Dougallmedia's Covid Response


A year in the life of a commercial

Another Super Bowl has come and gone, and with it, new commercial campaigns have been launched.  It is, of course, a big night for new ads with the cost of airtime during the game getting more expensive every year.  And given then rollercoaster of a year in advertising, what kinds of TV commercials would show up in the most hallowed of timeslots was anyone’s guess.

In the beginning of the pandemic, businesses struggled with how to promote their products and stay relevant.  Many chose to delay or cancel their planned campaigns as their customers faced a new normal.

Since actual production of TV advertisements was also limited due to protocol restrictions, new commercials became simplified.  The A&W guy did his ad on a smartphone.  Some companies used other people’s YouTube videos to sell their wares.  (Fortunately, everybody stuck at home were already sharing their personal videos so there was a lot to choose from.)

A few corporations went to air with a simple sentiment:  We’re in this with you.  Some even backed up this claim with employee hazard pay and increased safety measures.  But they were often the exception.

The downside was that many marketing companies used sentiment for your dollars, engaging in COVID brainwashing.  Or “pandemic-washing.”

McDonald’s actually took to social media to separate its logo’s golden arches in what they claimed was “an act of coronavirus solidarity.”  Most people didn’t feel it.

Frito Lay ran an emotionally-charged 60-second commercial highlighting how much the company was helping during the pandemic, outlining specific programs and the jobs created.  The ad claimed that “This is not about brands.”  Meanwhile, it ending with a link to find out what else the Frito Lay brand was doing to save the world … one potato chip at a time.

There was also a plethora of ads involving pets.  And why not?  Adoptions skyrocketed with so many people isolated or working at home.  So pet product companies cashed in on our desperate need to put our arms around something warm.

As restrictions started lifting, so did the tone of commercials.  And some companies returned to the status quo.  Jif peanut butter reminded us that every bite tasted like you’re tasting it for the first time.  (Because, apparently, it gives you memory loss.)

Charmin bathroom tissue’s cartoon bear family returned with everyday problems like the child bear rubbing his feces covered rear on a chair.  Enter the Charmin toilet paper that cleans better using less. (Because, yes, that was the take-away from that story.)

But at least we’re heading back to normalcy.  And that’s what the Super Bowl’s selection of TV ads brought us.  Hollywood stars were everywhere, thankfully.  Because with the decrease in new movies and TV shows, we might have forgotten about them.

Laughter reigned supreme.  Because, let’s face it, after 2020, people need something to laugh about.

And with a ref’s whistle, commerce returned to North America.  Because if they can’t promote it or sell it, it might not exist.