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Streaming & Video, COVID-19 |


3 Digital Advertising Strategies to Address COVID-19 Reopenings

July 16 2020 by Sarah Fleishman

At earlier stages of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers were generally united in concerns about spread of the virus. In the past couple of months, however, disagreements about the optimal pace of reopening have complicated top brands’ decisions around how to address the reopening via digital marketing.

What’s more, legislation governing massive populations like Los Angeles county and even the state of Texas are already walking back reopening guidelines after new spikes in the number of coronavirus cases. Every marketing team is thinking hard about the best way to respond to the dramatic swings back and forth.

Let’s take a look at how some top brands have addressed reopening–and closing back up again—in the month of June 2020.

Las Vegas makes a characteristic spectacle of switching on the lights

There’s been some buzz about the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority advertisements featuring the city all lit up and ready for visitors again, and it’s not a surprise why, especially in hindsight.

Epidemiologists say gambling in casinos is one of the highest risk activities in terms of potentially contracting the novel coronavirus. Yet, even as other communities are shutting down again, as of June 30, the city of Las Vegas’s travel advertisements highlighting the reopening were still running, including the majority of their top ten advertisements for the month.

This is one of a series of video ads promoting that Vegas is open for business and encouraging visitors to be #VegasSmart while featuring footage of people in masks.

While the ads touch on the fact that staff are following health and safety protocols and suggest the importance of wearing masks, the tone of the video ads is much more celebratory than somber. These 30 second video ads aim to calm potential Vegas-goers’ concerns about COVID-19 by ensuring them, “We’re doing what we can so you can do everything without worrying about anything.”

After making such a strong reopening statement, Las Vegas might feel some additional pressure to find ways to remain open safely. Its Convention and Visitors Authority will certainly be an interesting advertiser to keep an eye on as case counts develop and major cities settle on the best, safest strategies for reopening large gathering spaces.

Macy’s transitions swiftly from reopening to business as usual

In-person retail shopping was reintroduced in many cities and states in phase 2 of reopening procedures alongside malls. Macy’s was sure to let its clients know it was open again for business and how shoppers could find their nearest location in this campaign run across many different regions in the United States.

Macys digital advertising

Macy’s reopening ads acknowledge that consumers may not yet be comfortable returning to stores in person and highlight a focus on safety precautions including contact-free options.

Shortly after running this campaign, however, Macy’s began promoting its Friends and Family sale to welcome shoppers back to stores. The company’s top ad creative for the month is a video with messaging that does reference the recent reopening of the store, but with a different tone than the initial reopening campaign.

Macy’s second wave of reopening ads features smiling families gifting clothes to Dad just in time for Father’s Day. The focus now is on sale prices rather than safety precautions.

It’s clear to see how Macy’s transitioned from an early tentative reopening campaign in mid May through early June, but shifted as perceptions of shopping became more normal to consumers once again. In this way, Macy’s seems to be pretty agile in responding to the nuanced evolutions of its customers’ concerns about COVID-19. What campaigns will come next as reopening potentially continues to scale back?


McDonald’s represents a more cautious approach

On July 2, McDonald’s announced that it would further delay reopening its dining rooms by another few weeks after observing case counts spiking and reopening protocols shifting to reverse. Has this fast food giant’s messaging on ad creatives been aligned up with that announcement throughout the month of June?

The answer is a clear “yes.” Similarly to both of our examples so far, McDonald’s ad creatives do send a strong message of “we’re open.” However, McDonald’s is still focusing on the ways it’s open for contact free drive thru and delivery options for its customers.

The company’s top creative for the month, shown on the left, was part of a series promoting the McDonald’s app. The company is focusing not on when they’ll be able to reopen for business as usual, but instead on the benefits of using technology that makes the best of the current situation.


Another example of a top creative sharing safe ways to enjoy McDonald’s before dining rooms reopen.

As it turns out, responses to reopening between advertisers are as scattered as the protocols are between different communities. The Las Vegas Conventions and Visitors Authority encourages tourists not to worry too much about the novel coronavirus. Macy’s leaves it up to the customer to decide if they feel safe or not to come inside. Meanwhile, McDonald’s takes a cautious stance and uses its advertising budget to show consumers the silver lining.

Want to know more about how your competitors are advertising? Check out our sample insights dashboard.

About Author
Sarah Fleishman

With over a decade of experience across digital marketing, content, creative, and PR, Sarah is a creative and dynamic thinker who loves to delight clients with unique and relatable content. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Sociology.

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