Is it time to move beyond ‘now more than ever’ COVID-19 commercials?
The initial batch of ads arriving since the pandemic have largely embraced similar phrases, set-ups and emphatic tones. Is it best for brands to play it safe and follow suit?
The sameness was summed up in a YouTube compilation entitled “Every Covid-19 Commercial Is Exactly the Same,” from Sean Haney, a digital marketer at a software company, that’s made the rounds across agencies.
Combining commercials from Target, CVS, Apple, Budweiser and other brands, the parody shows how many executions start with somber music and images of empty streets, schools or playgrounds. A voiceover then details each brand’s long support of communities and how that will continue during the pandemic. Phrases such as “uncertain times” and “now more than ever” and words like “home” and “together” are found in many.
The ads close with rousing music and scenes of apartment and home dwellers applauding and banging pots from their windows or stoops in honor of frontline workers.
In liner notes, Mr. Haney said the repetition wasn’t so surprising given the quick turnaround time and risks in striking the wrong tone. He concluded, however, that the sameness is “perhaps a sign that it’s time for something new.”
A Wall Street Journal article covering the parody video said brands joining in on the style risk appearing insincere. The heavy drama could also be seen as “emotionally manipulative.” Nearly two months into the pandemic, offering solutions was one suggestion for brands.
Fiona Carter, chief brand officer at AT&T Communications, told the Journal, “As people settle into the stay-at-home and pause life, people are ready for more optimism and more forward-looking stories.”
Forrester analyst Jim Nail believes the next wave of ads will focus on recovery. He told The Washington Post, “They will continue to incorporate messages about how they are operating and protecting their employees and workers, but the main point will be, ‘Yes we’re back in business again; come spend money with us.’ ”
In an article for Fast Company, Jeff Beers noted that shifting away from reassuring messages risks “being labeled tone-deaf for acting like everything’s normal.”
- Every Covid-19 Commercial Is Exactly the Same – YouTube
- ‘In These Uncertain Times,’ Coronavirus Ads Strike Some Repetitive Notes – The Wall Street Journal
- See All The Covid-19 Cliches In One Big Fat Supercut – Advertising Age
- Don’t Mention the Virus! And Other Marketing Tips – The New York Times
- We have hit peak pandemic advertising, and now they’re all just annoying – Fast Company
- Advertising adjusts for a new reality: Sweatpants for staying home and toilet paper that cares – The Washington Post
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the American public ready for advertising messages from brands that move on past reassurance and empathy? What would make your list of messaging do’s and don’ts at this point in the pandemic?