Do Consumers Want To See COVID-19 Mentioned In Holiday Ads?

Despite the impact of COVID-19 on consumers’ lifestyles in the U.S. during the past several months, they are still looking forward to the holiday season, with 64% reporting they are just as -- or more -- excited about the holidays this year.

The data, released Thursday from video advertising platforms Unruly and Tremor Video, explores consumers' attitudes, expectations and plans for the 2020 holiday season. The companies surveyed more than 800 U.S. consumers in September 2020 for this study.

Balancing optimism with the reality of the changes, 42% of consumers think holiday ads should reference COVID-19, while 57% want ads to make them feel happy. Some 36% want ads to make them feel inspired, 30% want ads to make them feel nostalgic, 21% want to be amused, 22% want to be informed, 17% want to be surprised, and 20% want ads to amaze them.

While planning holiday advertising campaigns, brands should take special care to celebrate the season while balancing an acknowledgement of the hardships that consumers have faced this year.



The study takes a closer look at consumer interest and demand for the first holiday season since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S.

Some consumers are still anxious about going into stores. The study found 41% of consumers report decreased comfort with shopping in person, which has been increasing online shopping patterns. Three-quarters plan to do at least half of their holiday shopping online, and 53% will increase the frequency of their online shopping.

Price and cost savings will play a major role when shopping.

  • 44% -- Free and discounted shipping
  • 40% -- Wide variety of products
  • 44% -- Competitive prices and offerings
  • 40% -- Ease of shopping

When asked when they plan to do the bulk of their shopping, 15% said they will do so in October, while 27% cited November, 23% said they will shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and 17% cited the first half of December. Despite the possibility of shipment delays, 8% plan to wait for the second half of December.

Where do consumers get their inspiration for gifts? Some 53% said they will watch TV more frequently and 58% will browse the internet more often. About 41% believe that TV ads are among the most influential media channels in terms of inspiring their holiday purchase decisions.

Brands can find success by reaching consumers at their comfort levels and employing nuanced media plans for the holidays.

Digital makes a difference. Searching online at 57% is most or somewhat influential when it comes to making decisions for holiday shopping, and browsing online retailers at 53%. TV ads came in at 41%, followed by social media ads at 37%, email at 36%, and online video ads at 35%.

More traditional ways to make decisions include browsing shops in person at 53%, word of mouth from friends at 53%, browsing catalogs at 42%, and magazine or newspaper articles at 29%.

Additional key findings include:

  • 89% of consumers from households that make over $100,000 per year plan to do at least half of their holiday shopping online, followed by 79% of those from households that make $40,000 and $100,000 per year, and 67% of those from households that make less than $40,000 per year
  • Overall, nearly 56% do not plan to travel this holiday season
  • 77% of consumers aged 55 or above do not plan to travel, but more than 25% intend to travel within their state of residence and nearly 15% are planning out of state travel
  • 50% of consumers under 55 believe that COVID-19 should be referenced in ads 
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