In these unprecedented, challenging, uncertain, precarious, trying, unsettling, difficult times… what is the right tone for brands in their advertising?

Now more than ever, brands are gravitating toward what is known as GMOOT (give me one of those) rather than sit the moment out and be accused of not caring. That has led to a lot of ads that are indistinguishable from one another.

Certainly there are some legitimate reasons for brands to alter their advertising messaging for the time being. Those include Response (e.g. restaurant chains offering ‘contact-free’ takeout), Recognition (e.g. saluting the brave people on the front lines) and Reassurance (e.g. financial institutions communicating stability). But it is not something that advertisers should feel compelled to do if it does not fit their brand purpose or voice.

I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation from Ipsos on Advertising Sentiment During the Covid-19 Crisis. In short, their findings tell us that consumers are craving normalcy. They need some aspects of their lives to be COVID-free. While people are open to hearing from advertisers, only a small percentage of consumers feel brands that advertise as usual during today’s climate are tone deaf.

The point is that it’s perfectly fine to advertise without bringing up the crisis. Of course, you may want to consider pulling ads that are full of crowds and pre-COVID behaviors that make you look completely out of touch. If you are able to shoot new ads responsibly or re-edit your ads with other existing footage, that’s great. Using graphics and animation is also a great option that we’re seeing a lot of right now.


Here are my picks for the Top 6 Covid-related Ads “Social Distancing”

While the travel industry has really grinded to a halt, I admire how has utilized Captain Obvious to acknowledge the situation while staying true to their brand voice. It must be painful for a travel company to encourage us to stay home, but they have done it with simplicity and dignity.


Uber “Thank You for Not Riding”

Here is a beautiful spot from Uber that actually thanks us for not using their service. Yes, many brands show scenes like this underscored with somber piano music. This one just does it with uber sincerity. Feel free to give it a good rating.


Progressive Insurance “WFH Tech Issues”

Our new normal includes lots of Zoom calls. Here’s Flo, Jamie and the gang from Progressive experiencing technical issues as they work from home while managing to playfully remind us of the benefits of bundling and saving. And lots of people want to save right now.


EXTRA Gum “Extra Dedication”

This is the right time to recognize those who give extra. And that’s just what EXTRA Gum is doing with their Extra Dedication series of spots. This one features a hero named Flo (no relation to Flo from Progressive). Genuine and beautiful! They’re not pushing their product. They’re sharing positivity in a fresh way.


Cottonelle #ShareASquare

Who knew toilet paper would be top-of-mind during a world health crisis? In this simple animated spot, Cottonelle deftly addresses hoarding and pivots to provide reassurance and generosity by announcing a partnership with United Way to help fund response and recovery. Bonus points for Seinfeld fans who recognize that Share A Square is inspired by the classic “Can’t spare a square” scene.


Montefiore Health System “Canyon of Heroes”

Many hospitals are saluting health care heroes. It’s as much an effort to raise employee morale as it is to promote their own brand (appropriately). Montefiore Health System’s “Canyon of Heroes” just so happens to do it better than most. The script and voiceover hit the right notes and are perfectly underscored with “Empire State of Mind.” The choice of using black & white footage seamlessly brings together past and present. Let’s hear it for New York!


Thanks for reading. And even though it might be cliché these days, I mean it when I say: “We are all in this together.”


See other blog posts by Rob Schnapp:
“Believe in the Ridiculous”
“Fix it in Pre”
“Creative Director in a Parallel Universe”