COVID-19 Resources


Fri, 03 Apr 2020

During this turbulent period we are all facing with COVID-19, there have been many global examples of brands advertising with good intention, only to suffer backlash from consumers perceiving the messaging to be inappropriate. Therefore, IAB New Zealand has sought points of view from its Brand and Agency Council Chairs, Nick Boulstridge and James Butcher, on how advertising is responding and changing accordingly.


At this unprecedented time globally and at home there are many questions being raised around what is appropriate and what it is not in terms of brand advertising. Some brands have already fallen victim to social media scrutiny by going to market with what has been seen as an insensitive message. The knee jerk reaction to this is to stop advertising altogether but then how does that help the brand?

In this predicament when we don’t know how long we will be at home or the impact that this will have on a brand long term, it is probably an appropriate time to actually pause and reflect on how a brand can do the right thing at this time. It is a change in mindset from wanting to push products or services to one of how can we be there for our customers and help them in their time of need. It is important to see how brands show up in market not what amazing product/service can I push at this time. The key message here is that brands need to stay relevant to what consumers actually need from a brand. I particularly like the TVNZ and Les Mills example of working together to help consumers stay fit and healthy at home through TV and OnDemand.


We are in unprecedented, uncertain and disruptive times, not just as an industry, but as a society. If we were to look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, society is firmly in ‘safety’ . We are seeing new consumer behaviour emerging, from the negative panic shopping for toilet paper, to the positive with health workers appreciation applauses occurring globally. Locally we have the ‘teddy bears in the windows’ across neighbourhoods nationwide. And for Media, we are seeing a huge swing in consumption. Growth in digital consumption is seeing an exponential spike, plus increasingly, growth across our most trusted news sites. Entertainment and Social platforms are also seeing high consumption rates, connectivity being the major driver with video calling doubling on Facebook in some markets. Television, linear as well as on demand, is showing significant audience spikes, whilst other channels are being severely impacted by our requirements to stay at home.

Any business that profiteers, or seeks to build advantage will and should be remembered for this. Brands however, that behave with authenticity, care and an understanding of the changing needs of society will come out of this stronger. We are seeing some brilliant examples of this locally - both in advertising, but also in behaviour:

  • - Foodstuffs and Countdown announcing that anyone impacted at Flight Centre would be offered employment.
  • - Spark announcing that Data caps would be removed on all their Broadband packages.
  • - All Birds announcing that they would be donating shoes to frontline medical staff around the world.