- Brands have dramatically changed the imagery in their social media ads in the past week amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, per study results that artificial intelligence (AI) marketing firm Pattern89 shared with Mobile Marketer. Images and videos of people washing their hands and faces surged 600% since last week, the study found.
- The use of "cleanliness" imagery tripled, including photos and videos of people touching their faces, sneezing, coughing, drinking, smelling, cleaning and using tissues. The study also found "a dramatic rise" in the use of the "face-mask emoji" in headlines and ad copy since March 5.
- As social distancing becomes the prescribed norm, ads showed a 30% drop in the use of "human connection" imagery since March 12, and an 8% slide in travel-related imagery from two weeks earlier, per Pattern89.
The drastic change in brand imagery in social media ads reflects the sudden change in public tone as health authorities worldwide warn people to take steps to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19. In the past week, those warnings have been amplified in the U.S. as the federal government tightens travel restrictions and many local officials order the closure of schools, restaurants, gyms, theaters and concert venues among other public gathering places. Pattern89's study indicates that brands have become more mindful that their campaigns aren't perceived as tone deaf while people worry about how the coronavirus will affect their lives.
The decline in travel-related imagery comes as governments impose restrictions on airlines, tourists cancel trips and businesses order their employees to avoid non-essential travel. Amid these disruptions, the travel industry cut its ad spending by about 50% during the first two weeks of March from a year earlier, a separate study by advertising analytics company MediaRadar found. Between the first and second weeks of the month, cruise lines decreased ad spending 30%, airlines 27% and hotel and lodging brands 25%, per MediaRadar.
Pattern89's research confirms how brands have changed their marketing campaigns in response to the pandemic, especially as personal hygiene becomes a sensitive subject. Hershey and Coors hit the breaks on advertising campaigns to avoid negative associations with the outbreak, while fast-food chain KFC in the U.K. halted its "Finger Lickin' Good" effort that urged people to lick their fingers clean after eating its chicken.