What kind of ads are resonating during COVID and what should marketers avoid?

Marketers have a lot of evidence that supports advertising during a recession - to keep brand salience strong and maintain (and even grow SOV) for a faster and stronger recovery (for more information check out Peter Field's presentation "Advertising in a Downturn Revisited"). For those brands who can advertise, the next concern is the creative. What types of ads are resonating most during the current crisis, and what messages or tactics should marketers avoid?

thinktv recently welcomed Orlando Wood, Chief Innovation Officer of the System1 Group, for a fascinating webinar on the firm's latest research. System1 Group rates every TV commercial that airs in the US and the UK based on emotional response, emotional response being a great predictor of behaviour. After studying a vast array of ads over a variety of industries that launched before and during the curent COVID-19 crisis, System1 Group uncovered insights to hep marketers improve their advertising effectiveness during the present crisis and beyond.

Here are four critical insights to help marketers advertise effectively:

1. Advertising connects with people just as effectively as it did pre COVID-19, even if it does not explicitly address the pandemic. System1 Group's study of 100 commercials that launched pre-lockdown revealed that ads like the recent commercial for Alexa - What did we do before Alexa?" - resonated just as well with consumers now as they did then, without speaking to the current crisis.

2. The ads that resonate the most right now feature human connection. Not surprisingly, people are craving connections to other people, the community, places and the past. Commercials that focus on these connections are doing well. Similarly, advertisements that use fluent devices (characters or scenarios that repeat across advertising) to drive the creative are also doing well. Wood cited the updated Budweiser "Whassup Bud" as an example of well done creative that successfully connects with people by hitting the right tone - with some humour and concern. 

3. The ads that resonate the least right now focus on a 'hard sell' and things over people. The System1 Group research makes it clear that: "this is a time for people, not things". Given society's over-riding health and economic concerns, it is not surprising that commercial spots that indulge in vanity fail to resonate with viewers. Similarly, ads that are aggressive, overly competitive or focused on performance are also failing to resonate with people who increasingly value empathy and shared experience.

4. To be effective, brands must maintain their sense of distinctiveness. Although some are critical of the influx of COVID-19 response ads with similar messages of "we're here for you" and "we're in this together," these spots are connecting with consumers. Why? They successfully appeal to human emotions. It is a cautionary tale however, as brands using these same messaging styles run the risk of not scoring as highly on brand recognition scores. As Wood notes, during these challenging times, brands should "embrace generosity of spirit, humour, humility and spontaneity in [their] communications and working practices" without losing focus on the distinctive brand assets tha thelp consumers identify and recall them when it's time to buy.

To learn more, watch the full presentation.

Author: Laura Baehr | VP, Marketing | thinktv

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Tags: ads, brand, marketing, COVID-19, recovery, advertising