Companies across many industries have seen their advertising transformed due to the crisis.
Advertisers are keeping a close watch on the mood of the country and Progressive insurance company ads are a direct reflection of the shift caused by the pandemic crisis.
The insurer, like the other biggest brands across the nation, is seeking the right tone.
A number of weeks ago, Progressive Corp’s advertising team got together to develop insurance company ads showing the company’s pitchwoman, Flo, running from a bowling alley to assist someone whose car was damaged by a falling basketball hoop, reported the Wall Street Journal. The members of that team were faced with a debate among themselves: should the characters in the commercial be wearing masks?
Progressive and all large brands in the country have been facing this position in 2020. For the majority of this year, advertisers have been scrambling to keep up with the right way to tell the story of their message while using the right tone. Identifying that specific tone at the moment has been exceptionally challenging.
Insurance company ads must be mindful of the nation’s mood as it continually changes and evolves.
Aligning with the national psyche has been particularly challenging across 2020, said the WSJ report. The COVID-19 pandemic, upheaval over police brutality and racial injustice, and the tension over the upcoming presidential campaign have made it difficult to predict just how the country will be feeling and what it will find relatable in coming weeks.
“It’s a perfect storm of disasters that advertisers have to navigate,” said Jeff Goodby, ad industry veteran and co-founder of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. “It’s different from anything that has ever come before.”
Goodby underscored that while some viewers expect what they see to be a reflection of current events – for instance, actors practicing physical distancing – others expect to see representations that help them to escape from the present reality. The challenge brands are facing is in finding the right balance between comforting viewers and selling to them.
In April, just as the pandemic was truly taking off across the country, Jeff Charney, chief marketing officer at Progressive, designed a roadmap to help guide the company through the pandemic. This involved ensuring the insurance company ads would align with Americans’ collective moods as they evolved throughout the crisis. It indicated that there would be a number of stages in the United States: relief (when people wanted comforting), release (when they wanted to escape thinking about the pandemic), and recovery (the gradual return to normalcy). A “relapse” stage was added when the second wave of cases began.
The pattern used to understand the appropriate tone for the insurance company ads was based on the way past crises impacted consumer sentiment, economic activity and consumer purchasing behavior. Weekly polls were held to better understand the present sentiment.
The pandemic’s uncertainty was a leading challenge for advertising decisions. There was even debate over how much advertising spending was wise. However, Charney stated that “You want to stay top of mind—you don’t want people to see an ad from your rival and decide to give them a shot.” When all was said and done, the advertising team deciding not to have the commercial characters wear masks but to ensure that the characters were practicing social distancing. “If you miscalculate the moment,” said Charney, “it really undermines everything you’re trying to do.”