Research on advertising during COVID-19 reveals new best practices

Deciding if and how your advertising should address the global pandemic is unnerving. We’ve entered new territory without a map or even a guide star. Fortunately, researchers are beginning to provide recommendations that will prove invaluable on the journey ahead.


Last week, Phoenix Marketing International released a report on advertising during the COVID-19 crisis. Their propriety metrics show that little has changed in terms of advertising’s ability to break through and communicate the brand. Ad memorability (next-day recall of the ad), brand linkage (ability to identify the advertised brand), and brand memorability (ability to recall ad content and brand) are holding steady. That said, the report warns that our increasing consumption of broadcasts could dilute our attention and therefore all of the above metrics.


The burning question: How do consumers feel about advertising during COVID-19?

According to the report, 40% of consumers agree that it is important for brands to continue advertising and a similar number feel it’s important for brands to address COVID-19 in their advertising. Whether it’s appropriate for your brand should be based on what you know about your specific audience.




And how are COVID-related ads performing?

Based on Phoenix Brand Effect data, COVID-related ads perform close to the database norm. The metrics which slip the most are Brand Linkage and Brand Memorability. The commonsense theory behind this slippage is that the more people see COVID-19 messaging in ads, the more difficult it becomes to differentiate one brand’s ad from the next.



What are the emerging best practices for COIVD-themed advertising?

Phoenix offers some valuable tips based on COVID-themed ads that are resonating better with viewers:


  • Ensure messaging is relevant to the current environment, but communicated in a way that shows empathy and makes an emotional connection.


  • Be genuine and focus narratives that feature real people.


  • Don’t paint too bleak of a picture — stronger ads are finding a way to communicate a positive message.


  • While the focus should be on addressing viewers’ needs, don’t completely sacrifice brand communication for messaging.


  • Put the customer at the center with empathy and compassion. Avoid hard-selling tactics.


Much of the above could have been taken from a book of advertising best practices regardless of the pandemic. What’s different now is that misguided approaches stand out more than ever and can easily backfire. As with daily life regarding COVID-19, your advertising’s creative choices should be guided by expert recommendations and common sense.

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