Should marketers keep masks out of commercials?
Face coverings may be part of the new normal, but not many commercials are showing people wearing masks. One reason may be wanting to keep the messaging focused on more upbeat themes.
Southwest Airlines, for instance, recently returned to TV advertising with a campaign encouraging consumers to “give in to your wanderlust” with flights to nearby open spaces. Unmasked couples are seen mountain biking, hiking and strolling on a beach.
Southwest debated internally whether to include face coverings given that they are mandatory on flights.
“It’s an open question,” CMO Ryan Green told Adweek. “Depending on the environment you’re showing, there’s an element of responsibility there. Marketers need to be thoughtful; we’re just going on a case-by-case basis.”
A new study from Ace Metrix finds part of the reason masks are somewhat scarce in commercials may be the challenges of filming amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain categories such as cosmetics and toothpaste are hard to advertise with faces covered.
Yet despite the controversy over mask mandates, Ace Metrix’s study found that, overall, a vast majority of consumers are not sensitive towards masks in ads — or the lack thereof — unless it is the central focus.
Among the findings:
- Making masks a focal point: Among the ads featured, viewer sentiments were found to be overwhelmingly favorable because the masks were authentic and necessary to the storytelling. Making masks as a product being sold or using masks to sell products, however, can heighten perceptions that the brand is seeking to exploit a tragic event.
- Subtle mask inclusions: When not the sole focus of the ad, mask inclusion remained a trivial aspect in terms of effectiveness. As a group, however, the subtler mask ads stirred up more polarizing sentiments. Ace Metrix wrote, “Perhaps, the more forward ads benefitted from messaging that clearly made the case for masks, whereas subtle ads left viewers to draw their own conclusions.”
- Ads without face masks: The exclusion of masks in ads did not evoke feelings strong enough for most viewers to even comment on their absence. Other creative elements had a greater impact on their effectiveness.
- Face Masks in Ads: Necessary or Nonessential? – Ace Metrix
- Southwest Airlines TV Commercial, ‘Wanderlust’ – Ispot.TV
- Masks in Commercials? It’s an Open Question, Says Southwest’s CMO – Adweek
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Would you generally encourage or discourage advertisers from showing people with masks in commercials? In what situations would showing masks prominently or subtly be relevant versus irrelevant?