Last year, many advertisers didn’t exactly shy away from the fact that the holidays weren’t going to be business as usual. Brands ranging from Kohl’s to the USPS to Etsy aired holiday commercials that alluded to the pandemic.
But this year is shaping up to be more of a mixed bag. Some ads explicitly mention Covid, others drop subtle references, and several avoid it completely. A smattering:
- Amazon’s spot is about a young woman who’s struggling with pandemic-related anxiety, while VRBO’s encourages viewers who’ve spent too much time at home this year to get away.
- Knowing many people didn’t get to see family and friends last year, Kroger’s ad says the holidays are “doubly important this year.” And UK supermarket chain Tesco’s commercial includes a vaccinated Santa.
- But ads from Chase, Peloton, and Apple could have just as easily run in 2019.
In these uncertain times
As the virus continues to spread and news of another variant unfolds, advertisers once again find themselves grappling with how or if people want to hear from brands on the matter. And experts say there’s no right answer.
“The mix that we’re seeing really reflects how hard it is to figure out what the right tone to strike is this year,” Claire Tassin, retail and e-commerce analyst at Morning Consult, told Marketing Brew, noting that it’s difficult for brands to understand “the right way to reflect life as it is right now. But at the same time, pretending like it’s 2019 risks looking really tone deaf.”
- Even so, Tassin told us people are also tired of seeing ads about the pandemic and are looking for some sense of normalcy. “Advertisers really need to reflect that we’re not in that same mired position with the pandemic that we were last year and people have really found ways to socialize, to be with their families.”
Kate Muhl, VP and analyst at Gartner, told Marketing Brew via email she’s “not at all surprised” to see various approaches in this year’s batch of holiday ads, explaining that “consumers themselves are unresolved on the issue” as they weigh individual and family risks this holiday season.
“In these conditions, marketers simply can’t rely on the idea that everyone’s on the same page about the pandemic and what to do about it,” she shared. In other words, one person might enjoy watching Jimmy Fallon gleefully flail around a maskless winter wonderland with a bag of Ruffles; another, not so much.—MS