Nike gets ready for a comeback, and KFC rescues Britons from DIY chicken

There is perhaps no brand that excels at tapping into the cultural zeitgeist better than Nike, and the sneaker giant is back with an inspirational ad from its longtime agency partner Wieden + Kennedy called “Never too far down.”

Narrated by NBA superstar LeBron James, and set to an instrumental version of the David Bowie song “Life on Mars,” the 90-second video focuses on athletes and teams that have successfully overcome adversity and emerged triumphant. The analogy here, of course, is the global COVID pandemic that has left the world wobbling.

The spot opens with images of high-profile athletes facing seemingly insurmountable odds, from James’ Cleveland Cavaliers falling into a 3-1 hole against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals before coming back to win the championship, to the adversity faced by major sporting figures including Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo and, of course, Tiger Woods.

“We’ve all been underestimated and counted out, and in those moments we felt like it was over,” says James. “But it was when we were given no chance that we somehow found that last bit of strength to keep fighting.”

The second half of the spot focuses on perseverance and the will to win that separates the best—and by extension humanity—from the rest. “Right now, we’re fighting for something much bigger than a win. Or a championship,” says James over images of triumphant sports figures. “But if we’ve learned anything from sports, it’s that no matter how far down we may be, we’re never too far down to come back.”

New U.K. campaign bluntly demonstrates the perils of DIY KFC

If there’s one thing this COVID crisis has exposed, it’s the chasm between people who have absolutely no business near a kitchen (meekly raises hand) and those able to create reasonable facsimiles of their favourite restaurant foods.

Both are on display in a new ad from Mother London for KFC in the U.K. entitled “KFC is back!” The spot is promoting the chain’s re-opening of about 500 of its restaurants for takeout and delivery after closing all of its locations on March 23.

Set to Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion’s rendition of the lachrymose ’70s ballad “All By Myself,” the spot shows customers’ attempts at recreating KFC’s signature fried chicken in their home.

Some of them are quite good, even down to packaging featuring crude hand-drawn renderings of the Colonel and the KFC logo, but the spot derives its watchability from some truly woeful attempts at duplicating the Colonel’s chicken. “We missed you too,” says the super. “But we’ll take it from here.”

MSG manufacturer urges Americans to start eating Chinese food again

Japanese food seasonings maker Ajinomoto, a leading manufacturer of the flavouring agent MSG, is urging Americans to return to eating Asian food, particularly Chinese—which they have been avoiding en masse during the COVID crisis.

Developed by Edelman, the social campaign #TakeOutHate features actors and public figures including actor Harry Shum Jr. (Glee), comedian Margaret Cho, and cookbook author Gail Simmons. It is urging people to order Asian takeout and post a picture of their meal to social media along with the #TakeOutHate hashtag.

An accompanying PSA, which is being promoted via the participants’ Twitter feed, is encouraging Americans to return to Asian restaurants. In the video, Cho suggests that the decision to boycott these establishments constitutes “a sneaky new form of racism.”

According to research from Womply, Chinese restaurants, which might otherwise have benefited from a “takeout only” environment, have been particularly hard-hit by the crisis, with more than half having stopped transacting entirely by the end of March. “No other type of restaurant in this group even comes close,” the report concluded.

Identifying the COVID advertising archetypes

Whether by necessity or by design (or more likely a combination of the two) the COVID crisis has given way to a new wave of TV/video advertising that tends to fall into distinct categories.

They’re all dissected by Slate in an article entitled “The 13 kinds of pandemic ads,” which provides an overview of ad archetypes such as the “We’re here for you” ad, which it identifies as the “predominant variety of COVID-themed ad.” The “You can count on us” ads are “self-valorizing commercials [declaring] that the brand in question has been, is, and always will be ready to serve you.” And the “You know, we’re pretty heroic ourselves” ad, which “dispense with subtlety entirely, loudly and proudly praising the advertiser” for keeping the lights on during the crisis.

“Broadly speaking, the ads that have aired since the country hunkered down in March are a poor crop,” says author Justin Peters. “Whether they were awkwardly re-edited for this moment or created explicitly with our new world in mind.”

Chris Powell