How Advertisers Sought To Help Consumers Bounce Back From Crises

After shocks in recent years including 9/11, the housing crisis of 2008 and now, COVID, advertisers have often run campaigns informing customers that the worst is over and it’s safe to come back.

After 9/11, in 2001, General Motors ran an ad that asked viewers to “Keep America Rolling,” and offered zero-percent financing to further entice would-be car buyers. Relatedly, Apple released its iPod in October 2001, signaling the start of a comeback for the company.

After the 2008 housing crash, a comparatively mild happenstance, Walmart rolled out a campaign themed “Save Money. Live Better,” via the Martin Agency, and Microsoft introduced an ad campaign featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld that attempted to address Apple’s “I’m a PC” ads.

Charles Schwab also starred in an ad that answered the question, “How can I put my faith in an economy that has let me down?”



Now, in the wake of the pandemic, JCPenney has introduced a new spokescharacter named Penny James, played by "Saturday Night Live" star Melissa Villaseñor. In the ads, James shares all the reasons to love JCPenney.

That campaign follows an effort by the National Retail Federation to encourage people to shop during the 2020 Christmas season, and efforts by the fashion industry to present lockdown as a “Staycation.”

Companies like McDonald’s and Heineken have similarly run campaigns urging consumers to return to restaurants and bars.

Marketers are in uncharted waters here. As long as such ads don’t ignore dangers, they act as a positive voice amid all the bad news. Most consumers are sophisticated enough to know not to follow an advertiser’s advice, but merely integrate it into their current body of knowledge and make the decision that makes sense for them.

As things continue to improve, such advertising messages act as an encouraging voice, aiding an economic recovery and a return to normalcy.


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