You’ve probably seen a few COVID-19 TV commercials by now, maybe even shed a few tears. Empty roads, parked airplanes, deserted cities, playgrounds with no kids, you name it. If the location once had people in it, it is now being shown as empty with some sombre piano music concurrently nourishing our auditory senses and reminding us what we are all missing. Each commercial then shifts gears and moves into a more positive tone, usually mentioning the fact that we are all in this together and encouraging us that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel will soon be visible. Most end off with thanks and appreciation for our health care workers (well-deserved, of course).
So what’s the big deal?
It depends on who you ask. I came across this video mash-up of COVID-19 commercials the other week, which pretty much highlights what I’ve pointed out above in a mocking way. Have a look.
I have seen many of these ads circulate individually now across various marketing and communications communities, and it’s been interesting reading the different reactions depending on where they are shared. In general, emotional (yet uplifting) ads such as these resonate well with consumers in times of crisis, hence why most brands took this approach in the first place. Yet I’m also seeing folks criticizing these brands right now for not taking the opportunity to stand out with unique positioning, instead, opting for a predictable message, and unimaginative ad. Joining them are people that have a healthy distrust of consumer brands and corporations to begin with, not at all buying these corporate attempts to demonstrate caring.
What do I think?
I believe the unique positioning here is actually the similarity. While I doubt it was approached strategically in a coordinated manner between so many industries, the likeness of each one of these ads builds a stronger whole of something bigger than the individual brand itself. We are legitimately in this together. I believe it’s better to show our similarities than pointing out differences right now in an attempt to be “king of the hill.” This similarity of commercials is also a compelling way to strengthen and help promote key government health messages that often don’t get the same reach on their own.
In summary, the similarity of commercials like this would be a travesty at any other time. But it’s COVID-19, and it’s not a normal time by any means. I, therefore, don’t mind the approach many of these brands have taken.