Advertising during a pandemic: 7 thoughts and considerations 

Times Square is one of the most iconic places in the world to advertise a brand, and the changes its billboards saw over the last several weeks are reason for marketers to pay attention. 

Although 30,000 people still pass through the square daily during the coronavirus pandemic, billboard owners' spaces sat empty, void of advertisers. They donated the white space to a public arts project that repurposed the boards for visual messages of hope, thanks and public safety, according to NPR

What happened between West 42nd to West 47th Streets underscores a broader, two-pronged challenge in marketing and advertising right now: meeting people where they are and striking the right tone. 

Here are seven thoughts and considerations on marketing and advertising during a pandemic. 

1. In a poll issued by Morning Consult, the majority of consumers (48 percent) said the most effective ads are those showing how a company's products and services can be used to combat coronavirus' spread. 

2. The second and third most effective ads, out of eight, are those showing how a company's products and services can help improve customers' comfort, happiness and well-being during the coronavirus pandemic (46 percent) and those showing how a company is prioritizing customers' well-being (45 percent).

3. The Morning Consult poll found the desirable tones in advertising are, in descending order: empathy; emphasis on safety; transparency; care and compassion; support and solidarity; comfort; and positivity and optimism. 

4. "In most cases, doing nothing signals insensitivity, lack of concern, and inflexibility — directly opposing the humanity, customer-centricity and agility so commonly espoused by companies of all types," the poll stated. "Companies aren't getting blamed for the situation we're in, but society expects them to be part of the solution."

5. Companies must reassess everything, even their websites. That's what Rohit Bhargava, author of the business forecasting report Non-Obvious Megatrends, told Time. "To not even acknowledge [the coronavirus] is a disconnect. It's a missed opportunity to demonstrate that you're listening and that you're human, which is what we're looking for from companies anyway."

6. It is in advertisers' best interest to reflect reality in their messaging. Three things for advertisers to avoid are: situation-insensitive messages that fail to connect a product or service to the moment; situation-impractical messages offering services that people can't access; and anything explicitly self-serving, according to Morning Consult.

7. Many ad campaigns have adopted this thinking. Images related to washing increased 600 percent in ads on social media last month, whereas depictions of crowds fell 54 percent, according to an analysis by the Pattern89 AI platform cited by the New York Times.

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