Sentosa's bold social (media) distancing and border-less ad pays off

While the chatter carries on about governments putting controls around movements and social distancing, Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) has decided to very creatively put jump into the conversation with a creative social media post. Created by BBH Singapore, which has been working with SDC since 2018, Sentosa encouraged people glued to their phones to allow for "social media distancing" just metres apart from the the sea, with sand between their toes. Meanwhile, jumping on the conversation around tighter border controls, Sentosa also published an ad saying its Sentosa's borders are still open with a picture of its tranquil waters. 

In a statement to Marketing, a SDC spokesperson said the post was part of its ongoing efforts to feature Sentosa’s leisure experiences. According to SDC, this social post follows the launch of free entry into Sentosa until 30 June 2020. “As the COVID-19 situation evolves, social media platforms have been inundated with news from around the world and we wanted to remind our guests that they can still head outdoors in a socially responsible manner. As we implement stringent safe distancing measures across the island, the post highlighted that our guests can continue to visit our golden balmy beaches, away from the crowds, for a healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine,” the spokesperson added.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Sentosa as a whole has experienced a 20%-50% decline in visitorship and business. Currently, due to the safe distancing measures, various establishments in Sentosa have reduced operating capacity and implemented temperature screening. Meanwhile, some of its offerings will also be temporarily suspended due to the measures taken.

Creating tasteful ads

Sentosa joins several other impacted businesses and companies which had to suspend its operations, and/or take cost cutting measures whilst keeping staff and consumers safe. In these crucial period, brands, as we have seen play a big role in doing their bit for society. Speaking to Marketing, Tay Guan Hin, founder/global CCO of TGH Collective complimented the ad by Sentosa. He added that brands looking to communicate or advertise during this period have to understand what people are discussing on social media, and these can be through topics and conversations around social distancing or working from home.

However, marketers and agencies have to be mindful not to take commercial advantage and profit or hard sell products and services, as it may ultimately backfire. “Now is the opportunity to strengthen your brand's values by doing the right thing, supporting others during a crisis by building a strong supportive community, and create campaigns that diffuse the tension we are all feeling right now,” he said, adding:

Marketing done tastefully needs to strike a delicate balance between tonality, wit, and execution.

According to the ad veteran with 27 years of experience, the message has to be clear, but if the execution is too safe, it can be “incredibly” dull. “During these challenging times, attention-grabbing news and sensational report are floating around that are used as clickbait,” he added.

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Meanwhile, VMLY&R's CCO Valerie Madon said she understands the tricky situation that Sentosa is in, given that it is a destination and its business will no doubt be impacted by the virus outbreak. That said, in general, brands should refrain from being opportunitistic during trying times. Also, creative partners should work closer with clients to go beyond merely being creative with communications and produce more meaningful solutions.
 
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