Advertising in unprecedented times presents unprecedented challenges and for many marketing and PR professionals, the lessons learned are coming fast and hard.

On the other hand, rarely has the entire world been so united in a single experience.

Yes, it’s a moment of reflection and challenging time, but frankly, some work happening right now in marketing and PR is top-notch. Pivoting is no easy task, but it’s happening, right before our eyes, some brands are running successful social media advertising. We took a deep dive into some brands running ads, the brands we chose were mostly those we’ve seen, and we also asked our colleagues in Social Media Club Los Angeles (SMCLA) to hit us up with their favorites too.

We wanted to break down a few examples of what’s working in social advertising and organic social media, and what could be better, from an outsider’s point of view.

As you consider how COVID can provide some lessons learned, it’s also insightful to look at statistics about how people responded to PR & Marketing in the past. Perhaps the most important strategy to remember is that TRUST will be a key driver in obtaining and maintaining a thriving customer base.

And social ads can create a dynamic of trust, especially when used for story-telling, which is most effective right now.  All social platforms from Facebook and Instagram to Twitch and Tic Toc offer amazing opportunities to get real, and connect with consumers, even and especially, during this time. And in early April, we were already spending 20% more time on apps, according to Social Media Today.


Bath & Body Works

SOCIAL AD/ORGANIC STRATEGY: Contextualize brand lifestyle with quarantine life with both organic content designed to engage and product forward ads.

WHY IT WORKS: Organic content is designed to engage and entertain. That’s it. But by focusing on those two goals, the brand reaches its most passionate audience and reconfirms that the brand “gets them.” Social ads, even during COVID,  have a more traditional feel, but by focusing on home products the subtext is “we know you’re home, we think it should be enjoyable,” I also thought the “online only” copy was interesting, because presumably, at this stage, that’s the only place this would be available, but the copy makes it feel almost as if it’s SPECIAL that it’s online only. Clever.

successful cpg social media advertising COVID case study bath and body works
successful cpg social media advertising COVID case study bath and body works

GoDaddy:  #OpenWeStand Campaign

SOCIAL AD/ORGANIC STRATEGY: One of 2 B2B COVID social advertising case studies we’re showing today. Deliver inspiring messages and create resources to support your core audience: small businesses.

WHY IT WORKS: Because almost no one ever thinks about their hosting company until renewal time, but GoDaddy’s core customers, small businesses, are under a tremendous amount of pressure right now, so with this is a way to reinforce the relationship and community. GoDaddy has long had a connection with its small businesses through content, so this is an extension, but it’s a notable shift away from “how to” and product training. The important take away is owned content matters and having a system for producing owned content enables pivots. In the post-COVID world, we believe owned content, for both B2B and B2C businesses will take on outsized importance because communicating with existing customers will also be critical to thrive.

L’OCCITANE: Wash Your Hands 101

SOCIAL AD/ORGANIC STRATEGY: On-brand tips relevant to the current circumstances while also providing a solution to an outcome of washing your hands: dry hands.

WHY IT WORKS: It’s notable that L’OCCITANE was able to pivot their messages, because we all know, that’s no easy task.
Here’s where it could be better. What’s disappointing is that the ads don’t actually go to the “wash your hands” landing page, instead it goes to the product page. To me, this creates a significant disconnect for the consumer, especially if you’re new to the brand. Although the landing page probably doesn’t convert as well as the product pages, it feels opportunistic to go to a product page when promoting handwashing 101 resources in the ad.  Modifying the social ads during COVID messaging by taking the longer-term approach of retargeting visitors and ad responders may have been the better strategy from the branding & communications point of view.

CPG social media ads during COVID case studies
successful cpg social media advertising COVID case study


Yet, there are some lackluster examples as well. It’s not just a failure to change copy and advertising, but sometimes it’s a failure to tap into opportunities.


What’s Good: With nail salons closed, it’s a great time to incorporate user-generated content (UGC). Plus, if you’re collecting UGC correctly (read: with permission), it provides a fantastic content source for ads.  UGC will be an important strategy for lifestyle and direct to consumer brands in social advertising during COVID because people aren’t so much in the mood to spend on untested products during times of uncertainty.
Missed Opportunity:  Hello, self-care! There are so many opportunities for O.P.I. to underscore self-care and that self-care is for you, not for anyone else. Social ads during COVID and organic content can be specific to the moment without losing the brand. From eating right (for stronger nails?) to tips on giving yourself a manicure, there are countless content opportunities for O.P.I. right now. And now is a GREAT time for them to reinforce these direct to consumer messages for the long term.

Even more confounding? The website has a great series of blogs aimed at the exact issues facing its customers RIGHT NOW. But who would know? Their organic content is basically completely unchanged and they aren’t running any ads promoting the content on either Facebook or Instagram. It’s a mystery as to why O.P.I. wouldn’t complete the loop with this content. I’m not on their email list, so perhaps they’re using this content for subscribers only, but given that it’s widely available on the website, why not maximize it?

Also disappointing: it doesn’t look like they’re modifying their organic content to the times at all. Why not drop in a Zoom reference or tie it into being outside (just in time for Earth Day)?

social ads COVID-19 case studies


What’s Good: Thanks for modifying the campaign copy to reflect our reality.
Missed Opportunity: This was clearly a long-planned “Earth Day” campaign, and if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, it would have been a very sweet nod to employees, culture, and Earth Day. But why even DO this campaign right now? It’s a painful reminder of all the great things we’re NOT doing right now. Why not focus on the Earth Day celebration with pictures from employee’s homes looking out over their view? They get SO close with the ad about the rare frog. Why not tie that into Microsoft Teams which offers screen meetings? Why not highlight the mobile abilities of teams by showing people in their yards or on their patios using teams to appreciate the outdoors that’s right outside their back doors? There are so many opportunities here, it’s hard to embrace the campaign at all – it feels tone-deaf and irrelevant.

successful b2b social media advertising COVID case study
successful b2b social media advertising COVID case study


What’s Good: Frito-Lay is running a very touching ad campaign both on TV and on YouTube. It’s an ad model we’ve been seeing, and it focuses on trust and connection with the consumer instead of sales pitches. This type of branding advertising is a strong strategy for times of uncertainty. Particularly for a brand like Frito-Lay that has numerous products that people reach for increasingly during times of uncertainty.
Missed Opportunity: The biggest missed opportunity is they aren’t running this ad on Facebook and Instagram, at all. And their organic social content on Facebook and Instagram hasn’t pivoted at all, it’s still a product-forward lifestyle (which they aren’t adapting to current conditions).  I mean, is it REALLY  “all about people” when your social media is all about showing the product with disembodied hands? REALLY?! So the ad campaign, with all it’s “feel-good, we’re about people,” vibes feels really disjointed. The AD is about people, but the social media is about the product? It feels like an ad they created because they felt they needed to say SOMETHING rather than a campaign about how they’re changing to meet the times. It falls flat when you take a look at the 360-degree aspect.

social media ads during COVID 19 case studies Frito Lay