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Strandberg: Solidarity for sale: Corporate social responsibility and news-jacking in global advertising during the covid-19 pandemic
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Janine Strandberg
Jun 18, 2021
Thank you, Luana, for your comments; I'm very excited to hear your professional point of view on my study! The reason I refer to these adverts as "moderate" forms of CSR are to distinguish them from the more practical CSR activities undertaken by some other companies and commercial brands, such as the production of ventilators or PPE. While both types of actions are intended to help the public in some way, I maintain that simply echoing common health and safety advice constitutes more moderate CSR activity; as much as such adverts remind viewers to follow safety advice, they also work to boost the company image at a very low cost. That being said, I very much enjoy your point of view of brands being hijacked by the pandemic, rather than the other way around. One of the articles I cite (Aronczyk, 2020) makes a related point; that the immediate response from brands was avoidance to place their advertisements next to news or information about the virus, meaning most brands chose to shrink from public view. Aronczyk states that after this was not found to be sustainable, it was better for brands to re-insert themselves into the cultural conversation through something related to the pandemic, i.e., some form of CSR activity. In that sense, I understand the perspective of brands being hijacked by the pandemic, in that they were unable to proceed with marketing as usual. However, since the campaigns I study are generally those of large international brands, I believe it is important to question to what extent these brands needed to re-insert themselves into the conversation at this time; these are not small companies or shops trying to stay in business, and most of the campaigns rely on viewers already understanding the context and the health and safety messages being referred to, thus contributing relatively little to actually providing information about the pandemic to the public. This, of course, ties into my discussion on legitimacy, i.e., how some brands can be argued to have more legitimate reasons than others to involve themselves in the pandemic conversation. I hope this answers your questions to some extent. Thank you very much for your insight and your questions, and I look forward to discussing with you further this afternoon!
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Milak (Un)masking Seoul: The mask as a static and dynamic semiotic device for reconfiguring public space and redefining civic responsibility
In Welcome to the Forum
Strandberg: Solidarity for sale: Corporate social responsibility and news-jacking in global advertising during the covid-19 pandemic
In Welcome to the Forum
Janine Strandberg
Jun 16, 2021
Thank you for your kind words, I'm happy you found it interesting! I actually hadn't seen the 'Steak-umm' Twitter account before, but I'll be sure to follow it now! I don't really think I saw any adverts that would have been brazen about trying to sell something in the way that you describe, although it is possible that I have overlooked something. I think perhaps because the pandemic is so serious and has affected so many lives, companies are extremely careful about seeming like they want to profit from it, and they are not necessarily willing to risk potential backlash in a way that some might normally do with a "risky" campaign. The closest example I can think of (mentioned in m paper but not the presentation) is perhaps the 'Social Distancing Whopper' which was advertised by Burger King in Italy; it was described as "a Whopper with triple onions that will keep others away from you". In comparison to most other adverts, it seems very bold in how straightforwardly it advertises a product. However, for this campaign I think the timing was crucial: it was released at the beginning of 'Phase 2' in Italy, when the initial lockdown began to ease up a bit and people hoped that things would return to normal, and so maybe that allowed BK to be more brave and sassy. I do, however, think that you may be right in that smaller companies may be willing to take more risks when it comes to the self-aware type of advertisements; audiences may also be somewhat more forgiving to smaller businesses, whom they might want to help to stay afloat in the pandemic. This is certainly an interesting topic, although it is not something I have really included in my paper at this time, since my focus is largely on the larger international brands.
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Janine Strandberg

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