Marketing to the Quarantine Crowd: Advertising in the age of coronavirus

"You can't leave the house? From today, this isn't a problem."

An employee wearing a mask is seen at a restaurant without guests in Beijing's central business area, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, February 2, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/JASON LEE)
An employee wearing a mask is seen at a restaurant without guests in Beijing's central business area, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, February 2, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/JASON LEE)
As more Israelis go into government-mandated quarantine every day to try to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, some advertisers are using this unprecedented situation as an opportunity to reach out to a captive audience.
Harel Insurance, for example, is running commercials during news broadcasts with a novel approach: While you’re in your two-week quarantine, the company promises, you don’t have to pay your car-insurance premiums. It’s standard for most insurance companies to charge Shabbat-observing customers less, since they don’t drive one day out of every week, but Harel has gotten in early on this quarantine gambit.
Banks like to tell us how much they’re helping us, and they are continuing to do that during this crisis. Bank Hapoalim features a message on its website’s home page about how it is offering “a variety of banking services from home” and inviting people in quarantine to contact them. Bank Leumi’s website says, “In these days we are here for you, contact us any way and from any place that you choose.”
All parents know that being cooped up with children can be particularly challenging, and sometimes a new book or toy does the trick. The bookstore chain, Tzomet Sfarim, appealing to its customers in quarantine, offers free delivery for all orders over NIS 150, with the slogan, “You can’t leave the house? From today, this isn’t a problem,” although in Hebrew the ad uses the word, sipur, meaning story, rather than problem, slang that is fitting for a bookstore. It also says, “Are you bored at home? We’re here!” and offers 25% on books and games. A series of other pop-ups highlights children’s books and games that are sold in the stores.
Ben & Jerry’s Israel is a company that is known for going with the flow. In an Instagram post on Tuesday showing someone in a pajama top and leggings on a couch holding a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked at arm’s length, it asks its followers, “Are you in isolation? Does it suck to be alone? Let us pamper you.” It goes on to say, “Despite the television, and despite the Internet, and although there is time to clean up the drawers, we’re sure it’s not so much fun, so we decided to pamper ice-cream lovers who are currently in isolation and in need of sweet comfort.”
They invite their fans in quarantine to take pictures of themselves, tag them and upload them, with a sentence or two about why they deserve to be pampered, and Ben & Jerry’s Israel will choose the 10 people who give the most original and compelling reasons and will send them two pints of ice cream. “Don’t worry, we’ll coordinate with you and leave them outside the door.”
One company that has been caught in an awkward campaign by the virus is Terminal X, a site that features dozens of brands, including the popular Fox chain. Terminal X marks all its newly arrived products – and much of the site highlights new items – with the phrase “Just Landed” in English with a graphic of a descending plane, peculiarly inappropriate at a time when every citizen flying in from abroad must go directly into quarantine.
But things move fast in retail, and in the blink of an eye, they may find a way to appeal to the quarantine crowd who have “just landed” and are stuck inside.


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