Most Advertisers Changing Messages Amid Virus Crisis

In the middle of the coronavirus crisis, the vast majority of advertisers are changing the messages they’re delivering on-screen to be more empathetic and offer helpful information to consumers, an new Association of National Advertisers survey found.

The survey found that 46% of marketers said they have made substantial changes in their advertising, with 42% saying their adjustments were moderate and 12% said minimal tweaks were needed.

Current ads stress relaxation of loan and payment terms, virus-free delivery services and home networking options.

According to the survey, 89% said they plan to continue adjusting their messaging in view of the current environment.

They said they were planning to change language for sensitivity purposes, and to remove lifestyle images depicting people in close proximity at events.

“This important new report shows that even in a time of severe crisis, our members are figuring out ways to get the job done — and fast,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “Marketers should be proud of the teams they have created, who have displayed remarkable skill and flexibility in their ability to meet the incredible creative challenges posed by the current pandemic.”

One of the marketers surveyed said that “our messaging has pivoted from marketing to providing essential/helpful information to all audiences.” Another said more emotional messaging around social distancing and "we are here for you" were more appropriate than straight-up sales messages. One more said messaging has changed to acknowledge schools closing and more social distancing has taken place. “We wanted to make sure our marketing wasn’t tone-deaf,” the respondent said.

Only 39% of respondents said producing new creative was a challenge. Those who did noted that producing new assets is tough with sheltering-in-place rules; crews, studios and talent are unavailable and that even though everyone is working remotely, there’s pressure to deliver new creative immediately.

The ANA survey was conducted online March 1 and 31, with 196 executives responding.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.