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COVID-19: Consumers condemn inappropriate ads but crave brand response details

Consumers want to continue receiving brand communications, provided they are sensitive and provide information about the company's response to COVID-19. 

16th Apr 2020
Contributor MyCustomer
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Half of consumers have been sent advertising that they believe is inappropriate during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new findings.

Yet the majority of customers still wish to continue receiving brand communications during the current crisis, particularly if they provide details of how the organisation is responding to the coronavirus. 

Two sets of newly-released research demonstrate that consumers welcome brand marketing provided that it is appropriate and sensitive to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. 

A survey of over 4,000 global consumers by Publicis Groupe’s digital agency Epsilon-Conversant found that nearly half (48%) had been sent something they considered either inappropriate or badly timed over the last two weeks. This includes examples such as Vogue magazine running a full-page advertorial explaining "what to wear during lockdown", and Sixt car rental offering Easter holiday getaway deals. 

Sixt

Despite this, almost two thirds (62%) wanted to continue receiving advertising.

Unsurprisingly, Elliott Clayton, Epsilon-Conversant’s senior vice president, therefore recommends that rather than simply cancel or put marketing campaigns on hold, advertisers should instead “align their products, services and promotions with the needs of consumers in this situation”.

“This is a human problem that requires brands to find their human sides,” he says.

As to what this human side looks like, the study indicated that messages of wellbeing and positivity were high on the list (49%), with Brits particularly keen on this approach (61%). A lot of consumers (58%) also still have an eye for offers and discounts, although purely product-focused content appealed to a mere 14% of those questioned.

“There is opportunity, but not for opportunists,” Clayton explains. “Right now, brands must ask themselves, ‘how might I be able to help or inform my customers?’ not just push through a sale.”

Coronavirus

Such findings were also reflected in a poll among 2,556 consumers undertaken by video ad tech company, Unruly, with only 5% of those questioned in the UK advised brands to pause their advertising activities. 

However, many respondents demanded that brands adapt their campaigns to be more helpful to consumers during the crisis, and more transparent about their activities in response to the pandemic.

For instance, almost half (42%) were keen for campaigns to be more informative, with almost a fifth (18%) looking for messages based around COVID-19 or insights into how the brand was supporting their staff and customers.

UK consumers also wanted adverts to make them feel warmer and happier (35%) and to provide them with a sense of continuity and normality (23%) during this disruptive time. A further 13% were keen for adverts to be funny and/or positive in order to help distract them.

As Rebecca Waring, the company’s global vice president of insights and solutions, says: “The vast majority of consumers still want to see ads, but the key to success is in the content and the way a message is conveyed. The magnitude of these changes require brands to be nimble in adapting their advertising strategies to maintain and grow connections with consumers, provide support and minimise disruption to performance.”

A number of brands have been praised for successfully switching their advertising messages during the COVID-19 crisis, including Budweiser's 'One Team' advert in the US, and Guiness's St. Patrick's Day message on 17th March in the UK and Ireland.

 

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