3 ways brands used audio to strike the right note during COVID-19

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, brands faced many unprecedented challenges — one of them being the need to adjust their advertising, in real time, in response to a global crisis. As this challenge wears on, we’re looking to the earliest reactions from brands to guide the path forward.

Now, in the weeks and months following the first wave of crisis reaction, it’s clear which brands are striking the right note with audio — and which messages felt tone-deaf. There’s a pattern among the ads that got it right: They addressed how the brands are helping right now, they were simple, and they offered useful information.

On Spotify, we’ve seen firsthand how listeners have turned to audio while social distancing. We’ve also seen how brands turned to audio to respond quickly to customers’ needs. Here are a few takeaways from brands that used audio to be a helpful voice during COVID-19.

Deliver relevant PSAs

As the company that builds and maintains the majority of the broadband network in the UK, Openreach has a very important role to play during a crisis: keeping the internet up and running, so people can stay connected with their friends and loved ones. They created a timely PSA about how many of their engineers have been classified as key workers — and encouraged people to stay safe by staying home. The tone of the ad was friendly and conversational, and the message highlighted what Openreach is doing to help right now.

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Keep the message short and sweet

Many quick-service restaurants faced the same challenge early on in the pandemic: How to communicate changes in operations, while reassuring customers that they can still order and receive food without putting themselves or workers at risk.

“The shorter, the better” is advertising 101. And right now, short messages are more important than ever. As people react to a constant stream of new information, the last thing they want is to be overwhelmed with information from brands. That’s why Jack In the Box kept their audio ads simple: “We’re open, and we’re here.” They followed it up with a quick update on safe ways to place and pick up an order — all in a cool 15 seconds.

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Sound off on service changes and benefits

Seasonal restaurants like Sweetgreen also acted quickly to update customers. They created an audio ad that put the benefits first, offering free delivery through their app so people could learn how to safely access healthy meals. Rather than promoting specific seasonal menu items, the brand stepped back to focus on useful updates.

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In this overwhelming time, people are leaning on music and podcasts to soundtrack their time spent at home. Brands can play a part by creating audio ads that offer something extra, while not disrupting the moment. A thoughtful PSA, helpful update, or extra info on deals and benefits are welcome messages as people tune in throughout the day.

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