SALT LAKE CITY – Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, and Coke shocked everyone when they said they would not have ads in this year’s Super Bowl. But the reasons these corporate giants are pulling their signature products from the game may not be what you think.
There is no doubt the companies have faced an economic downturn. It’s been reported Coke could have lost 50% of their sales when stadiums and theaters shut down, but it’s not that reason that is stopping the companies from shelling out up to $5.5 million per 30-seconds for the Super Bowl.
The pandemic has caused us to look at advertising differently.
There’s been a shift in our culture as the pandemic has swept over us concerning consuming information and products. We want something different. In short, we apparently want more truth.
How did we go from great big splashy ads to wanting something more from corporations? ABC4 sat down with Tom Love, the founding partner and president of Love Communications, to discuss what has happened this past year.
Tom explained the virus impacted every industry his company works in, not only with strategy but also in each company’s ability to commit to advertising. He pointed out that companies had to start finding the right tone and right message when they advertise, even with a budget.
If the tone is not right it can cause huge public backlash. Remember when the celebrities tried to do the right thing with the song “Imagine” but did not take into account people were losing their jobs over the pandemic and also dying in hospitals? It’s a casebook example of a good intention with the wrong tone.
Tom said most of the local advertisers are still advertising. “They’ve got to stay in business,” he says. “They’ve got to tell people we are open, and we need business, and we’re here for you, certainly everyone’s messaging has pivoted to safety, we’re doing differently, and how that will affect your experience, whether it is an in-person retail experience, or shop online and come pick it up,”
He continues, “Most Utah advertisers are in business, and they are working and still investing in communicating with the public, going dark during the pandemic could be a mistake.”
Even though the tone has changed, one of the surprising things is people do not want to hear “somber”. Love says, “People don’t want to hear, ‘we know it’s hard, we get it,’ people want some optimism, they want to get on the other side of this (pandemic) it is a delicate balance.”
The challenge is messaging carefully, and somewhat positively.
March of 2020 is when the world changed, and that is also when advertising changed.
Advertisers shut down; the tourism industry is a good example. The entire tourism industry hit a hard stop.
After the initial quarantine and shutdown, when the businesses started to reopen, changes happened. Using the tourism industry as an example, before the pandemic tourism advertising focused on places where you could get on a plane and fly. Places, where you could drive were not on the priority list. Here in Utah and other states, locals would generally be up for eight-hour drives, but after the pandemic hit, people here were up for drives that would take 12 hours.
Tourism advertising pivoted and was focusing on markets that were within a drive of 650 miles.
L.A. became a drive market for Utah. According to Love, there were many visitors from Southern California visiting Southern Utah. The visitors represent a specific instance of how things changed in the tourism industry.
COVID also benefitted the RV industry.
Love says, “people buying RV’s, Renting RV’s and exploring the Intermountain West. Lots of stories about Montana being inundated with visitors, state parks in Southern Utah were overwhelmed with people, especially from other states that were on lockdown, like Nevada or California, those people escaped to Utah where we were still pretty open and pretty friendly all during the summer and the fall welcoming visitors.”
Kaden Parris of Parris RV in Murray verified Love’s observation telling ABC4 “there was an upswing in RV sales all across the country.”
Love continues, “Zion National Park felt overwhelmed, the State Parks in Washington County and greater Zion were overwhelmed these were mostly from license plates from out of state.”
Now with the announcements that Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, and Coke would be focusing more on COVID vaccination awareness and corporate citizenship Love says, “I think it’s fabulous and absolutely responsible, they are major national brands who are leaders in their category, and they are leading on a social justice issue, rather than acting commercially and for-profits they are acting for the benefit of the soul of America, and for the health of America and Americans.”
Love states with sincerity, “You have to salute them for doing that; I’ve read that Budweiser was donating so much of it’s time in the future to urge vaccinations and to urge people to get vaccines when they become widely available, and I think that is fabulous for corporate America to respond that way and humanely and for the benefit of folks in the country and these are big corporate brands taking on huge corporate responsibility, you have to salute them.”
Love added a final thought, “These are major national brands they are leaders of some of the biggest companies in America and they are acting responsibly, and doing the right thing, not the thing for profits and that’s refreshing to see, I think America needs it, I think we will respond to that, a company has never really suffered by doing the right thing or doing the humane thing. People respond to brands that act responsibly, in the long term they will benefit immeasurably by doing the right thing, not the short term profit thing.
“People will have a greater affinity for these brands because of what they are doing and how they are behaving.”