Tv commercials

Pre-coronavirus TV commercials make us cringe; the new announcements reflect a period of threat

The coronavirus has changed the world so quickly that what was normal yesterday seems surreal today.

In television commercials made not so long ago and still on the air, people crowd into bars, kiss or eat in restaurant salad bars. Looking like reckless relics of a bygone age of dangerous Know Nothingism, the actors engage in what is now outlaw behavior, conducted in terrifying closeness.

For Facebook, Sylvester Stallone and Chris Rock are clowning around on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with hundreds of extras packed side by side, no hand sanitizer in sight.

For Sandals Resorts, men and women unmasked and without gloves frolic carefree on a beach, unaware of the threat that advances.

Even in an advert for Cooper University Health Care in Camden, doctors shake hands with patients in reckless gestures of goodwill.

New advertisements try to reflect how we currently live with the threat, such as Burger King offering delivery with limited contact. But many earlier ads were already paid for, experts say. So we watch them unfold in a mixture of discomfort and fascination.

For Amy Steinberg, 60, of Wynnewood, married with three adult children, the travel announcements are particularly turning her head. “Oh my God,” she thought to herself when she saw an advertisement for Beaches Resorts showing tourists dancing in the Caribbean. “Why are they showing this? It bothers me a lot. Nighttime is Netflix for me now, and no ads.

Seeing ads that don’t depict social distancing is like watching TV 1950s advertisements, said Michelle Amazeen, professor of mass communication, advertising and public relations at Boston University College of Communication. In them, wives are “the little woman”, vacuuming in heels, or smoking, and always bowing down to men. “Over time, society has changed and this way of representing the world is no longer acceptable.

“But in this case, the world changed in a matter of days.”

We are not the same audience today as we were when actor Dennis Quaid started flying a crowded plane for Esurance; AT&T’s accomplices began playing endless rounds of bingo; The guys from 5-Hour Energy first sweat and bounce on a basketball court, or vacationers hit a crowded pool, then ate together in a Poconos commercial.

“Humans are psychologically designed to avoid danger, especially when there are messages warning against contact with each other,” said Kit Yarrow, professor emeritus of consumer psychology at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. .

“When we watch advertisements, we have visceral reactions to a threat. We are in vigilance mode.

Traditionally, advertisers work to build on-screen worlds that audiences would like to be in, said Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication.

“Americans think fun is being with people,” said Turow, who studies marketing, digital media and society. “These ads now reflect a world that has passed so quickly. Hugs look so weird now.”

The commercials, Turow continued, are short stories of 15 to 30 seconds. Currently, beer stories seem particularly charged, as few alcohol advertisements depict people drinking alone.

The crisis is in the crowd.

“Networks and companies have decided to let most beer ads continue,” said Cynthia Meyers, an advertising historian and professor of communications at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx.

“But leaders are probably frantically reassessing. They couldn’t have foreseen the weird feeling that comes from watching people together in bars. Social networks keep commenting.”

Various advertising companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Molson Coors has scrapped an ad made before COVID-19 that dubbed Coors Light beer the “official beer of remote work.” The company thought viewers might associate the brand with people who are self-quarantining, according to Motley Fool, a financial and investment advisory firm in Alexandria, Virginia.

A particular problem may exist for the makers of the third most popular beer in the United States, Corona (behind Guinness and Heineken), Meyers added, “although it’s hard to say if that’s damaging.” Shares of Constellation Brands Inc., which makes Corona, reportedly fell and rumors swirled that consumers were avoiding the product because of its name.

In a statement, however, Constellation refuted the bad press: “We have seen no impact to our people, facilities or operations and our business continues to perform very well.”

Turow said the brand should just embrace the new reality. “I can see someone in an ad saying, ‘What the heck, have a Corona. It’s a badge of honor.

This is not the first time that the name of a product has been linked to a disease. An appetite suppressant candy was doing quite well in the 1980s until the start of the AIDS epidemic. “The candies just disappeared after that,” Meyers said.

The name of the dietary product? Ayds, pronounced “helpers”.

As expensive as it can be to pull ads, a few companies have done it. According to a CNBC report, KFC released an ad showing people licking their fingers.

Increasingly, viewers are seeing a new type of ad that references – without being specific – the crisis facing America.

Burger King chants, “Let us take care of you. We minimize contact during the delivery process.

Lincoln tells us, “Home is your sanctuary more than ever,” as the automaker promises to drive a loaner vehicle to your house when your vehicle needs service.

Local car company Gary Barbera runs a local ad advising, “Stay home and let Gary Barbera bring the store to your door.”

The companies “deserve kudos for quickly changing their creative work,” said Boston University’s Amazeen. “If you’re a brand, you should, like the Ford Advertisements who now say that if you lose your job, you won’t have to pay for six months.

It’s a rare time for companies to look heroic in seeming to care about customers during a crisis, noted Yarrow of Golden Gate University.

“But ads can’t be self-serving,” she said. “When times are tough, we are more emotional than usual, and nothing resonates with us more than stories of human kindness, dignity and positivity. So if a company reconfigures assembly lines to make sanitizer for the hands, it doesn’t feel opportunistic. It looks like caring.

Yet, warned Meyers, the advertising historian, never forget that advertisers want you to like them. That’s why you’ll see them being quite cautious these days, she says.

“Remember,” Meyers added, “some onlookers think the coronavirus is either hype or a hoax. Advertisers are now scrambling to figure out how to solve this problem – how to alienate the fewest people.

It’s one of the reasons few people actually say the word “coronavirus” in an advertisement, she said. Another explanation, of course, is that no company wants to link the disease and its brand in the same TV spot.

So you’ll hear a lot of soothing voiceovers telling you something like, “In these trying times, we all need to stay safe,” Meyers said.

The shift from crowded Olive Garden commercials to ones with large spaces and few people except nuclear families is becoming increasingly noticeable, said Dom Episcopo, 53, a Fishtown commercial photographer, married and father of a 10 year old son.

“It’s impressive how many ads are showing up so quickly,” he said. “Pre-virus ads look dated and muted now.

“It’s because it’s a very different normal for us. This change is real.