When the world’s experiencing a pandemic, advertising isn’t the most important thing. We all know that, right? Right. 

Let’s get back to that first sentence. The marketing industry is about persuasion. Convincing people is literally the job description. So at a time when behaviour and perception change can have exponential impact, there’s a very simple answer to the question “What should a brand be doing right now?”


Brands and companies have purposes and values. Putting those into action for the common good doesn’t require any stretch of the imagination. It’s time to turn rhetoric into action. And now isn’t the time to be worrying whether “it’s clever enough”. If we can help, we should. Do the basics and do them well. Give your people what they need.

It’s not about award bait or industry clout. After all, that fringe marketers are supposedly out on is still attached to the rest of the world, no matter how frayed the threads may be.

Humanity is the client and the brief’s objective is “Save Lives”. It’s the same call every industry is answering. We are not testing victims, treating patients or building medical equipment. Our deadlines may not be the frontline but every contribution counts.

In a piece for WARC, Oliver Feldwick writes “Brands will have to shift priorities and change mindsets. Think of people less as consumers and more as citizens.” Sounds straightforward enough.

The second reason advertising is important, is that brands can be one of the things people hold onto for a tiny sliver of normality. Familiarity brings a smidge of comfort.


This must be done with empathy. When people are facing terrifying disruptions to their reality at a dizzying pace, advertising can be interpreted as somewhat more tone deaf than usual. This is a great example of getting it right. True to the brand personality, sensitive to the situation, self-aware and yet still self-promotion. It (probably) won’t trigger calls for the brand to be cancelled. Well done to them.

A final thought; it’s probably the only time you WANT your brand to have a similar message to others. Repetition helps. So does collaboration, Paul Bennet writes about The Parable of the Sea Otter and the importance of getting involved. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. There are no “others” to leave it to. If the virus spreads exponentially our communication must match. And maybe we help curb the spread. We’ll never know the impact we’ve had, but even a slight effect is a worthy goal. Besides this is advertising; we’re used to being uncertain about our results. It hasn’t stopped us in the past.

It’s wild out there, and getting wilder. When the dust settles there’s a very good chance the world will be a fairly different place for many of us. That’s a different issue. Right now, it is in everyone’s interest if we all work together for the common good. Brands included.