ITV’s Ad Applauds Carers

Clap From Our Carers



Weekly (or in some countries, daily) rounds of applause for health workers and carers have become one of the defining cultural moments of the Covid-19 pandemic. They began during the first major European lockdown in Italy, but quickly spread and have now become a Thursday night ritual in the UK, with people applauding, banging pots and sometimes singing in support of people on the crisis frontlines.

As with any new cultural event, there are tensions at the edges of the weekly clap – reports of people being “named and shamed” on social media for not joining in, for instance. But in general it’s become a genuinely heartfelt shared moment, a weekly anchor in the middle of a disordered time.

This makes it an area where brands and advertisers need to tread very carefully. It would be all too easy for an advertiser to make a clapping-themed ad which people would see as merely bandwagon jumping. But does that mean brands should stay away entirely?

ITV proves they don’t have to. With its “Clap For Carers” tribute it manages to find something to say which adds to the weekly clap rather than exploits it.

The spot is made up of a montage of phone video clips. So far, so Covid-19. But instead of these being cobbled-together home videos, they are footage of carers and healthcare workers combining to deliver a particular message. In this spot, the NHS and social care staff get the chance to say how they feel about the weekly clapping – and to applaud the viewers, in turn, for staying at home despite the toll it takes on people.

ITV paused its normal programming at 8pm – the time of the weekly applause – to run the tribute, and has continued to run tribute spots at that time. The 2-minute film really hit the emotional spot for viewers, scoring an exceptional 5.2-Stars.

If there’s a wider lesson for advertisers from the ITV spot, it might lie in the contrast between its score and that of the BBC’s comparable film, also a montage with a poem read by Idris Elba. The BBC’s ad scored only 1-Star – so what’s the difference? The BBC ad is more candid about the difficulties people are facing, but it’s also more upfront about its own role in the crisis, with lots of clips from BBC shows, and the ad can come off as self-congratulatory. The ITV ad, on the other hand, is all about the carers and the viewers.

Make your Covid-19 communications about us, rather than you, and you have a better chance of scoring well emotionally. But if you do want to talk about yourself, you might very well be better off sticking with your old creative rather than “responding” by inserting yourself into a conversation you might not be welcome in.