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UNcovering The Results Behind Brand’s COVID-19 Campaigns

The global spread of the Coronavirus continues to bring disruption and uncertainty to our lives.

The ad industry is also struggling to adapt, with many campaigns and budgets being cancelled or postponed.

Understandably, advertisers are asking themselves how they should react. Not only about what the right strategy is, but also what’s the right messaging to use. Should they talk about COVID-19 at all? Or talk about something else to distract from what’s going on?

Well, a number of brands have decided to tackle the issue of Coronavirus head-on in their creative strategies. So at Unruly, we decided to use our emotional testing and targeting tool, UnrulyEQ, to see how their strategies have been received by consumers around the world.

The ads we analysed are from Ford, Guinness and Lysol, which we tested on US audiences, and German language spots from retailers Edeka, Penny and Aldi, which we tested on German audiences. Both audience samples were nationally representative and not focused on one particular demographic.

The results were then compared to Unruly’s database of thousands of ads to discover not only the emotions people felt but the impact they had on various brand and business metrics.

We’ll continue to test brands’ creatives during the course of the pandemic. So stay tuned for more results.

Ford – Built To Lend A Hand

Ford was one of the first brands to launch an ad campaign specifically in response to the spread of the Coronavirus, asking its customers who are leasing or financing through Ford credit to get in touch if they are struggling to keep up payments with the impact of the pandemic. After this ad was released a number of other car manufacturers including Hyundai followed suit with similar offerings.

But how did US consumers respond to it? Well, first of all, looking at the ad’s EQ Score — a composite score based on the intensity of emotions viewers felt while watching, plus a campaign’s ability to drive brand metrics such as brand favorability and purchase intent – it performed really well, scoring 6 out of 10, compared to the US average of 5/10.

This was largely driven by the ad performing well above average for all the key business metrics, including a huge 53% for brand favourability versus a US norm of 39%. To put that into context, 53% brand favourability is the fourth-highest ever recorded in the US automotive market and 14 points higher than Ford’s previous highest score for this KPI.

At 40%, Purchase Intent is also among the top 10% US campaigns we have ever tested, despite the ad showing no vehicles and discussing no sales promotions.

When looking at the social motivations why people would share the ad with their social networks, Zeitgeist and Social Good were the most prominent factors.

Zeitgeist (24%) is not surprising at all. This is a very topical ad, released at the start of the pandemic and only one other ad in the automotive sector has outscored this ad in terms of timely and appropriateness — Kia’s “Autonomous Vehicle”.

It’s helpful and supportive message during difficult times also inspired almost a quarter of viewers to share the ad for Social Good reasons (24%), making it one of the top five automotive videos for social good scoring.

Guinness – “A St. Patrick’s Day Message”

Guinness is another brand that was quick out of the blocks on the Coronavirus, using its traditional St Patrick’s Day ad campaign to tell viewers to celebrate responsibly. It also used the ad to convey its pledge to support struggling communities during the spread of the virus.


Like the Ford ad, we tested the spot on US audiences and it resonated extremely well, managing an overall EQ score of 6.2 out of 10.

Looking at the emotional impact of the ad, it certainly packed a punch, with the top three emotions, happiness, warmth and pride, all scoring well above the US average.

The spot also performed well above the US norm for brand favourability (49%), putting it just outside the top 10% highest favorability scores in the US.

Like the Ford ad, there were also a lot of people who wanted to share the ad to be part of the Zeitgeist, with 21% saying they would share it because the content defined the spirit and mood of the time — putting the ad in the top 2% of all ads from CPG brands and the highest of any alcohol or spirits ad tested. The percentage of people wanting to share it for social good reasons (19%) was also among the top 11% of all ads we have tested in the States.

Lysol – “That’s Not a Tissue”

This 15-second ad for Lysol disinfectant spray and wipes doesn’t directly reference COVID-19, but the message, around how we can stop the spread of viruses and germs around the house, is highly topical.

Again, the ad tested very well, attracting an overall EQ score of 5.8.

Purchase intent was particularly high at 63% – which is understandable given consumers’ concerns about the spread of the virus.

In fact, the ad scored among the top 4% for purchase intent in the CPG sector, scoring alongside much more popular and well-known consumer brands like M&Ms, Kit-Kat, Ben & Jerry’s and Oreo.

Timing is everything — and that was certainly the case for this campaign. Like the other campaigns we tested, the main motivation to share Lysol’s ad was its topicality. With so many concerned about the spread of COVID-19, 22% of viewers wanted to share it to be part of the cultural zeitgeist.

To put that in context, that puts it in the top 2% most timely ad campaigns in the CPG category, putting it alongside iconic social good campaigns like P&G’s “Thank You Mom” and outpacing Dove’s “Sugar” and Always’ “Like A Girl”.

A high percentage also wanted to share the ad for social good (17%) — to help people and society out. That put it in the top 12% of campaigns that people are willing to share for social good reasons, even though there is arguably no direct social cause intention associated with the ad. Rather, it benefits just from its timeliness and societal context!

The percentage of people who felt knowledgeable after watching this ad was also high (25%), putting it not only well above the US norm, but also in the top 6% for the CPG category, despite being only 15 seconds long.

German retail industry

To gauge whether this was only limited to the US market, we also tested three German ads from retailers Edeka, Aldi and Penny. All three ads were created as a direct response to the pandemic. You can watch them all here, just bear in mind they are in German.

Edeka: Edeka sagt Danke (German)
Aldi: #GemeinsamGehtAlles (German)
Penny: PENNY sagt DANKE (German)

Again, just like in the US, the responses to the ads were good.

Overall EQ scores (out of 10) were above the German average of 5, with Edeka scoring 6.6, Aldi 6.6. and Penny 6.2.

Just like Guinness, the ads packed an emotional punch, with the percentage of people who felt intense emotions while watching — 34%, 34% and 31% respectively — all a lot higher than the average German ad (24%).

Interestingly, the strongest three emotions viewers felt while watching were exactly the same as the Guinness ad.

Top 3 emotions

The impact the ads had on the respective brands’ brand and business metrics were also good. If you look at the charts below, you can see that all scored above the German average for Brand Recall, Purchase Intent, Brand Favourability and Brand Perception.

Brand impact – % higher than German norm

Brand perception


There is no doubt that this is an unprecedented situation and it’s a real challenge right now for brands to know how to adapt their creative strategies.

But from the ads we’ve tested so far, it seems the best thing to do right now for brands is to be brave and to acknowledge the impact that COVID-19 is having on their customers and how they can help and offer support.

All the ads we analysed that did that were well received across different territories, boosting brands’ brand perception and bottom lines during a difficult, uncertain time.

Get in contact

Don’t forget, using our content testing tool, UnrulyEQ, we can test your creative asset to ensure your tone and message still resonates with your audiences.

From all of us at Unruly, we wish you all the best during this difficult time and we hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, please reach out to us at hi@unrulygroup.com or click here.