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The Effectiveness of Pandemic Advertising 2020

Posted by Angela Jeffrey on Aug 4, 2020 2:55:54 PM

A few weeks ago, Michael J. Wolfe of Bottom-line Analytics published the article below using ABX advertising analytics.  With his permission, ABX is re-running his article because of his excellent analysis of which key messages and emotional approaches resounded among 70 analyzed ads during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Michael is a market mix modeler who has worked with the largest companies (see bio below) who always finds insights.  We hope you enjoy this latest article from Michael.

COVID homemade masks are creative and colorful.

Key Messages and Emotional Themes for Pandemic Ads

Since the beginning of the Corona-19 Virus Pandemic in February-March of 2020, we have seen a flurry of brand-image advertising with a special focus on generating good will toward the brands which are advertised.  These ads tended to address some issue related to the Corona-19 Virus Pandemic; and, in one way or another, they aimed at boosting the positive image of the advertised brand.  The purpose of this article is to evaluate the effectiveness of these ads, to understand the role they play and to utilize data-insights for improving these types of ads.

The source of the data for this article is from Advertising Benchmark Index or ABX and its large database of media copy testing information. For this research, we pulled test results from 70 ads with a particular focus on the Pandemic period from Late February to July 10, 2020. We then compared the performance of these ads to all other ads aired during this time, which made no reference to the Pandemic. Exhibit 1 below shows the overall copy test scores of the Pandemic ads versus other ads, plus several ad-related key-performance indicators. As shown, when looking at the overall ad effectiveness for these Pandemic ads, we see an average score of 121, which is significantly stronger than the overall average of 112 of all other tested advertising during this time.Michael Wolfe uses a spider chart to show which KPIs worked best for COVID ads.

On Exhibit 1, we see how this Pandemic advertising compares to Non-Pandemic ads in terms of total ad effective & advertising-specific key performance indicators. While these Pandemic ads did not perform particularly strong on motivating purchase, these ads did score high in impacting brand reputation and likeability, and also stimulated viewers to both talk about the brand and contact the company.

Messaging of Pandemic Ads

When evaluating the messaging from these 70 Pandemic ads, we found four key communication topics or themes.  These key messages were:

  • “we are all in this together”
  • “thanks to first-responders”
  • “thanks to employees”
  • “we are open for business”

On Exhibit 2, we found that (3) and (4) scored the highest in terms of ad effectiveness ratings.

Chart showing which key messages did well for COVID.

Below are links to video/audio clips showing two high-performance ads.

ABX Scorecard for Kroger radio ad on Thank You to employees.

ABX scorecard on  Honda dealer TV spot "open for business"

One of the big differentiators of the effectiveness of these Pandemic ads was the particular emotional response that each ad was trying to generate to viewers. Across these 70 Pandemic ads, our analysis revealed four key emotional themes. These were:

  • Empathy
  • Appreciation
  • Security
  • Optimism

The best performing of these ads tended to focus on reassurance & security or conveying feelings or hope or optimism. An excellent example of an ad that focused on optimism was a TV ad by Pfizer which promoted how the company is dedicated to finding scientific solutions & vaccines to solve the crises. Exhibit 3 below shows the average ad effectiveness sores for these four emotional themed spots.Chart showing which emotions were strongest.

Pfizer TV Ad “Science can overcome diseases, create cure”, score 137 (click link below)ABX scorecard for Pfizer TV Ad on how science can overcome diseases.

Data-Driven Insights

By using data from advertising testing sources (ABX), we have shown that we can gain insights which can inform the development of more effective advertising.  What we have learned is that the current Pandemic has offered an opportunity to advertisers to improve their brand reputations and customer good will through brand image advertising that addresses this event. 

Overall, these Pandemic ads performed well and above norm on measures of effectiveness. Among the most effective of these 70 ads were those that appealed to feelings of security and optimism for the future, while also reinforcing that the brand is open for business.

Michael Wolfe, CEO of Bottom-Line Analytics, brings about 30 years of direct experience in marketing analytics both on the client/ad-agency side and the consulting side. On the former, MMichael Wolfe, CEO of Bottom-Line Analytics and brilliant market mix modeler.ichael has worked for Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Kellogg’s and Fisher-Price. He has also consulted with such blue-chip firms as AT&T, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Hyatt Corp., L’Oreal, FedEx and more recently Starbucks. Michael has broad experience in marketing analytics covering marketing ROI modeling, social media analytics, pricing and brand strategy; and he has numerous articles on these subjects.

Contact Information: Michael Wolfe,

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Topics: Covid-19

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