How advertising is changing during the coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 2:53 PM, May 14, 2020

Advertising has been changing during the pandemic. Companies have replaced ads in recent weeks because they didn't want to show behavior that could lead to the spread of COVID-19 or messages that could be seen as making light of the pandemic.

Some have shifted to show what they're doing in our communities. But could masks be next?

Psychologists say culturally, Americans tend to place a lot of value in control over their lives and freedom. So, being told to wear masks can lead to frustration.

“I understand the power that advertising has to normalize behaviors especially some behaviors that can make people uncomfortable,” said Kim Sheehan, an advertising professor at the University of Oregon.

Sheehan says if advertisers want to present a realistic look at what our world is like today, they should show people wearing masks in ads.

“It’s kind of this whole advertisers communicating that they are part of a larger community. They're part of the community we live in and have day to day interactions with but they're also part of this larger community of people fighting this disease,” said Sheehan.

She says brands no longer have the luxury of not thinking about larger social issues.

As far as who would start the change in the industry to show people wearing masks, Sheehan says it could be an ad agency saying this is a change it's making with clients, or a big company saying all of its brands will show people wearing masks for the next several months.

Another thing we're seeing a lot more of now are branded masks. Everyone from Disney to the NFL is doing this.

Sheehan says that's another thing that could normalize mask wearing if people can show their affiliation with a sports team or brand they like.