The Do’s and Don’ts of Advertising During COVID

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the world of advertising almost immediately. Companies across industries had to make tough marketing and advertising calls in the second quarter of 2020, from reducing ad spend to pausing or postponing campaigns. Data from Statista show the following highlights from April 2020:

  • 50% of companies surveyed stopped or pulled an on-going campaign
  • 64% postponed a planned campaign
  • 44% completely cancelled a campaign

But as many professionals have realized, you shouldn’t cancel all your advertising efforts because of the pandemic. Instead, you should re-evaluate and adjust. This means taking a look at your budget, media mix, and messaging, and making sure your efforts are tailored to fit new customer needs and behavior. While it takes a lot of flexibility, it will benefit your brand in the long-run, well past the end of this challenging time.

Below are four tips for advertising during COVID-19, plus a few mistakes to avoid.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Advertising During COVID-19


…strive for authenticity.

For most, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a heightened sense of concern over health, relationships, and finances. This means that people aren’t spending their time or money in traditional ways.

More importantly, it means that people’s relationships to brands have changed. People don’t want to be sold something that doesn’t help them feel safe or hopeful during this challenging time.

Make sure your messaging reflects an authentic concern for customers and their communities. This might mean a simple change in tone, or a shift in focus toward a particular area of your service that can be especially helpful during the pandemic.

…get creative.

Unusual times call for unusual solutions. Instead of simply halting all advertising efforts, re-evaluate and re-focus. It’s time to start making lemonade out of lemons. 

First, understand that you might need to advertise on different channels than before. For example, if you previously relied on TV ads during live sporting events, you’ll need to pivot those efforts until such events are safe again.

Second, be prepared to adjust your messaging in response to customers’ concerns over the pandemic. Forbes notes that leadership at Purdue Farms decided to pause a campaign centered on how the company processes chicken, in favor of a more personal campaign geared at showing appreciation for its workers. Walmart and rideshare companies like Uber have introduced similar ad campaigns.

…meet your customers where they are.

As we explored in a previous blog, COVID-19 has changed the way people behave online. That means you might have to look for your customers in new places.

For example, with more people staying at home (rather than searching on-the-go), mobile website activity has declined while traditional website activity has gone up. Similarly, people are watching content on streaming services rather than at cinemas. Finally, social media usage continues to skyrocket, especially on newer platforms like Tik Tok. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends in audience behavior and adjust your media mix accordingly.

…go above and beyond.

Though all companies have to worry about the bottom line in order to survive, people are extra sensitive right now to any suggestion that companies are focusing on profits over the wellbeing of the community – and with good reason. These days, people need a break more than ever.

Many companies are taking this opportunity to offer or extend free trials. For example, HBO unlocked hundreds of hours of TV and movies to watch for free early in the pandemic. Many car insurance companies offered discounts on premiums because of reduced car usage, and plenty of companies are donating money to good causes.

Do what you can to contribute to the greater good, and communicate your efforts to your audience.


…exploit the situation.

Recent polls suggest a somewhat common perception that brands are “taking advantage” of the pandemic. While brands strive to address their customers’ concerns, it’s easy to go overboard. It’s important that you strike a balance between using the crisis as an opportunity to better serve customers, and using it as an opportunity to increase profits.

This means being extra careful not to stoke your audience’s fears in order to influence their behavior.

…get out-of-touch.

On the flipside, you don’t want to ignore the pandemic, either. This is especially important for more personal advertising channels like social media, where people are looking for genuine connection and stress relief.

Sharing content that doesn’t match your customers’ situations – for example, an ad for a Labor Day sale that shows people having fun at a packed beach party even though everyone is being encouraged to practice social distancing – can make you appear insensitive and out-of-touch, hurting your brand loyalty.


Advertising during COVID-19 presents both new challenges and new opportunities. Though we’re not out of the woods yet, companies have already proved that it is possible to make the most of the circumstances of 2020 while providing authentically helpful services to customers. To learn more about how Bloom Ads can support you with advertising during COVID, check out our advertising services today.

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