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How Have Black Lives Matter Ads Been Received by US Audiences?

The Black Lives Matter movement has shaken the world over the past few months, amplified by the tragic passing of George Floyd in Minnesota at the end of May.

Brands across the world have released statements over the past few months supporting the movement, donating money and pledging to make changes to how they operate both internally and externally.

Although there’s still a long way to go, especially within the advertising industry, several brands have begun to make positive changes to how they operate.

Johnson & Johnson has stopped selling products used to lighten skin tones, PepsiCo, which owns the Aunt Jemima pancake mix brand, is rebranding the product due to negative racial connotations, while Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian recently stepped down from the company’s board of directors, urging them to fill his seat with a black candidate.

Although many brands have publicly backed the movement and committed to making changes, some have stayed silent, either fearing a backlash from consumers or because they’re simply unsure how their brand fits into the conversation.

Using our emotional targeting and testing tool UnrulyEQ, we’ve put some of the most viewed ads that are in support of the Black Lives Matter movement through their paces, and over the next few paragraphs, we’ll be looking at how spots from Nike, McDonald’s, the NFL and P&G have performed. We’ll also explore which emotions the ads evoked and tracking key business metrics including whether they had a positive impact on how people felt about the brand after watching them.

Nike – Don’t Do It

McDonald’s – One of Us


P&G – The Choice

The power of inspiration

The first thing that stands out across all four ads is that inspiration was the strongest emotion consumers felt while watching, with 25% of viewers feeling inspired while watching Nike’s ad, 23% for McDonald’s, 28% for the NFL ad and 24% for P&G.

From our emotional database which holds over ten years’ worth of data, we know that when brands use inspiration in their advertising it’s not usually because they’re trying to push a product or service, it’s often used to promote a value or communicate something the brand stands for, in this case, the Black Lives Matter movement.

Research we carried out with IPA consultant and ‘Godfather of Effectiveness’, Peter Field, also showed that people are willing to pay more for brands that have inspiring advertising.

Looking at these four brands we can say that this is certainly true as they all stand as premium brands within their respective markets. Even though you might not think McDonald’s is a premium food brand, in its category of fast food, it’s one of the most successful and largest chains in the world.

Getting the brand recall balance right

Focusing a campaign around a movement or issue rather than a product can have a serious impact on brand recall. And this was certainly the case with these four brands.

Less than half (45%) of viewers identified Nike as the brand behind the campaign, with brand recall for McDonald’s (32%), NFL (20%) and P&G (18%) creatives even lower.

Such poor brand recall is most likely because all the ads used limited branding throughout. Each ad is focused on communicating their messages of support rather than overly branding their ads, which could affect the way the message is delivered, coming across as insensitive. Who could forget Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner fiasco?

Standing for what you believe in

All four ads scored above the US norm of 39% for the percentage of viewers wanting to find out more. Nike and P&G both scored 54% (15% above the US norm), while McDonald’s scored 50% (11% above) and NFL scored 57% (18% above).

They also scored well above the US norm of 39% for brand favorability, with Nike and NFL scoring 52% (13% above the US norm), McDonald’s scoring 53% (14% above) and P&G scoring 51% (12% above).

Brands like McDonald’s and P&G might not necessarily be the first companies you’d associate with the Black Lives Matter movement, but by showing their support through their advertising they’ve not only managed to spread awareness of the movement but in doing so have increased their brand awareness and support among consumers.

It’s also important to remember these ads were created during lockdown, and although they don’t feature flashy graphics or cinematic scenes, they’ve all been extremely well received with US audiences, scoring some of the highest brand metrics we’ve seen for some time.

These findings prove that by taking a leap, not staying silent and finding innovative ways to create and push out new content in lockdown can really help brands stand out. By showing consumers what they stand for can help keep them front of mind during this prolonged period of lockdown, where consumers may not be interacting with them as much as they usually would.

To find out more about our emotional testing and targeting tool, UnrulyEQ, click here.