April 15th, 2020

How Frito-Lay’s “It’s About People” Exemplifies the Best of COVID-19 Advertising


Ace Metrix

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a shift in cultural norms, from sheltering-in-place to companies having to rethink their work-from-home policies as well as a throng of other changes. One of those shifts involves the urgency for brands to re-word their messaging for current times, avoiding being put on the hot seat for being misheard or losing brand equity due to a lack of action being taken. One such brand embracing this new challenge is Frito-Lay, which followed what we’ve previously reported on COVID-19 advertising to a T. That is, walking the walk — viewers want to hear what companies are doing to help during these times.

“It’s About People” doesn’t show any of its various branded products: Cheetos, Doritos, Lay’s, etc., nor does it tell viewers how to think or feel. Instead, Frito-Lay shines the spotlight on the exact steps it’s taking through action, highlighting piece-by-piece what the company is doing to positively impact people across the nation and abroad, stating in its ad “This is not about brands…It’s about people.”

We’ve tested over 200 ads (and counting) addressing the COVID-19 pandemic across industries, with consumers responding well to messages of reassurance and their relevance to the current times. Since around the same time the very first COVID-19 ads began airing, there has been a spike in levels of Empowerment measured across all ads. The chart below shows just how much Empowerment has increased: 

With its focus strictly on taking initiative, “It’s About People” scored as the most Empowering ad of 2020 and 15th highest going back to January 2019. The chart below indicates just how well the spot resonated with viewers across all ages/genders while avoiding any Exploit signal:

The Empower score originates from our Cultural Perception scoring system, which measures the positive and negative impact of purpose-driven advertising and ultimately helps brands assess the risks and rewards of achieving emotional connections as they relate to cultural and social subjects. “It’s About People” displayed Extreme levels of Empowerment — that’s something only 0.08% of all ads have achieved historically:

In addition to exemplifying the most Empowering of ads, “It’s About People” achieved an Ace Score of 763, placing it amongst the top ten highest-scoring ads of the last decade. The chart below shows the extreme levels at which viewers scored the different components of the Ace Score compared to all COVID-19 ads to date:

Juxtaposed to it’s traditionally well-known unconventional and Funny approach to advertising its various chips brands, Frito-Lay took a more earnest appeal with viewers in “It’s About People.” Frito-Lay is not alone in this approach, as brands across the board have significantly reduced the humor in their advertising due to current conditions, attempting to mitigate any risk for ads to come across as tone-deaf or insensitive to viewers.

The driving force that makes “It’s About People” such a success is the combination of emotions that it achieved:

This spot evoked Strong levels of Corporate Responsibility at a score of 8.3 –  higher than all other ads YTD and an impressive feat considering we’ve seen a surge in ads hitting on this emotion with all of the pandemic-related advertising. Alongside its high Corporate Responsibility score is Philanthropy, showing Solid signal (4.1) due to the ad’s focus on the company’s giving. The Adtastic EMO, with a score of 5.8, was sparked from the general like and appreciation for the ad in its entirety, particularly on the execution of the concept.

Viewer verbatim comments reveal an array of positive feedback and sentiments towards Frito-Lay’s “It’s About People”:

“I love this ad!!!!! This is done so well and I respect companies that are doing ads like this. I am actually getting frustrated (and remembering) companies who are directly trying to make money from all of us during this difficult time. This ad is perfect for what we are going thru and makes me want to support the company more.” Female 36-49

“Darn it, I’m on the verge of tears thinking about how this company is making a positive impact in society. They created 3,000 new jobs and are helping people get through this COVID-19 pandemic.” Male 36-49

“This is a more impactful ad than offering customers a discount, or touting the benefits of buying FritoLay products during this crisis. It was simply letting people know what good things the company is doing NOW.” Female 36-49

Frito-Lay’s spot hit it out of the park on our effectiveness measures, and was able to change consumers’ perceptions of the brand and consideration for their products along the way. Eighty-one percent of viewers showed a positive increase in perception of the brand while 66% of respondents indicated strong likelihood to purchase (+20% above COVID ad norms, +25% above Corporate Branding norms & +10% above Chip norms).

Viewers do want to know what companies are doing to help out the general public during these times. The most impactful, informative and emotionally driven advertisements coming out of this crisis have been shining the spotlight on the selfless initiatives brands have been taking to Empower people far and wide.


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