An unexpected effect of the Covid-19 pandemic is that it has made advertising both more important and more interesting.
Advertising has become more important because there’s a lot of vital information that needs to be conveyed to audiences, from businesses’ updated offerings to health officials’ recommendations for how to stay safe.
It’s become more interesting because the pandemic has forced ad creators to shift away from tried-and-true approaches and rework everything from their messaging to their production processes.
These effects can be seen most clearly in campaigns that directly address Covid-19. Faced with the difficult challenge of sparking emotion while not coming across as exploitive, many creators have stepped up and delivered compelling and inspiring ads—often while grappling with reduced budgets and tight deadlines.
For example, these nine brilliant Covid-related campaigns showcase how the pandemic has kindled savvy advertisers’ intelligence, creativity, and empathy.
1. Google: Thank You
An analysis of which Covid-related ads have sparked the strongest positive emotional reactions revealed a clear winner: Google’s spot praising members of the healthcare community. The piece, which is part of the brand’s broader ‘Thank You’ campaign, combines footage of workers in the field with related search queries to acknowledge the heroes and tug at the heartstrings.
2. Dove: Courage Is Beautiful
Along similar lines to Google’s ad is Dove’s Courage Is Beautiful. This piece also highlights the healthcare community, though the approach is different: Through still photos of people after their long shifts—marks and bruises clearly visible on their faces from personal protective equipment—the spot powerfully showcases the grueling nature of the work.
3. Ohio Department of Health: Flatten the Curve
A key challenge during the Covid-19 pandemic has been finding ways to educate people on why recommendations such as social distancing matter. Perhaps no ad has been more effective in doing this than Flatten the Curve from the Ohio Department of Health. With simple visuals—just mousetraps and ping pong balls—the spot brilliantly shows why adding a little distance can go a long way in controlling the virus’s spread.
4. New York: We ❤ NY
Another public service imperative during the pandemic has been to convince people to wear masks. Rather than simply turn to an agency to tackle this, the state of New York created a competition. The winning ad from Bunny Lake Films smartly turns the traditional “I ❤ New York” tagline into “We ❤ New York” and showcases how wearing a mask is an important way to support the community.
5. Tennessee: Face It
Tennessee has taken a different approach from New York with its pro-mask ads and focused on the idea that covering one’s face is a sign of toughness. Through the stories of various residents, the state’s Face It campaign powerfully highlights that mask-wearing isn’t about fear but rather about fighting for positive things like jobs, friends, family, and football.
6. Realtor.com: #StayHome
Covid-19 has driven people to spend much more time at home than they did before. The #StayHome campaign from Realtor.com strikes a moving note by highlighting that while many may not have expected their dwellings to become their daycares, workplaces, and gyms, there is something beautiful about staying at home and having a safe shelter from the storm.
7. Burger King: Stay Home of the Whopper
Burger King has long taken a humorous approach with its creative, and its Covid-related advertising has stayed true to form. This Stay Home of the Whopper spot is a great example. In the piece the chain shows that the pandemic can enable us all to become heroes if we simply laze on our couches and order in.
8. Nike: You Can’t Stop Us
While Burger King takes a tongue-in-cheek approach with its heroic Covid messaging, Nike is all about being earnest. The You Can’t Stop Us spot is the brand at its best: moving music, stirring voiceovers and stunningly-edited sports visuals combine to remind viewers that anything is possible when people team up together to tackle a challenge.
9. Heineken: Connections
Finally, it’s impossible to talk about the pandemic without acknowledging a simple fact: Sometimes it sucks. Rather than skirt around this, Heineken embraces it with its Connections ad. The spot depicts some of the many challenges of trying to connect digitally with friends and family during this time—slow internet, unexpected Zoom cameos, etc.—and then ends with a beautifully simple statement about socially distanced gatherings: “It’s not the best get-together, but it’s the best way to get together.”