills, creating an army of nano-influencers, proudly mixologising for friends. Expect brands to pivot their senior ambassadors from a bartender to a consumer focus, building them into influencers with how-to content platforms like Slingsby Gin’s live Sofa Sessions or Absolut’s Drinks with Rico.

Cocktail delivery is another growth area ripe for brand participation, with Bacardi among those helping venues repurpose. Add to this a deluge of eco-friendly branded disposables and ready-to-drink canned cocktail launches (to side-step risky glassware), and an acceleration of direct-to-consumer sales channels.

And though there’s now a gin for the great outdoors and a beer for the moment you close your laptop, brands remain focused on preserving pubs, helping bars get Covid-safer and leaning in to community purpose.
Jagermeister’s brilliant Save The Night campaign led the way, Jameson pledged half a million dollars to help out-of-work bartenders, Camden Brewery just gave pubs 260,000 free cans of cashflow-boosting IPA, while Reyka Vodka raises money and laughs with a UGC search for Beard of the Week.

“At the moment our priority is driving traffic to bars,” confirms James Drury, Global Brand Manager for Havana Club. “We work out the best way to do that in each market, whether it’s consumer competitions, visibility and presence on social media or web-based networking events to help our partner venues.”

While more venues will inevitably fail, thankfully brands know they’re unlikely to find a replacement for the volume sales they enjoy where humans gather to laugh and flirt and grouse about the football.


As shoots resume with strict distancing, how can scripts deliver the closeness real life currently lacks? With UK guidelines keeping everyone a metre apart, do we face a loss of onscreen intimacy just when we need it most?

Director Sashinski found that while covid made production harder, creatively it was inspiring. “I’ve just delivered a video which was an exploration of love and diversity across London,” he explains. “To get around the filming restrictions we cast real-life couples.”

“Productions are moving to low-covid countries like New Zealand, or easygoing places like Slovenia,” says agent Ryan Iosco-Holmes of The Foundry. “Contracts are adding in isolation periods or asking actors to sign covid declaration forms. Commercials rope in actors’ partners or immediate family.”
The alternative is heavy editing. Eastenders stars revealed the soap moves its actors in post to get them close enough for a proper slanging match, and is experimenting with CGI kisses.

Could the intimacy co-ordinator come to the rescue? Ita O’Brien reaped acclaim for her naturalistic sexual choreography in Normal People and I May Destroy You. Her profession may well expand rapidly beyond the bedroom as simple two-shot scenes become complex storytelling challenges.


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