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Communicating through a crisis: The five themes most resonant during Covid-19

By Steve Looney, Research director



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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June 12, 2020 | 5 min read

We know that now is not the time for brands to be going dark.

Opinium assess the trends and themes that have emerged during the coronavirus according to their experiment.

Opinium assess the trend and themes to have emerged from the coronavirus, using the agency's optimisation tool.

Consumers need to be entertained, supported and communicated to, now more than ever. But equally, we know that now is not the time when brands can afford to spend on ineffective advertising that potentially causes more harm than good.

So, what’s the recipe for success? Is there even one? Opinium’s Brand & Comms team have been looking at the brands daring enough to have started those conversations to understand which approaches are cutting through, resonating and strengthening connections.

Using a cut-down version of Opinium’s advantage advertising optimisation tool, the team analysed 18 ads that have addressed coronavirus, covering all angles from the likes of HM Government, frontline retailers such as Lidl and Amazon through to services like Deliveroo and FMCG giants such as McCain. The full list of ads is shown at the bottom of the article.

From the group of 18 ads, five key themes emerge that have resonated most with viewers at this current time.

Keeping it simple

Many of the stronger performing ads are not creatively challenging. Relatively straightforward, they do not challenge consumers visually or in terms of message processing but given the current state of uncertainty, keeping things simple has been appreciated.

Creative Impact score

Comforting normality

Brands that have been at the forefront of the crisis such as supermarkets and that have chosen to supply comforting normality in their communications have also been appreciated. Aldi and Cathedral City top the charts in terms of sincerity and evoking an emotional reaction of comfort.

Although elements of our daily lives have been thrown upside by the coronavirus restrictions consumers have welcomed signs of normality – particularly from those brands that form part of everyday life.

Tell me the facts

It’s fair to say in normal times a government ad delivering information straight to camera wouldn’t exactly set the world alight, and creatively it doesn’t right now either.

Instinctive engagement

However, the clarity of concept and message, and obvious relevance and sincerity of this execution means that consumers have appreciated the role that this type of communication has to play in the current climate

Offering some hope

Google’s real-life footage ad is easily the most enjoyable and instinctively engaging execution of the group. Delivering a strong positive emotional reaction.


The fact that nobody knew what brand the ad was for was the problem. Under the current circumstances, however, this is perhaps not such an issue: the purpose of the ad is really to share the love and offer hope and positivity that we can get through this thanks to the NHS, which viewers have warmed to.


As the UK has adapted to the new world we find ourselves living in, the dependence on certain retailers has significantly increased.


Reassurance from those retailers that they are acting responsibly and looking after their staff as simply shown in the execution from Amazon has been welcomed. The use of appropriate content, the tone of voice, and evoking a feeling of security were are also key strengths of the ad.

It does seem that as we have all been adjusting to our new lives under coronavirus restrictions that the need to be entertained and challenged in ad breaks has been put on hold, while we recalibrate, get our bearings, and understand what we want to hear from brands in the our new day to day lives.

List of ads tested:

  • Aldi
  • Amazon
  • Barclays
  • Cathedral City
  • Deliveroo
  • EE
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • ITV
  • Lidl
  • Lucozade
  • McCain
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Nationwide
  • NHS/HM Gov
  • Tesco
  • TikTok
  • Vodafone

Steve Looney, research director at Opinium.


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