Are Consumers Tuning Out COVID-19 Advertisements?

How opinions have changed one year ago vs. now

Published on March 19, 2021

It’s been one full year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With countless changes in rules, lockdown measures, and a many months of missing family and friends, Canadians are tired of COVID-19.

But, are consumers tired of hearing about COVID-19 from brands too?  Does COVID-19 advertising help or hurt a brand? We took to our panel, the largest daily panel in the Canadian market to find out how attitudes and opinions on brands, promotions, and COVID-19 advertising messages have changed since the start of the pandemic until now.

 

COVID-19 Fatigue is Real

COVID-19 content avoidance increased 15% across the general population, increasing a total of 6.1 basis points from 33.5% to 38.5% over the past 12 months.

How do you feel about the statement: “I try to avoid COVID-19 content”?

Younger generations are most likely to avoid COVID-19 content, with 43.1% of Millennials agreeing they try to avoid COVID-19 content in 2020. In 2021, Gen Z takes first place as the generation exercising the most avoidance, where almost 1 in 2 are avoiding COVID-19 content.

Gen Z has had a radical shift when it comes to supporting brands using a COVID-19 advertisement. When we surveyed in March 2020, only 17.4% of respondents indicated that they would be encouraged to support a brand using a COVID-19 advertisement. Fast forward 10 months, and that number has almost doubled, with 30.9% of Gen Z now likely to be encouraged to engage with brands using COVID-19 advertisement.

How much would a COVID-19 advertisement encourage you to support a brand?

From East to West, Sentiment is Not the Same

When it comes to brands having COVID-19 related ads, the biggest change of heart we see in Canada comes from BC:

  • One year later: BC is less disappointed by 10 basis points if their preferred brands use the pandemic for ad purposes (48.6% in 2020 vs. 38.1% in 2021)
  • BC has become more accepting of COVID-related ads

Whereas in Ontario: stayed the same level of disappointment at 38.9% in 2020 vs. 39.2% in 2021

How would you feel if your preferred brand used the pandemic for advertising purposes?

Is Brand Recall Declining as Screen Time Increases?

During this global pandemic, we have seen alcohol brands start producing hand sanitizer, clothing manufacturers producing personal protective equipment (PPE) and all sorts of public service announcement messages from our favourite brands. The point is: It is near impossible that a consumer has not seen one of their preferred brands using social media to talk about COVID-19 in some way.

We also know that screen time has significantly increased during the pandemic.

How do you feel about the statement: “Since COVID-19, I’ve felt the need to actively reduce my screen time”?

From Caddle’s daily panel, we found that 34% of consumers feel the need to actively reduce screen time since the pandemic began.

Blogpost Charts.pptx (6)

Has your preferred brand(s) used social media to talk about COVID-19?

When we dug into the data, we found that there were some distinct differences between consumers who recall seeing brands using social media to talk about COVID-19 and those who do not recall. 

 

Blogpost Charts.pptx (7)

Accept & Avoid

Consumers who have preferred brands that speak about COVID-19 are much more sympathetic when it comes to how existing COVID-19 campaigns make them feel.

This group is 50% more likely to indicate existing COVID-19 campaigns make them feel part of the community, and 3x more likely to feel Canadian pride. Almost 50% of this group will avoid COVID-19 content, while nearly 45% are disappointed if their preferred brand used COVID-19 for advertising purposes.

How would you feel if your preferred brand used the pandemic for advertising purposes?

 

How do the existing COVID-19 promotional campaigns make you feel?
How do you feel about the statement “I try to avoid COVID-19 content”?

Stop Mentioning COVID-19 

On the other side of the coin, we have respondents who have not noticed any brands using social media to talk about COVID-19. 60% of respondents fell into this category in 2020. Interestingly, this number has increased to 67% – another sign of how COVID-19 fatigue has plagued consumers. Avoidance has taken over for cohorts of consumers. These consumers are more likely to feel annoyed, irritated, or anxious by COVID-19 related promotional campaigns.

How do the existing COVID-19 promotional campaigns make you feel?

Blogpost Charts.pptx (11)

In conclusion, consumers who are familiar with brands who have used social media to talk about COVID-19 are much more likely to avoid COVID-19 content. Almost half of this segment actively avoids COVID-19 content – more than 30% higher than the 35% of consumers who do not recall seeing their preferred brand using social media to talk about COVID-19.

 

Key Takeaways

  • As a whole, consumers are generally tired of seeing COVID-19 related ads from their beloved brands: It’s been one year, we get it!
  • However, if brands did use COVID-19 ads, sentiment across the nation is not the same. While the west coast has lost their distaste for COVID-19 related ads, other provinces such as Ontario have remained stoic in their stance of wanting to keep COVID-19 and brand ads apart.
  • Gen Z are hungry for brands who are loud and proud on COVID-19 education while Millennials and Baby Boomers are tired of hearing about COVID-19.
  • There is a clear distinction between consumers who have seen brands post about COVID-19 vs. those who haven’t, and brands must understand the nuances in language when it comes to communicating with these two consumer segments.
  • Brands need to be diligent on when it is appropriate to be using COVID-19 related advertising. Brands should use it where it makes sense – for safety, reassurance, and supporting communities.

 

*Disclaimer: all data presented is owned by CaddleⓇ and has a Margin of Error of 1% or lower.

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