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How Brands are Using Pre-Roll for Covid Messaging

What we thought would be a fleeting pandemic/panic has become our new everyday reality. Covid 19 has become the elephant in the room that no person, business, or brand can ignore. And since the virus is impossible to ignore, brands specifically have had to confront the current state of the country head on – it’s almost mandatory – companies still have to push their brand despite the pandemic as it’s essential to the livelihood of the company, yet now, they must do so through a socially conscious lens. 
Brands are realizing more and more that they need to be on the right side of history. And to do so, they must address the devastating times in a way that is genuine and unique to their brand. This is often times accomplished by using pre-roll advertising. 
Pre-roll is a monumental staple for advertisers of all kinds. Video is known to be more magnetic than standard print advertising, which is why so many brands advertise this way. Pre-roll is also more suitable to the current digital age we live in, as it caters to multiple digital realms such as Youtube, social media, tablets, mobile devices, CTV, and more! 
And advertisers know without a doubt that pre-roll works! Now, the challenge lies in how to make pre-roll work during a global pandemic. Brands are now asking themselves, “how can we connect to our audience through a medium we know so well but with content matters that are new to everybody alike?”
So…. how do we do that? 
Luckily, there are ways we can work around the pandemic in a way that benefits our consumers and our advertisers. The central benefit of our digital marketing efforts during Covid 19 is that everybody is spending most of their previously busy time, at home, which means that more people are in need of digital media outlets for all of their needs, practical and leisure. 
A study showed that 45% of global consumers are spending more time on social media. Similarly, there was a 26% increase in online video streaming and a significant increase in online gaming traffic and online food and essential good delivery. This means that there is still a huge market to advertise to via social media and online platforms. 
Not only do advertisers have a unique opportunity to reach more people from their homes, but they also have an opportunity to redirect their messaging and make an impact as a brand. Now, not all brands will be able to adapt to the times, such as hotel and airline companies. But for the most part, brands are fully capable of conforming to the state of Covid 19. 
If you’re asking yourself how to redirect your brand’s campaign, think first with empathy, considering what people are going through: the anxiety, fear, isolation, lack of routine. Jason Sperling, chief of the creative development for the RPA firm in Santa Monica expresses that “people want to see the soul of the brands. They want to feel comfort.” Here lies a huge opportunity for your ads to show customers that you are more than a product, which will last longer in viewers’ memory than any other ad. 
We know this because studies show that on average, coronavirus ads scored 18% higher on relevance than the industry norm, 11% higher on likability and 12% higher on information.  However, the study also showed that viewers can sniff out a surface level Covid 19 ad in a heartbeat. Consumers want to know what your brand is doing to help or give back.
Furthermore, the average “likability” score of ads that mention COVID-19 has been 11% higher than the industry average, earning a spot in the same league as Super Bowl ads in terms of effectiveness.

How Top Creative Ad Agencies In The USA Are Using Pre-roll for Covid Messaging: Examples

And if you’re wondering what these Covid 19 conscious ads look like in real time by real brands, we’re here to show you a few examples of brands that were able to transform their ad campaigns to something meaningful, helpful, and impactful. The following brands used pre-roll ads to make an impact, capitalizing on a method we know works because pre-roll is king. 

Ad Campaigns Doing it Right:


Guinness was one of the first brands to address the coronavirus head-on. Before St. Patrick’s Day, the company released a campaign that used pre-roll to redirect the celebrations in light of Covid 19 safety guidelines. 

Motor City 

On March 31st, the Doner ad agency released “When the Motor Stops,” a black and white desolate street landmarks of Detroit. The narrator states, “Here, we don’t stop in the name of fear, here, we stop in the name of love.” 



Apple served a new pandemic inspired ad in April titled “Creativity Goes On.” The commercial aims to be relatable to its viewers new experience in lockdown, showing scenes of people, famous and unknown, making things — very cool things — as they’re in quarantine. 


Mcdonalds skipped all the tricks and put out a text-only ad that reassured their customers that they were still there to serve them through this difficult time. They highlight the phrase “we will still be here to take your order.”


Uber, a company that may be impacted the most during lockdown, showed it’s support of their viewers in their “Thank You for Not Riding” campaign. The ad urges millions of riders to stay home, while simultaneously promising to support healthcare workers, feed first responders, help local communities, and more. 

California Community Colleges

Oculu’s client, California Community Colleges, realized that lockdown would result in students having to learn online from home. So, we served them a text-only ad, similar to the aforementioned Mcdonald’s ad, letting students know that the organization is there to help them every step of the way, offering online resources to help maneuver a new method of learning.

Conclusion from Oculu

Like the common saying, “art imitates life,” we see here that ads must imitate life as well. Though the advertising industry is suffering great monetary losses, we now have the opportunity to reach our customers like we never have before, making our brand message hit closer to home and stay there. And we can do that using a video format we know best – pre-roll.