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As a marketing major, I can’t help but notice advertisements. In fact, my parents sometimes mock me for paying more attention to commercials than to TV shows themselves. I find it fascinating how marketers occasionally choose to use current events to their advantage. Usually, this is considered far too risky. The COVID-19 outbreak provided advertisers the perfect opportunity to set themselves apart – at least for a little while.


Around the beginning of April, I noticed a certain trend: advertisers began mentioning phrases like “in this together” or “times like these.” More and more people were shown wearing masks during commercials, and some commercials even referenced the pandemic directly. Some marketers took advantage of the new Zoom environment sweeping the country and began creating commercials either to subtly mock the need to use the platform or simply to give a cool new look to video footage.


For the most part, this phase has passed. This is likely because of two reasons:

  1. It wasn’t setting companies apart anymore. By May, so many companies began mentioning Coronavirus or using Zoom in their commercials that it wasn’t anything special. Thus, it became time to move on and look for something else unique to do.

  2. Not everyone appreciates the references to the hard times we are going through. After a month or two of being stuck inside, marketers’ references to “unprecedented times” were likely to be met by glares, at least in my household. People wearing masks in commercials just remind us of the unfortunate necessity of our everyday lives, and I think we would much rather be reminded of happier times.


There are still some companies that have continued with pandemic-related commercials. Some, like Dominoes, do so to explain what changes they have made and why customers should feel safe ordering from them. For example, Dominoes has a commercial emphasizing how they deliver pizzas right to your car in a safe manner. They make it funny by asking employees for suggestions, and all but one says “deliver it.” The one employee says “frisbee it” and throws a pizza box towards a car. 


Others, like Progressive, have adapted their commercials to be satires of our current online situation. I find these commercials to be refreshing; they point out the small problems of our everyday lives, rather than the big ones. For example, Progressive has a commercial where everyone is in a Zoom meeting but you can see one woman texting on her phone. When they point it out, she says sorry and lowers her phone out of the camera’s sight but you can still hear the tap-tap-tap of typing. For everyone who has ever been in a group meeting on Zoom, this is super relatable.


In conclusion, marketers need to adapt what they are doing to what people find appealing. The same old pandemic commercials aren’t going to work anymore, so please don’t remind me that we are in “unprecedented times”!


I am a senior at Bentley University with a major in marketing. I plan to go to law school after finishing my undergrad.
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