Love in strange times

By Mark Tungate

We’re in the third year of the pandemic – and Valentine’s Day has come around again. What can advertising tell us about the ways the Covid era has impacted romance?

Tinder and its fellow dating apps appeared long before Covid (Tinder was founded in 2012), but lockdowns, masks and social distancing have clearly favoured a more digital approach to romance. So how are the digital and advertising worlds depicting love and romance these days?

Let’s stay with Tinder for a moment, first with a campaign by VMLY&R London from early last year that’s topical in many ways, not least in its approach to gender. The kisses, however, are purely digital.

The next Tinder spot, this time from Wunderman Thompson in Thailand, suggests an alternative approach – avoiding romance altogether, in favour of friendship. You can tell the copywriters had fun with this one.

Moving on, you may not have thought of WhatsApp as a dating app, but take a look at this clever little spot from BBDO Berlin. It’s discreet and well-crafted, and the message doesn’t need decoding.

Tequila brand Jose Cuervo is clearly worried about the future of humanity in a world of digital dating, so via its agency Mekanism it satirised the whole thing by sending a couple of chatbots on a blind date. The result is an ironic way of celebrating the warmth and impulsiveness that are intrinsic to the brand.

Male grooming brand Axe is legendary for its flirtatious and occasionally outrageous advertising, but having adopted a more “woke” tone in recent years, it then found itself contending with the pandemic. Via LOLA Mullen Lowe, it took a responsible yet characteristic approach.

One day, all this will be in the past and romance will look much as it used to. A bit like this ad for PLUS Supermarket in the Netherlands, which seems to hail from the times “before” – but is actually from last spring. Perhaps it reflects a yearning for flirtations unmediated by a screen.

Music is not only conducive to romance – it’s also superlative for recalling memories, as tunes from important moments in our lives can take root deep within us. This excellent spot for Amazon Alexa from Droga 5 London reminds us of exactly that.


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