Advertising despite the crisis: quite normal or a total no-go?

Is it even permissible to advertise in times of crisis? You should, because: Advertising supports the free media, and these are needed more urgently than ever before. A guest article by Dirk Lux.

The world is in turmoil - should clients still run ads? (Image:

We are currently following the daily news with horror: In Ukraine, defenseless people fear for their lives. Millions are on the run, and many people in our country are afraid of an escalation of this war to Central and Western Europe. Many advertisers ask themselves whether it is appropriate to advertise at all in such times. Don't people find it impious and thoughtless that the ideal world of advertising simply continues to appear as if all the suffering and misery did not exist?

Caring for others is human - but so is caring for yourself

It is human nature to care and show compassion. People follow current events more intensively than usual; we donate, we try to help, we listen. But we can't and won't do that 24 hours a day - it would make us sick. We humans also need relaxation and distraction, at the moment perhaps even more than in normal times. That's why we continue to enjoy watching entertainment shows on TV, meeting friends, playing computer games, going to the movies or attending a soccer match.

Corona has shown how we humans respond to existential crises

The latest existential crisis in our society - the COVID 19 pandemic - isn't even really over yet. The first lockdown in March 2020 showed how a society reacts in an existential crisis. In the first phase of the lockdown, people used news environments very intensively to understand the situation and assess the risks. But then something else happened: the news - as bad as it was - became routine, and people increasingly turned to entertainment environments. This is no coincidence: entertainment and relaxation are classic media usage motifs that are scientifically well documented in media usage research - and they become all the more important in times of crisis. People dive into a parallel world in order to consciously take a relaxing break from reality. We humans need this for our mental health. That is quite normal and not reprehensible.

What advertisers can learn from Corona for the current situation

Even at the beginning of the Corona crisis, many advertisers questioned whether advertising was appropriate in light of the scare news and the lockdown. Some advertisers actually postponed their 2020 campaigns - this made sense especially for those whose business model was directly affected by the lockdown, such as brick-and-mortar retailers. However, some advertisers also continued or even strengthened their campaigns and were thus able to benefit from favorable advertising space. However, it was common practice during the initial period of the lockdown to avoid news environments and to be present primarily in entertainment environments. In hindsight, however, one thing never happened: No one resented the advertisers for their advertising. It was and always remained part of the usual normality of media use, especially in entertainment environments.

A recommendation

Unlike in the Corona era, the war in Ukraine does not mean a lockdown, so there are no immediate business reasons to stop advertising. The fundamental availability of the media and media use are not restricted by the war either.

Certain restrictions on placements can make sense for certain brands when it comes to news or special broadcasts on Ukraine. This applies above all to TV, digital and certain advertising spaces in certain newspaper titles. This should be coordinated bilaterally with the respective agency client advisors.

Depending on the type of campaign, it may also make sense to think critically about the content of the communication. Military or even bellicose-aggressive vocabulary is likely to be perceived as inappropriate (for example, terms such as "operation," "offensive," "price bomb") - adjustments are advisable here.

Canceling campaigns, on the other hand, benefits no one: Not Ukraine, not the people fleeing from there, and not the brands. Last but not least, the free media depend on advertising - and we all need it more than ever at the moment.

* Dirk Lux is CEO of Publicis Media.

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