Analysis: May Advertising Trends


Advertising analytics rundown of advertising activity in May:

Essential Technologies:

Technology companies like IBM and Hewlett Packard increased their spending in May to highlight how their essential technologies can solve the world’s current difficulties, and Apple launched an ad campaign at the end of April made with real footage of customers using Apple devices to dance, make art, and stay connected from home. Rather than promote any specific products, US tech companies are reminding the public that they are the reason society can continue to function remotely.

Emphasis on Safety Precautions

Large retailers like Walmart and Amazon ran ads that focused entirely on cleanliness and safety, with personal thanks to their employees who have had to work through COVID-19, but also hinting at their economic responsibility to stay open and provide essential items. Macy’s saw a massive increase in spending in May as they launched a campaign assuring customers about enforced safety precautions, including limited curbside pick-up, as clothing stores begin opening up in several states.

Jewelry for Cash

At the national level, jewelry advertising from large companies like Kay and Jared has drastically decreased by as much as 90%, but on the local level, jewelry stores which offer exchanges for cash, as well as gold buyers and pawn shops, have continued spending consistently. These advertisers like Read’s Jewelry and Loan and Leo Hamel Jewelry and Gold Buyers promise “fast cash” to families facing economic hardship.

Community Focus and Encouraging Messages

Similar to US tech companies, clothing brands and large retailers are moving away from promoting specific products, and are instead buying air time to focus on community and collective perseverance. Old Navy and Bombas announced major clothing donation efforts to families in need; Target congratulated their staff members who are graduating college; and Petsmart created a visual love-letter to the household pets who have kept their humans sane during the extended social isolation. Nike’s new ad, featuring footage of memorable sports comebacks and dubbed with a voiceover talking about triumph through hopeless circumstances, saying “we are never too far down to come back,” is particularly inspiring.


Perhaps most notable is the near complete absence of restaurant advertising. Casual dining chains such as Applebee’s, Cracker Barrel, IHOP, and Red Lobster have all decreased spending by upwards of 98% since January. Some smaller restaurants continue to promote their carry-out options and the importance of shopping local.

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