Advertising During Times of Crisis

OOH Trends Jun 30, 2020

In the United States, daily COVID-19 cases just hit a record high. The country now has 2.4 million confirmed infections - more than any other country. They are not alone; countries such as Brazil, Russia, India - to name a few, have seen a large uptick in cases.
Even in countries such as Canada, which saw the lowest single day increase in COVID-19 related deaths in months, are worried about the potential of a second wave. Amidst the fight against social injustice and a precarious economic situation, it is no surprise that marketers are carefully navigating the consumer landscape.

While it may be intimidating to strike a balance between being authentic and being on brand, this is not the time for brands to disappear and go dark - if anything, consumers are looking to be supported, entertained, and acknowledged more than ever.  

Be present and uniquely helpful

P&G, for example, recently launched their ad “The Choice”. In this simple 75-second advertisement, it shows close-ups of people’s skin and faces as the backdrop of extremely powerful copy urging white Americans to use their power to become anti-racist. The ad ends with a clear call to action for viewers to visit a website filled with resources to take action.

While being present is integral, we also want to caution against jumping on the bandwagon just because. Slapping on a few vague sentences and a logo is not only adding no value, but it is  extremely counterproductive as consumers are already very sensitive about brands that are latching onto this movement as a way to self-promote.

Be empowering and empathetic

Orlando Wood, Chief Innovation Officer at global research firm Systeml Group found in new research that brands that empower consumers to “live their fullest life are connecting very well.” He also found that, on the contrary, brands that are telling people to act a certain way or think a certain way are not perceived very positively because the essence of the messaging hinges on inhibiting a way of life.

Apple’s “Creativity Goes On” advertisement is an excellent example of a brand that has been able to strike that balance. Produced in just two weeks, the ad features footages of people of all ages using Apple products to entertain, connect, and inspire each other. Set to a piano track, the ad features users creating video content, practicing live yoga classes, and playing chess over video call. In addition, it features celebrities such as Oprah offering words of support on Apple TV+, John Krasinski working on his YouTube show #SomeGoodNews, and actress Lily James’s involvement with the #SaveWithStories children’s book initiative with her iPad. Apple was able to showcase its products while empowering users to reach inside their inner creative to raise each other up.

Be relevant

It is integral to recognize how your target market’s outlook has changed and what type of messaging they are connecting well with. Wood’s research also shows that advertisements that are outperforming tend to be more right-brained in nature. According to their research, advertising since 2006 has become more abstract as they focus on self-image, performance, materialism, and are highly reliant on words and rhythm. In times of crisis, people have a heightened sense of awareness and longing for human connection and will be less receptive to left-brained messaging that revolves around things and logic. To stay relevant, it is integral for brands to reconsider their messaging and find ways to go outside of the comfortable realm of left-brained advertising.

For example, Truly Hard Seltzer is celebrating pride through a year long partnership with GLAAD, a nonprofit organization promoting understanding and advancing equality for the LGBTQ+ community. They are donating $100,000 to GLAAD and are launching a social campaign by taking over the Times Square billboard to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the New York City Pride March, which was cancelled due to the pandemic. People are incentivized to submit photos to @Truly of how they are celebrating Pride month with the hashtag #TrulyPride for a chance to be included on the billboard. In addition, Truly is sharing 16 stories, one for each of its 16 flavours, to offer new perspectives and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.

Leveraging outdoor media is an effective way for brands, businesses, communities to speak up. We frequently think of advertisements as ways to increase one’s top-line. Especially during this time, when our lives may be disrupted, when our mental models may be undergoing drastic change, when we are processing an influx of thoughts and emotions, advertisements become a highly precious communication channel that have the potential to take on a role far more greater than we seldom realize.

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