Sameness, exploitation sets in for COVID-19 ads, study says

Dive Brief:​​

  • As the pandemic has continued, ads are having a harder time breaking through, according to a new analysis by Ace Metrix that was shared with Marketing Dive. Ace Metrix analyzed 497 coronavirus-related ads through May 9.
  • Attention, watchability and desire scores for ads related to the pandemic are now equal to scores for non-coronavirus themed ads over the past year, illustrating that focusing on the health crisis alone is no longer enough to capture consumer interest. Additionally, beginning the week of April 14-20, more ads are registering as exploitative by viewers, including ads with “Thank You” and tribute themes.
  • The research points to a few opportunities to break out and grab attention amid a growing sense of sameness regarding coronavirus-related ads, including the creative use of music, which helped recent Unilever ad, “Essential Supplies,” earn a score 20% above COVID-19 averages. Including a dose of humor and/or quirkiness can be risky given the serious nature of the health crisis, but can also help a brand connect with viewers when handled well, as in Bulleit Bourbon’s “New Drinking Buddies” spot.

Dive Insight:

An important takeaway for brands from the Ace Metrix research is that focusing exclusively on the health crisis could make it harder to stand out, possibly because a sense of sameness is settling in for consumers as these ads have proliferated.

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Still, COVID-19 messaging remains a powerful way for brands to engage with consumers, with ads addressing the topic significantly outperforming ads that don’t, per Ace Metrix. Findings include that 30% of the coronavirus-related ads through May 9 scored between 600 and 650 on its index, a significant increase over industry norms for the past year. Ace Metrix’s empowerment metric, which is usually only earned by 12.5% of brands, has registered for 75% of ads during the crisis. The average scores for relevance are 11% higher than the industry average and likeability is 7% higher.​

The latest analysis suggests that using COVID-19 as a topic should not be off the table, but brands must take a nuanced approach and not follow a formula in order to gain consumer sentiment. The bottom line is that people are still open to ads that mention the coronavirus. However, they want to see new messaging strategies to tell the latest stories.

Ace Metrix’s findings differ from research from earlier this month that found that 41% of consumers are now ready to hear from brands about topics unrelated to the pandemic. While the research revealed that 77% consumers feel brands cared about their well-being and 58% of consumers were open to hearing about changes to business that could affect them during the pandemic, the study showed a clear interest in hearing about other topics.

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