Our #COVID tracker found that 52% said they are not afraid of dying as a result of catching COVID-19, the highest mark since July. Featured in @nypost - https://bit.ly/3sQ2AKN
Our latest findings with @adage dug into why brands are telling the unvarnished truth about bodily functions and how consumers feel about it https://bit.ly/2PlRhLR
A third vaccine arrives: 74% of Americans have heard a little or a lot about the @JNJNews vaccine, with Boomers (84%) and Democrats (81%) the most aware, and 64% say they would be willing to get their #vaccine if offered to them. More #COVID tracker: https://bit.ly/3kGJ8x4
By Ann-Christine Diaz and Jessica Wohl | Ad Age | March 4, 2021
During the Super Bowl this year, two of the biggest brand rivals, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, opted out of running ads, the first time in two decades both decided not to appear. But competition did heat up in a different category, with food delivery platforms DoorDash and Uber Eats both making their Big Game debut with spots featuring high-profile celebrities.
The glitzy marketing represents a new front in the food delivery war as the brands battle to win—and keep—the attention of at-home eaters, a task that might become more challenging as the pandemic eases and more away-from-home dining options return.
DoorDash made its Super Bowl premiere with the help of Daveed Diggs and the Muppets of "Sesame Street," while Uber Eats turned to "Saturday Night Live" legends Wayne and Garth from “Wayne’s World”to star in its ad. Meanwhile, Postmates (which Uber Eats bought in December), made its own National Football League play by enlisting Jerry Rice to catch a flying burrito in a campaign running on digital.
The Super Bowl appearances are a culmination of what’s been an outpouring of creative brand building from the category over the last year, largely fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.
“For a lot of people, online food delivery has gone from being a bit of a novelty or an occasional treat to a core service for daily life during the pandemic,” says DyShaun Muhammad, global head of brand marketing for Uber Eats at Uber Technologies. “This has encouraged brands in our space to go beyond simply educating consumers about the category, to focus more on building salience. Doing so—and breaking through—demands creativity.”
The investments in marketing and creativity came at a prime time. Usage of third-party food delivery services has grown during the pandemic. According to a new Ad Age-Harris Poll survey, 66% of consumers said they order from such services, up from 41% having ordered from one of the apps before the pandemic. Still, 71% of consumers say they order from restaurants directly.
Both Super Bowl spots were generally well received by ad viewers. In the USA Today Ad Meter, DoorDash’s spot ranked 11th out of 57, while Uber Eats’ spot came in 21st.
And the Big Game ads appear to still be paying off. The Ad Age-Harris Poll survey was conducted Feb. 26-March 1 (about three weeks after the Super Bowl) and found that 43% of U.S. adults who recalled seeing DoorDash’s Super Bowl spot said they order food from third-party apps or services at least once a week, as do 38% of those who recalled seeing the Uber Eats Super Bowl spot. Among the total group surveyed, just 28% order from such services at least once a week. (The poll surveyed 1,074 U.S. adults.)
Uber Eats appears to be winning the most awareness from its Super Bowl campaign, variations of which continued to get TV airplay throughout February, according to ad-tracker iSpot.TV. The Ad Age-Harris Poll survey showed 43% of respondents reporting they’d seen the Wayne’s World-themed spot from Uber Eats, while just 32% recalled seeing the Sesame Street-themed spot from DoorDash.
In the long term, Muhammad says that in building the Uber Eats brand, creativity has made a difference. The company's “Tonight I’ll Be Eating” campaign, which features humorous ads starring unexpected celebrity pairings, has been running for three years, starting in the Asia-Pacific region and more recently, branching out to the states last year with the debut of the Star Wars and Star Trek-inspired showdown starring Sir Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill.
“We have been pleased to see that in most countries where we have placed a sustained focus on more breakthrough creative, we have been able to either improve our category position or sustain our leadership in the face of heavy competitive spend,” Muhammad says. “We believe that investing in strong creative and highlighting it for a sustained period of time yields the results we’re looking for.”
Doing their part
An ongoing theme of late in the platforms’ marketing has been how brands have been helping to give back to local partners and the community.
"The pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of our marketing," says Kevin Byrd, creative director of Postmates at Uber. Last February, the brand halted a new campaign it had launched two weeks prior, opting for messages geared toward merchant, driver and customer safety. Postmates then debuted efforts focused on supporting local restaurants, including a Black-owned merchant collection. "Postmates is generally an optimistic, clever brand, but we know when it’s time to be a sincere advocate for good in the world," Byrd says.
DoorDash and Uber Eats have made similar shifts. “The last 12 months have been incredibly challenging for individuals and brands alike—we’re in a pandemic, we’ve seen political upheaval, and there’s been a renewed focus on racial equity,” says Uber Eats’ Muhammad. “So as marketers, this forces us to think hard about what role we want to play in this context and how we want to show up for our consumers. For us, that has meant a focus on supporting local communities and celebrating the many ways food can bring joy into our lives—all with health and safety top of mind.”
Uber Eats took the “famous pairs” theme from its "Tonight I'll Be Eating" campaign to the Super Bowl with a new concept— “Eat Local,” in which Wayne and Garth, played by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, encouraged viewers to patronize their local restaurants by ordering through Uber Eats, of course. The campaign later expanded with more iterations in which the characters gave shout-outs to specific restaurants in a series of targeted local ads.
In the fall of 2019, DoorDash’s first work from its creative agency of record, The Martin Agency, was a playful, multimedia campaign highlighting the diversity of foods on offer through the service. But in 2020, the brand’s messages took a decidedly community-focused bent. They included the “Open for Delivery” effort that debuted in March and the “Reopen for Delivery” program launched in October, in which the brand has been helping restaurants forced to suspend operations during the pandemic get back into business through delivery.
The campaign kicked off with a documentary from The Martin Agency, “Southside Magnolia,” which charted how the shuttered Krazy Hog BBQ in Chicago got back on its feet with the help of DoorDash. Another campaign, via We Believers, gave back to both the struggling art world and strapped restaurants, allowing patrons to bid on works by placing food orders on DoorDash. And in February, the brand debuted a $2 million initiative focused on bolstering women-, immigrant- and people of color-owned restaurants through the Main Street Strong Accelerator, giving 100 restaurateurs a $20,000 grant each and providing them with an eight-week course to help them build their businesses.
Grubhub, which has shown the animated joy of delivery during the pandemic in its "Delivery Dance" campaign since November, is also giving back in new ways. In February, it announced the first 20 recipients of its $10,000 grants for drivers, and in March it announced expanded support of women-led restaurants. Grubhub plans to show a free concert on March 26 featuring Megan Thee Stallion, Noah Cyrus and King Princess, and viewers can scan customized QR codes during the show for offers and to spur Grubhub to donate up to $100,000 to World Central Kitchen.
Even before the Super Bowl, the industry saw exponential growth as people who were home more often opted to have restaurant meals delivered. In the fourth quarter of 2020, Grubhub delivered 48% sales growth, while Uber Eats revenue soared 224% and DoorDash jumped an even heftier 226%.
DoorDash is winning the market share battle. It gained share in 2020 and finished January 2021 with 53% of the market, followed by Uber Eats with 32% and Grubhub with 13%, according to Edison Trends data. DoorDash’s share includes Caviar, which it bought in 2019, and Uber Eats’ share includes Postmates, which it bought in 2020. Grubhub includes Seamless and a few other services.
But DoorDash’s share gains came with a price. Its stock price plunged in trading after the company’s Feb. 25 quarterly report, its first as a public company, showed a $312 million fourth-quarter loss, much wider than its $134 million loss in the same period a year earlier. The expenses came from investing aggressively in the business, with increased spending in sales and marketing, research and development, and other areas.
Among the business threats for the delivery industry is rising pressure from consumers, restaurant clients and local government entities shocked by the fees charged for their services. The fees and news around them could detract from any community-focused efforts and messages the brands put out, so they will need to tread carefully in how to address them.
“Of course we need both merchants and earners to be successful with Uber and Uber Eats,” Muhammad says, noting that the company has implemented programs to help its drivers and delivery “earners,” who the brand ensured were included as beneficiaries for the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.
DoorDash, in a letter to investors, touted the flexibility its "Dashers" have, pointing out that most worked an average of fewer than 10 hours per week in 2020, with the vast majority having other jobs, schooling or other commitments.
The unknown for all delivery providers is what happens when more restaurants reopen.
The Ad Age-Harris Poll found that after the pandemic ends, 49% of U.S. adults plan a mix of ordering food for delivery and eating at restaurants, while just 16% said they plan to only eat restaurant food if they can order it for home delivery.
Dining rooms are starting to reopen in some areas, or to expand the number of diners allowed. On Tuesday, Chicago raised its indoor dining capacity to 50% and Texas allowed its restaurants to fully reopen.
Delivery businesses, meanwhile, are expanding well beyond restaurants. DoorDash delivers groceries and items from convenience stores. And Uber Eats is set to buy alcohol delivery brand Drizly.
DoorDash’s 2021 guidance includes an expectation that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines could be a headwind to both the number of orders it takes in and the average value of those orders. “While we have seen many positive signals from consumers and markets that have temporarily reopened during the pandemic, we acknowledge that vaccination and full reopenings could drive sharper changes in consumer behavior than current data would predict,” DoorDash Chief Financial Officer Prabir Adarkar said on a Feb. 25 conference call.
Postmates' Byrd views the world opening up as yet another brand-building opportunity. "I see a lot of pent-up energy from our collective hibernation that is about to be unleashed—dare I say a 'roaring' moment is ahead? Postmates will be there too at that horizon to remind you that you should be doing that new fun thing. And yes, we’ll gladly say goodbye to sourdough starter and virtual awards shows."
Read the full story at Ad Age.
By Jack Neff | Ad Age | March 3, 2021
If the pandemic has made us yearn for one thing, it’s a good poop.
Well, among many other things. Along with far more serious issues like death and debilitating side effects, COVID-19 and the lockdown lifestyle it spawned have caused more constipation. So when Bayer’s Phillips brand recently launched an ad from Energy BBDO proclaiming, “You deserve a good poop,” it was very much of the moment, as Teresa Gonzalez-Ruiz, VP of marketing for Nutritionals and Digestive Health at Bayer sees it.
People staying home, stressed out, sitting more, eating carb-loaded comfort food–that all contributes to the constipation side-pandemic, Gonzalez-Ruiz says. Meanwhile, people have gotten used to a certain informality from a year of working at home, unshaven, in casual clothes, sometimes attending Zoom meetings. So when Energy BBDO came up with the colloquial “poop” idea, the time seemed right.
“The brand is on fire,” Gonzalez-Ruiz says of Phillips, and it’s been getting overwhelmingly positive comments since it launched the ad last month.
Bayer’s ad is among the milder manifestations of an ongoing trend toward marketers serving up the unvarnished truth about bodily fluids and functions. While in the past, advertisers might have used purposely vague representations and polite-company language in ads for intimate products, today they are telling it like it is. Gone are the blue liquids—today marketers are embracing blood or blood-like representations in sanitary protection products, nursing moms’ chafed and clogged nipples, Charmin bears’ itchy bottoms or cervical mucus.
And while a Harris Poll of consumers for Ad Age shows many people still uncomfortable seeing or hearing some of these things in ads, the trend only appears to be accelerating.
The reasons are myriad: Younger targets for mainstream brands are less likely to be offended by straight talk and big brands are increasingly competing with edgier challenger and direct-to-consumer brands that flaunt norms and don't mince words.
From d-to-c to mainstream
One of the bigger drivers of forthrightness in advertising has been the rise of direct-to-consumer challenger brands, which make a habit of talking frankly about the conditions they deal with, says Dipanjan Chatterjee, VP and marketing analyst with Forrester.
Squatty Potty, for example, has made a small fortune selling small step stools that help people excrete better. Its video showing a unicorn who poops rainbow-colored soft-serve ice cream has more than 40 million YouTube views. Poo-Pourri similarly has built a business for its toilet spray around potty humor. And Roman founder and CEO Zacharia Reitano talks frankly into the camera about his own erectile dysfunction problems on TV to pitch his online-prescribed solution.
The boldness of upstarts eventually finds its way to bigger incumbents, Chatterjee says. For example, while Kimberly-Clark Corp’s U by Kotex began mocking the fakery of traditional feminine hygiene ads in 2010, it didn’t actually try replacing industry standard blue-fluid demos with lifelike red in digital and social ads last year. That came six years after d-to-c player Hello Flo launched its “First Moon Party” viral video around the story of a girl who fakes her first period by squeezing sparkly red paint into a sanitary napkin.
Still, U by Kotex still hasn’t put much media support behind its red-fluid demos or other online ads in the past year, and it’s been losing market share, per IRI data from Evercore ISI. And the Harris Poll shows why putting more media weight behind those ads might be a bad idea. As natural as red demos may seem, they’re far from a safe bet for certain demographics. Showing actual menstrual blood, like period underwear marketer Modibodi has done, goes over even worse with older audiences.
By a 54% to 46% margin people in the Harris Poll disagreed with sanitary product advertisers using red rather than blue fluid to simulate blood. They disagreed with showing actual menstrual blood by a 71% to 29% margin. Perhaps surprisingly, females are more opposed than males to both red fluid or blood in ads.
Then again, advertisers using red fluid did get majority support among people 18-44 overall—who are the primary consumers for the brands in question—and from men up to 54.
Straight talk works better
Procter & Gamble Co. hasn’t embraced red fluid just yet, but it is down with more direct approaches in advertising. Its Tampax brand last year turned to Amy Schumer for a series of ads after Melissa Suk, VP-North America Tampax and Always, saw the comedian joking about tampons on her Netflix comedy special.
Schumer has appeared in several Tampax ads, including a TV spot where she talks in a women’s room about what the right tampon size is for her, discusses with a gynecologist tampon ingredients and does mall-intercept interviews about the facts of life with teen girls and boys.
Tampax has spent more than $5 million on Schumer’s straight-talking ads on TV with additional online support, and the impact appears quite positive. The brands sales fell 6% in the second quarter last year vs. the prior year, per IRI. But since Schumer’s ads broke in July, Tampax sales have risen 5% in the third quarter, 4% in the fourth and 8% in January.
“We are excited to continue on our mission to make period conversations as normal as periods,” says Kristen Haun, global Tampax and North America Naturals senior director. “People are inserting themselves in the conversation by not only sharing their personal stories, but also asking questions and letting us in on the secret that they, too, believed some of the crazy myths out there.”
Frida Mom finally gets its message out
Another sign of growing acceptance for the direct approach comes from Frida Mom, which went from having an ad for its feminine hygiene products refused by ABC for the Oscar’s broadcast last year to having a different ad greenlighted by NBCUniversal for Sunday’s Golden Globes. True, the ad was different. But so were the network decision makers, says Frida Mom CEO Chelsea Hirshhorn.
Last year’s ABC-rejected ad for post-partum products showed a woman wearing her hospital-approved mesh underpants sitting on a toilet and struggling to change a sanitary napkin. This year’s NBC-accepted spot also spent lots of time in bathrooms, but focuses on the trials of breastfeeding in not-quite-graphic detail, partially showing breasts with blurred nipples, breast pumping and milk spurting. An extended cut for social media shows full frontal nudity and more graphic scenes.
“Large consumer products behemoths have a harder time I think unlocking that authenticity,” Hirshhorn says. She blames the legacy of “older grey-haired men in the boardrooms making decisions that were not the reality of what their consumers were going through. The more progress we make with women as business leaders, thought leaders, executives, there’s a heightened sensitivity to that reality.”
At NBC, “there were a lot of women in that boardroom making those decisions,” Hirshhorn says. “We had to blur some nipples. We had to cut and splice some scenes. But at the end of the day, we wouldn’t do it if we weren’t unequivocally comfortable with the message being sent.”
And while last year’s Oscar refusal led to speculation that Frida Mom was playing for shock value and the old “rejected ad” publicity game, Hirshhorn says the brand’s willingness to work with NBCU to make edits and meet broadcast standards shows otherwise.
It’s not strictly an old media/new media issue. Hirshhorn notes that when Frida Mom posted its extended cut on LinkedIn last week, bare breasts and all, the social network’s algorithm quickly flagged it and took it down, though it was restored after Frida Mom contacted LinkedIn.
And it turns out guys are largely OK with breasts in ads. The Harris Poll shows men, even over 65, are more comfortable than women seeing either partially or fully uncovered breasts in ads about breast feeding. Men by a 51% (comfortable) to 21% (uncomfortable) margin were OK seeing partially uncovered breasts in ads. Women were comfortable with it by only a 48% to 28% margin. The rest of each group said they could “tolerate” it.
Even men over 65 were comfortable with partially uncovered breasts in ads by 39% to 24% margin. But women over 65 were firmly opposed, with 17% comfortable and 68% uncomfortable. Similar breakdowns occurred with showing fully uncovered breasts, but with far less acceptance. Only 37% of people overall were comfortable with that vs. 41% uncomfortable.
Comfortable with ‘imperfection’
One thing people in general are comfortable with these days is “imperfection,” says Gonzalez-Ruiz, and that means openness to more direct talk. Millennial and Gen Z women often aren’t shy about telling their dads they’re going to the store to buy tampons, she says, though there’s actually more taboo around talking about constipation.
But the reality is that, whether they’re at ease talking about it or not, a good poop makes a difference to people, says Energy BBDO Co-Chief Creative Officer Pedro Perez. “We know that at the end of the day, if you have a good poop, you celebrate that. That’s how we should be. We want to normalize that feeling. It’s OK to talk about.”
Whether the frank approach works for a brand depends on whether it’s in character, says Leslie Zane, principal of Triggers Brand Consulting. Potty humor has always been part of brands like Poo-Pourri and bidet retrofit kit Tushy, Zane says. “Our research shows that explicit articulations can still be polarizing for mass audiences, particularly if the attitude doesn’t fit with the brand’s equity. For example, if a brand had a serious tonality before and suddenly used the word ‘poop’ in its communications, that would likely be too big a leap.”
Gonzalez-Ruiz says Phillip’s heritage of ads dating back to the 1980s where, for example, a wife interjects “You’re talking about constipation” into a dialog with hubby, makes “poop” less of a leap.
The word has never been banned on TV, even if it’s not universally OK with folks in ads, according to the Harris Poll. People overall by a 61% to 39% margin believe advertisers should be able to say “poop” in ads for relevant products like laxatives and diapers. Males by a 68% to 32% margin, were more likely to be OK with it. And majorities in all age groups under 65 gave their blessing. But “poop” lost by a 52% to 48% margin among people 65 and up.
They traditionally might be seen as the core target for Phillips, but not for this particular ad, which aims at younger folks who, thanks to the pandemic, may be discovering constipation for the first time.
Read the full story at Ad Age.
Americans are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.
The national Harris Poll conducted over the weekend found a significant uptick in positive sentiment about the pandemic — and a drop in fears of the virus.
“The last year has certainly been difficult for many Americans and their families, but in the face of all the hardships and social distancing efforts, many have remained optimistic and resilient when it comes to their mental health,” John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, said in a statement.
More than half, or 52 percent, of the 2,000 adults surveyed said they are not afraid of dying as a result of catching COVID-19, the highest mark since July 2020.
For most of the year, the number of people who said they were frightened of being killed by the virus outnumbered the alternative.
More than 516,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, but both deaths and cases have recently been on the decline.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20 percent of the adult population is now vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The poll found a 15 percent increase in how many Americans approve of how the COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed.
About 66 percent gave the nation’s inoculation efforts the thumbs up, compared to 51 percent just one month ago.
The findings came as President Biden on Tuesday said the US will have enough vaccines for every US adult by the end of May, two months earlier than previously anticipated.
Despite the stepped-up pace of vaccine production, the massive effort to get every American jabbed could extend well into the summer, officials said.
Biden said he hoped that the nation would be back to normal sometime before “this time next year.”
Still, when asked if they currently think there is light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic, nearly 6 in 10 respondents said yes, according to the poll.
They were also more optimistic about the effects of the pandemic, with 66 percent overall saying their mental health has been affected in a positive way.
About 30 percent of those respondents said they’ve found more things to be grateful for during the crisis; 28 percent said they’ve taken more “me time” to do things for themselves; and 25 percent said they’ve been praying more.
“While Americans remain vigilant over the pandemic,” Gerzema said, “it is an encouraging sign to see greater acceptance of the vaccine, a belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and a declining sentiment in fear of dying from the virus.”
Read the full story at New York Post.
By Adrianne Pasquarelli | Ad Age | March 2, 2021
“Put more Spring in your step,” Jet Blue Airways urged in an email last week to travelers ready to loosen their budgets after a long lockdown.
The same might be said for brands.
Spring is the new Christmas for marketers preparing to unleash media spending in anticipation of an explosive sales uptick as the weather warms and consumers rush to resume their everyday lives. From retailers to airlines and hospitality, special-occasion brands and media vendors, the marketing industry is looking to spring, typically a time of rebirth and renewal, to reconnect with customers eager to get out and spend as COVID-19 vaccines roll out and the threat of the coronavirus diminishes.
Consumer sentiment is switching from "hesitation to hope," as Marriott International's Brian Povinelli, senior VP, brand loyalty and portfolio marketing puts it. That's fueling an anticipated spending surge from consumers releasing their pent-up shopping demand—which marketers are looking to help along.
“Spring is this next big moment to capture attention,” says Lindsey Slaby, founder of Sunday Dinner. Marketers are "looking at plans, [saying] ‘Where can we spend money this year that we’ll have people’s attention and excitement?’”
The National Retail Federation is forecasting the highest growth in retail spending in 17 years—a jump between 6.5% and 8.2% to as much as $4.4 trillion this year. Much of the growth may come from high-income households. In a recent survey conducted late last month by Ad Age-Harris Poll, 30% of households making $100,000 or more a year said they’ll spend more this spring compared to last; the majority of this group said the vaccine rollout has influenced this decision.
And shopping will extend beyond ecommerce to brick-and-mortar stores as well as consumers get comfortable again with in-person experiences. Some 62% of consumers say they plan to shop in stores this spring at least once a week, the Ad Age-Harris Poll found.
“It’s been many, many years since we saw consumers and retailers engaged at this level,” said Matthew Shay, NRF CEO and president, on a recent call with reporters. “We feel very confident.”
So confident, in fact that some chief marketing officers are planning their biggest advertising pushes ever in the coming months. The CMO Council found that a whopping 65% of members recently surveyed expect to increase marketing spend this year; only 10% will reduce budgets and roughly a quarter do not plan to make any changes. The push spans several categories as brands try to make up for the lost sales of 2020.
Media, too, is beginning to see green shoots: One major media brand said it is already seeing “very strong marketplace” across all categories for spring ad buys on broadcast TV.
Return to the Roaring '20s
The spring surge is so strong, in fact, that some are making comparisons with the Roaring '20s. “We are expecting that when we are starting to emerge from COVID, starting in the spring, we will see this incredible social renaissance,” says Angie Hellman, senior VP of brand and customer strategy at online clothing retailer Rent the Runway. “We are expecting this return to the Roaring '20s—life’s pleasures, predictions in hedonism and indulgence.”
Rent the Runway says its customer base is already ditching their sweatpants; in the first half of February before Valentine’s Day, the company saw a 25% increase for special occasion or night-out attire compared with the same period last year.
The prediction has some historical roots. A century ago, following the upheaval and deaths of the 1918 flu pandemic, many consumers returned to spending lavishly, which led to the period of mass consumption known as the Roaring '20s.
It was "an era of glamour,” says Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor at the School of History, Philosophy and Religion at Oregon State University, noting the dancing, parties and glitz that led to critiques like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. “Now we joke who needs high heels and ballgowns, but there’s some appeal to that.”
Such spending helped create the rise in the type of advertising we know today, says Nichols, and fueled the rise of the modern ad agency.
After uncertainty, brands ready to spend
It's not just the promise of vaccines fueling this optimism; marketers are now ready to restore cutbacks put in place during a time of political upheaval. While several marketers did spend over the holidays on campaigns and promotions, a number sat out the election and inauguration rather than risk getting pulled into polarizing news cycles following the Capitol riots.
“So many things happened with the inauguration and the insurrection and now it feels like spring is a time for rebirth and renewal from a marketing perspective—we’re all going to prey on open wallets,” says Slaby.
Agencies are also seeing clients return to spending. Krystle Loyland, CEO and co-founder of Austin-based Preacher, says the agency is busy with new work coming in April, May and June as budgets seem to be returning. She said clients that typically would make annual budget decisions in the third or fourth quarter were waiting to see how things turned out with the new administration and the vaccine.
“Clients seem to have ambition and money now, though not timelines. They are looking at ‘How can we get out by spring and early summer?’” says Loyland. “Everybody, like us, is optimistically making some bets and wanting to be out there as quick as possible.”
Marketers are also looking to switch up their agency relationships as they ramp up plans for the rest of the year. One holding company representative reports a “second RFP season” following the usual season of September through December, and says its agencies have seen more invitations to pitch and a surge in activity since the beginning of January than in any previous year.
Another sign that consumers are limbering up: they are moving back into the cities, according to Feather, a four-year-old provider of rental furniture, which is in growth mode and is planning a robust marketing rollout to increase awareness. During COVID-19, as many consumers left their urban residences to temporarily live in the suburbs, Feather pulled back its advertising, investing only in lower funnel-type marketing.
Now, the company is seeing people “itching” to return to cities and wants to be ready with marketing, according to Jinal Shah, VP of marketing and growth at Feather. The company’s products are available in a handful of cities across the U.S., but Feather will increase that rollout to additional cities this spring.
“We are seeing as a business signs of movement picking up and expect to see continued movement within and across cities as people start making post-vaccine decisions,” she says. To that end, Feather will make a push in late April or early May with its largest campaign to date, including its first foray into linear and streaming TV, along with direct mail and potentially programmatic out-of-home.
“Last year was about test-and-learn, figuring out what works and what doesn’t work,” says Shah. "This year is about scaling on what we know works.”
Spring brings new connection opportunities
Retailers are upping marketing. Macy’s will focus on fashion and personal style expression in its spring marketing, a spokeswoman says. Kohl’s is also planning a spring campaign, which the Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based retailer typically airs; however, this year’s 30-second spot debuted during the Golden Globes, a first for the chain.
Called “Spring with all you’ve got,” the commercial, created with Yard NYC with music from John Batiste, shows a young girl who chalks a hopscotch board on her front walk to entice passersby and a grumpy-looking mailman. While the spot doesn’t show anyone in masks, people are still socially distant so the video appears relevant in both COVID and COVID-free time periods.
“The point was to have it in an outdoor setting with people enjoying spring weather,” says Greg Revelle, chief marketing officer of Kohl’s, noting pent-up demand from shoppers. “It’s more optimistic, more energetic—we feel that’s where the consumer is right now."
Wedding industry marketers are feeling the spring fling. The Knot Worldwide says its vendors have recently seen an uptick in activity as couples begin to plan their spring and summer nuptials. Dhanusha Sivajee, CMO of the Knot, said 93% of the brand’s professionals have connected with potential new clients in February, while 80% closed new business during the month.
“The signs we are seeing indicate a surge in wedding planning activity from couples and vendors,” she says.
That's one reason why Rent the Runway, which typically spends big on advertising over the holiday season, is expecting spring to be its major marketing moment. The New York-based company anticipates increasing spend by over 20% versus pre-COVID levels in the spring and summer timeframe, according to a spokeswoman. Hellman notes that she’s hoping the early uptick in February of special occasion dress will be a bellwether for the rest of the year. Yet the company is not rushing into national campaigns, particularly as the pandemic risk remains high in parts of the country.
“We are being strategic about taking a more regional approach to showing up as a brand and driving demand,” she says, noting that in fall as COVID rates continue to decline “we will start to do more national marketing.”
Travel brands are not immune to the sweeping optimism—or they are at least planning that their customers are not. In recent weeks, many consumers have started planning trips for spring break or summer after a vacation-less 2020. According to the Ad Age-Harris Poll, 34% of Americans plan to travel out of town this spring, while 35% plan to do so this summer.
Mariott's Povinelli says that 80% of U.S. consumers are planning one or more trips. In its marketing, Marriott will be focusing on “travelers’ desire to explore locally, regionally and even globally where possible,” he says, noting that the hotelier “will lean into evolving customer needs such as longer stays and larger spaces [like suites, homes and villas], more leisure travel and even travel with pets with our messaging.”
Southwest Airlines recently rolled out a destination-centric campaign focused on Telluride, Colorado, a spokeswoman says, which involved paid media support as well as custom content. She says such a focused approach will “inspire current and future customers,” and notes that points of differentiation, such as free bags and ski gear, will also be featured in promotions.
Expect more channel experimentation
Yet reaching consumers, still shell-shocked from the pandemic’s toll over the last 12 months, will not simply be a matter of increasing media buys, experts say. Many companies are experimenting with new channels of marketing to see what sticks and resonates. Since it targets a younger, more millennial audience, Rent the Runway is exploring TikTok, says Hellman, who adds that the brand will also invest more in Pinterest and even direct mail, since more shoppers are still at home. Similarly, Kohl’s is also looking to experiment with social media partners by doing more with Snapchat and Pinterest this spring, according to Revelle.
“Right now, every brand is figuring out how to either retain their newly won customers or gain back lost ones,” says Mark Penn, chairman and CEO of MDC Partners. “The race is on, and meanwhile, consumers have fundamentally changed—they’re simply not going back to pre-COVID brand expectations.” He notes a push from brands looking for deepened digital experiences and new ways to approach performance media.
Sunday Dinner’s Slaby says that many consumers are restless and tired of seeing the same kinds of ads on their laptops and phones.
“We are missing that rich texture of how to bring the brand to life in new ways,” she says. “Spring and summer, and as we get into the holiday next year, experiential marketing and things like that should kick off in a fun and innovative way—we’re just not there yet.”
Read the full story at Ad Age.
Most Americans, however, draw the line at full exposure: 56% disagree with breastfeeding ads showing women’s breasts completely uncovered, and women are much more opposed than men. Two-thirds (67%) of women disagree with the practice while 56% of men say they would be okay with it.
Although Americans mostly agree with advertisers showing a woman’s partially covered breasts in these ads, some squeamishness remains. Only 49% of Americans say they’re truly comfortable with breast-feeding ads that show a woman’s partially covered breasts, and only 37% said they’re truly comfortable with such ads showing a woman’s fully uncovered breasts.
While Americans have warmed up to more realistic representations of breastfeeding, they’re generally opposed to realism in menstrual hygiene ads. Seventy-one percent of Americans say they disagree with ads for sanitary products showing menstrual blood, and 55% said it would make them uncomfortable.
Even using the color red to simulate blood in feminine hygiene ads is divisive: Only 46% of Americans are in agreement that advertisers for these products should use the color red (instead of blue) to simulate blood in their ads, and 43% said it would make them uncomfortable.
Otherwise, Americans are mostly okay with frank discussions around the realities of using toilet paper, laxatives, and diapers, but the word “poop” makes them uncomfortable, and they’re uncomfortable with more direct anatomical references.
When it comes to toilet paper doing its job, most Americans (71%) agree advertisers should be direct about their products’ function (e.g. relieve itching or scratching). However, while 61% of Americans agreed advertisers should be able to use the word “poop” in ads for laxatives and diapers, only 41% say they’re truly comfortable with the word being used in this context.
Moreoever, Americans are generally more squeamish about toilet paper ads displaying the buttocks -- reporting similar levels of discomfort with these ads as they did for breastfeeding ads that show a woman’s wholly uncovered breasts. About two-fifths of Americans (39%) said toilet paper ads that show the buttocks -- or a representation of it -- would make them uncomfortable while 41% said they would be uncomfortable with a breastfeeding ad showing a woman’s breasts completely uncovered.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Ad Age from February 26, 2021, to March 1, 2021, among 1,074 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.
To ensure that responses about agreement and comfort with sensitive ads were not influenced by the order of survey questions, half of all respondents were asked about their agreement on whether certain sensitive ad content should be shown and then asked about their comfort with specific sensitive ad content. The other half of respondents were asked these questions in the opposite order. For more information on methodology, please contact Dami Rosanwo.
Download full data here.