May 7th, 2020

How Wireless COVID-19 Ads are Faring


Ace Metrix

With everyone in isolation, connectivity is more important than ever. In this digital day and age, who’s responsible for that connectivity? Wireless companies, and their COVID-19 advertising is making that very clear — with 58% mentioning “connect” in some manner.

When it comes to the best and worst from this category, many of our early all-industry COVID-19 advertising insights still apply. That is, consumers are generally receptive towards these efforts from Wireless companies, but the strongest performers provided specifics about each brand’s response, walked the walk with charitable initiatives and focused on customers instead of self-serving messages.

Like our all-industry insights, Relevance and Likeability were key differentiators for Wireless COVID-19 ads. In contrast the amount of Information conveyed, while new (measured by the Change score), was on par with non-COVID Wireless ads that aired before and during the pandemic:


Also unlike all-industry COVID-19 ads, on average scores for Wireless spots improved in April compared to March. In fact, six of the top ten aired in April (one as recent as May 1st), while the same portion of the bottom performers were from March.

Top Wireless COVID-19 Ads:

Rank Brand Ad Title Air Date Ace Score
1 Verizon Pay It Forward 3/23/20 667
2 AT&T Keeping You Connected 3/24/20 640
3 AT&T Distance Learning 4/13/20 619
4 Verizon Pay It Forward – Luke Bryan 4/19/20 615
5 Verizon First Responders: Rely On Us 5/1/20 609
6 AT&T Frontline 4/5/20 608
7 AT&T Business As Usual 3/31/20 606
8 T-Mobile Time to Reconnect 3/26/20 602
9 Verizon Pay It Forward 4/5/20 594
10 AT&T A Lot On Your Mind 4/15/20 594
*Tie breaker for 9th = Empower score

In line with our early insights on COVID-19 advertising about actions speaking louder than words, these top performing Wireless COVID-19 ads incorporated specifics on how the brands were helping whether it was through increased network capacity, contactless delivery or ensuring connectivity at temporary hospitals and mobile testing sites.

For four of the top ads, those specifics focused on their charitable COVID-19 initiatives. Three of those were for Verizon’s Pay It Forward, which seeks to help small businesses weather the pandemic storm. The other, AT&T’s “Distance Learning”, was geared towards supporting “distant learning.” These ads excelled on Breakthrough (Likeability and Attention) and Information components compared to other wireless COVID-19 ads.

Not only did they stand out on most components, but these ads were the most Empowering of all Wireless ads in 2020. The Empower metric stems from our Cultural Perception scoring system, which measures the risks (Exploit) and rewards of communicating values and social objectives. Since COVID-19 ads started airing mid-March we’ve measured a spike in the number of ads with Empower signal. Historically, only 12% of all ads score on this measure, but that number jumped to 41% of all ads tested in the week ending May 2nd.


As for the wireless category alone, 78% of COVID-19 ads were seen as Empowering by viewers versus only 9% of non-COVID ads (January 2020 – present). Even though a majority are generating Empowering responses from viewers, only one other ad out of all the COVID-19 ads we’ve tested to date (430+) scored in the Extreme band of signal with Verizon’s “Pay It Forward.”

Connectivity Needs to Be About Connection

As mentioned, Wireless brands seemed to “figure out” their COVID-19 messaging, with scores increasing in April. Brands that came out of the gate with spots created from existing footage were vague with how they addressed the pandemic, and focused primarily on the practical aspects of connectivity via network promotion. While continued connectivity is key in “real life” and even more so in pandemic times, Wireless companies were missing their true value proposition: connection. Overall emotion from the bottom ten ads was 42% lower than the top ten with more scores of “Inappropriate,” “Awful,” and “Waste of.”

“The ad was boring. It did not grab my attention. It was vague in its mention of “times like these”, but I assume this was a reference to the caronavirus pandemic. The ad did not seem sincere. The people has a flat affect, did not display any passion or emotion. The ad did not ring true to me. It came off as an attempt to use a tough time to benefit financially.” Female 16-20

“This was a very dull ad. I know they are looking to address current issues, but this was flat, emotionless, seemed uncaring. There is no resonance in this.” Female 50+

“Another ad that’s trying to say how socially conscious and caring they are. Many companies are rushing to communicate this. I don’t believe they care that much except that this message sells now. Where were they before the pandemic? Saying how great their network coverage is. This ad was not done in a very creative way.” Female 50+

Spots like AT&T’s “Keeping you Connected” weaved the reality of network connections with the feeling of togetherness and showed real people, landing it as one of the top overall spots. T-Mobile explained what they’ve changed for customers and showed how those changes affect real people in their “Time to Connect.”

“Thank you T Mobile, you are my phone carrier and we are doing all these things, connecting to family and friends on our T Mobile connection and our son is homeschooled on the computer.” Female 36-49

“The color scheme of the different scenes is perfect and the ad has an overall heartwarming feel that doesn’t make me feel deflated. It’s quite perfect.” Male 21-35

“It was kind, helpful, and soothing especially since so many that are ill now cannot see their loved ones, but they can by phone here. I liked it a lot.” Female 50+


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