How marketers responded to the coronavirus in the first three months

A look back at the early moves brands made to deal with the fallout

Ad Age — Since stay-at-home orders went into effect in mid-March, the pandemic forced marketers into unprecedented action, including closing offices, stopping agency reviews and tweaking or stopping certain advertising. Below, a day-by-day look back at how brands responded in the first three months. For a current look at how marketers are responding, check out our continually updated blog here.

May 28, 2020

Consumers are all ears for radio marketing during COVID-19

Most brands have had to delay commercial shoots due to lockdowns during the pandemic, which might explain why radio ads are having a moment. According to ABX, which measures advertising effectiveness, COVID-related radio spots have generated record highs when it comes to effectiveness scores. The firm tracked 145 radio ads that included pandemic messaging since March 4. “Radio spots featuring thank-yous to first responders, helpful advice on how to resist the virus, and carrying a serious tone did well,” ABX notes in a blog post, which added that all but five radio ads scored above the norm. ABX specifically noted well-received ads from Pizza Hut, for “Pizza Hut now delivers pizza and beer,” IHOP, for “Share IHOP’s new family feast,” and Comcast Xfinity, for “The Coronavirus has affected.” Even so, radio, like most other ad channels, is suffering. Ad spending on radio is projected to fall 16.2 percent globally in 2020, according to a forecast from WARC, a research organization that services marketers, media companies and agencies.

Popeyes is still the king among Restaurant Brands’ brands 

As restaurants continue to struggle, Popeyes remains a standout. Popeyes U.S. same-store sales were up in the low 40 percent range as of the third full week of May after being flat in the second half of March, parent company Restaurant Brands International says. Of course, a year ago, it didn’t have that chicken sandwich, so the comparison is far from apples to apples, or should we say, chicken to chicken. 

Meanwhile, Burger King’s U.S. same-store sales are down in a mid-single digit range, an improvement from being down in a low-thirties percent range in the second half of March. And Tim Hortons Canada is improving but still suffering the most of the three chains, with same-store sales down in the mid-twenties after being down in the mid-forties in the second half of March. “The greater the meal-oriented lunch & dinner exposure and the lower the breakfast/coffee exposure the faster the recovery,” Evercore ISI analyst David Palmer said in a research note. 

May 27, 2020

SpongeBob SquareMasks? Kids shows get in on the mask action

Here come more branded masks, this time from ViacomCBS, which is introducing a line featuring characters from its Nickelodeon properties including “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Paw Patrol,” “Blue’s Clues & You!” and JoJo Siwa. It is also selling masks with imagery from other brand properties including “Star Trek” and MTV shows. The reusable masks will be available at retail stores and proceeds will go to COVID-19 relief efforts. 

Women’s pro soccer is coming back

The National Women’s Soccer League is getting back to action, but without fans. The league—which has been on hiatus since its season ended last year—will play a 25-game tournament starting June 27 at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. Procter & Gamble and its Secret brand are presenting sponsors of the month-long tourney. All games will be shown on CBS All Access with the opener and championship game airing live on CBS. The 8-year-old league also announced a new multi-year sponsorship deal with Verizon. Budweiser, which has backed the league since 2019, is the presenting sponsor of semifinals and finals match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

Dell Loy Hansen, owner of Utah Royals FC, will “accommodate all housing, training, and competition needs for the league’s nine teams and create an ‘NWSL Village’ to control as much of the environment as possible,” the league announced. Safety protocols include testing every player, official, and essential staff member 48 hours prior to departure for Utah and upon arrival. They will also be “subject to consistent testing, temperature readings, and symptom review throughout their stay in Utah.”  

Credit:via National Women’s Soccer League 

May 26, 2020

23andMe looks to tap data for COVID-19 research

Researchers from 23andMe are looking for a new way to put all that DNA data from customers to good use by identifying genes that could affect the severity of COVID-19. So far, 600,000 23andMe customers, including 8,000 who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus, have opted in to participate. Now, the company is opening the research to others who have been hospitalized but aren’t currently customers. That’s because most of the people who opted in have had mild or moderate symptoms, but the study could use more peoplewho’ve had severe cases.

Dial animates iconic images of hands for pandemic campaign

Henkel hardly needs to advertise Dial soap right now. The leading U.S. brand of hand soap (per IRI) is flying off shelves thanks to COVID-19. But Henkel is taking time to try building brand equity and emotional resonance with a new ad from TBWA\Chiat\Day, New York.

With the pandemic severely limiting production options and spawning ads that annoy many people with their similarity, TBWA tried a different tack by tapping animation studio Blinkink to animate iconic images that include Rosie the Riveter, Muhammad Ali and Elvis, focusing on their hands and adding some upbeat music. The “Hope Is In Our Hands” campaign “is to help build awareness of everything we’re doing,” says Randi Melton, vice president of body care for Henkel. That includes giving over 600,000 products to FEMA. “First and foremost, we wanted to focus on hands,” Melton says, both the need to wash them, and everything they could do, including things that can’t be done under quarantine. Dial is pairing the ad with a an #IWashMyHandsFor social media campaign asking people to share photos of their hands, “along with who they’re washing their hands for,” she says.

REI and West Elm aim to improve backyard living

In another unlikely pairing brought on by COVID-19, outdoors retailer REI is teaming up with upscale home furnishings brand West Elm. The two companies unveiled a product collaboration featuring lawn chairs, picnic blankets and dinnerware, most of which are under $60 in cost. The 35-product collection marks the first time REI is selling through another retailer.

The brands announced the partnership in an email to customers on Tuesday. “Now, more than ever, we appreciate the value of being at home, in the fresh air,” read the email, which noted that though the retailers began curating goods together a year ago, the offering is especially timely now with so many consumers homebound.

“Working with West Elm introduces new creative territory to consider, and we hope this inspires more people to join us outside, even if it’s just day camping in their backyard,” said Paul Calandrella, REI general merchandising manager for camp products, in a statement. Indeed, with many summer camps and town pools closed for the season, sales of backyard products like trampolines, inflatable pools and hammocks are soaring.

Chobani and Seamless deliver groceries to the door to support City Harvest

Chobani is teaming up with food delivery service Seamless to get some of its products into New Yorkers’ homes while supporting City Harvest, a local food rescue organization. Consumers can order $12 pantry care packages that include four cups of Chobani Greek yogurt, a carton of Chobani Oat Plain Barista Edition and a product from one of the yogurt marker’s incubator brands, such as Pescavore Jerky or Ithaca Hummus. Profits are being donated to City Harvest. Chobani says it has donated more than 4 million cups of yogurt since the pandemic began.

May 22, 2020

Brawny launches ‘Giants’ effort to recognize heroes

Brawny is recognizing local heroes from around the U.S. with a new charitable platform —Giants Take Action —and marketing campaign from JOAN Creative, New York. Initial ads focus on eight “Brawny Giants,” drawing on user-generated video and a newly released song, “Walk with Me” by GoldFord x AG. The Giants include diner owner Meg Heriford of Kansas, who converted her shut-down diner into a food pantry; and Cavanaugh Bell, 7, of Maryland who spent his life savings to make care packages for seniors. “We believe that strength lies not in what we say, but in what we do,” said Katie Kolesky, senior director of brand building for Brawny, owned by Koch Industries’ Georgia-Pacific Corp. Brawny is inviting people to share stories of other “giants” in their communities through July 13 at

Pizza Hut and Jimmy John’s are two of the latest marketers with graduation giveaways

Brands continue to seek attention by giving free grub to 2020 graduates. Pizza Hut—in a deal with dairy marketing group Dairy Management Inc.—plans to give away 500,000 pizzas to high school seniors. The campaign was announced on Thursday night’s episode of “The Tonight Show,” with Jimmy Fallon proclaiming he’s a Pizza Hut fan and holding up a box from the chain. Seniors who are part of the chain’s rewards program or sign up for it by May 28 can get a code for a free medium pizza. “America’s dairy farmers have great appreciation and respect for the hard work that graduating students have put in and nothing celebrates that better than cheese and pizza enjoyed with family and friends,” Marilyn Hershey, a Pennsylvania dairy farmer who is also chair of Dairy Management Inc., said in a statement.

Jimmy John’s also had a celebrity angle to its giveaway. On Thursday, it handed out 2,020 unique codes for free Little John sandwiches to 2020 graduates, via Instagram. Along with the free sandwich, the grads get a congrats video from Lil Jon, who stars in ads for the smaller sandwich that the chain launched last year.

May 21, 2020

Pepsi, Walmart take down co-branded COVID-19 testing sign amid social media backlash

For brands, there is a fine line between providing a public service during the pandemic, or being seen as exploiting it. Pepsi and Walmart recently crossed this line in Orlando, where the two marketers erected a co-branded sign touting a COVID-19 testing site. The sign included a large image of an ice-cold Pepsi next to the brand’s tagline, “That’s What I Like.” Walmart’s logo also appeared on the sign, which directed viewers to a COVID-19 testing site “near Walmart #908,” which refers to a store location in Orlando.

An image of the sign drew scorn on Twitter, prompting one user to remark “What absolute dystopian hell world are we living in.”

A Pepsi spokeswoman told Ad Age this week that “This was an unfortunate mistake by one of our local sales associates that in trying to move with speed to get this important testing message up did not follow proper approval protocols. The sign has since been taken down.”

Walmart in a statement said: “We know how important access to testing is in our local communities, and there was nothing negative intended by this banner. The local teams were trying to raise awareness about the testing site in order to help more people in the community. As soon as we learned about it, it was taken down.”

Walmart turns department manager’s poem into video

Walmart has turned a poem penned by a department manager at a San Tan Valley, Arizona, store into a video it’s publishing across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. “Hearts of Magic” was filmed after hours at Store 3751 where Terrell “Trizz” Myles works, with help from FCB, Lobo and Man Made Music. (The virtual nature of his face mask is permissible under current policy, since the store was closed and there are obviously no shoppers passing by.) In a blog post, Myles says, he was inspired by fellow associates and wrote the skeleton of the poem in about 15 minutes. Myles is deaf in his right ear but can still feel vibrations in it. “Music is the only thing that kicks it off,” he says. “So every time I listen to music, music is like what makes me complete, in a way.” This follows a March ad in which Walmart drew on a group of employees singing “Lean on Me.”

May 21, 2020

Starbucks brings marketing push as more stores open

Starbucks is gearing up for a big seasonal push now that most of its U.S. stores are reopened, even if patrons can’t stick around to sip their coffee. Starbucks added two items to its permanent menu, an iced guava passion fruit drink, a grilled chicken and hummus protein box, and a seasonal unicorn cake pop. The guava drink is one of the iced beverages featured in a spot that will begin airing on TV in June. It follows another spot that debuted May 17 focused on how to place digital orders. 

The latest pieces of Starbucks’ marketing push come as more than 85 percent of its U.S. locations are open and it still plans to have more than 90 percent open by early June. Starbucks worked with Big Spaceship and 1stAveMachine on the summertime drinks spot, and with Big Spaceship and The Mill on the “welcome back” ad. 

May 20, 2020

Lots of grads took Krispy Kreme up on its free dozen offer

Krispy Kreme was busy on May 19, giving away dozens of doughnuts to 2020 graduates who showed up at its shops in their caps and gowns. The one-day offer was a hit according to the chain, which says hundreds of thousands came out to participate and that it turned off paid media because the word-of-mouth momentum and plenty of local news coverage was strong enough to spread the word. It was so popular that some locations ran out of the dozens, according to some posts on social media, including responses to the chain’s Instagram posts. As Thrillist reported, the 2020 dozen includes four different varieties of doughnuts: “creme-filled with chocolate icing, creme-filled with strawberry icing, cake batter filled, and original glazed with yellow icing.” Those who missed out can still get them for a few more days, but will have to pay for them.

United Airlines taps Clorox for enhanced cleaning

United Airlines has joined Clorox Co. and the Cleveland Clinic to launch United CleanPlus, which aims to improve cleaning programs at gate and terminal areas, starting with hub airports in Chicago and Denver. The program also will draw on advice from Cleveland Clinic medical experts on new technologies to keep passengers safe and adds to safety steps United already has implemented—including mask requirements for crew and passengers, boarding fewer passengers at a time, and letting customers take alternative flights when the cabin is 70 percent full. New steps will include electrostatic spraying of cabins before each flight, starting in June; adding touchless self-service kiosks in terminals; and, starting May 22, replacing economy snack and beverage services with an “all in one” economy snack bag that has a sanitizer wipe, 8.5-ounce water bottle, a Stroopwafel and package of pretzels.

May 19, 2020

Beach visits are down, but Hawaiian Tropic now has candles 

Leaving aside Florida spring break revelers and California beach scofflaws, pandemic restrictions have halted many a trip to the shore. Naturally, that’s been hard on sunscreen sales. But Edgewell Personal Care’s Hawaiian Tropic has a plan to make everyone, including its own marketers, feel better – a candle that smells like sunscreen, reminds people of the beach, and sells for $25 on eBay

“We’re seeing declines we’ve never seen before in this category,” says Anastasia Tobias, marketing director of Hawaiian Tropic. But, no, this doesn’t mean the brand is pivoting to candles for good. The idea is to help consumers find their happy place, with all proceeds from candle sales going to the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association. And Tobias reminds folks they still need sunscreen, even if they’re not headed to the Jersey Shore this weekend. “One in five people get skin cancer over their lifetimes,” she says. “Even if you’re in your back yard or taking a walk, sunscreen should be worn.”

Companies urge governments to think about climate in their COVID-19 efforts

Major corporations are asking governments around the world working on COVID-19 recovery efforts to keep climate change in mind at the same time. “In the face of these interconnected crises, we cannot afford to tackle one or the other,” the statement reads. “Human health depends on planetary health. We can — and must — tackle both.” The companies, including Colgate-Palmolive, Nestlé, Unilever and dozens of other marketers, are all part of the Science Based Targets Initiative. 

“We can beat the virus, address climate change and create new jobs through actions that move us from the grey to green economy,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. “Many companies are showing us that it is indeed possible and profitable to adopt sustainable, emission-reducing plans even during difficult times like this.”

The statement comes as governments work on COVID-19 aid and recovery packages while also preparing to submit their national climate plans under the Paris Agreement, Nestlé noted.

May 18, 2020

Americans aren’t so sick of pandemic ads after all

Americans are getting a little sick of COVID-19 ads, but not so much as the parodies might lead you to believe, according to new research by Ace Metrix. The firm has run a remarkable 497 coronavirus ads past its online survey panelists since March. And while the ads are trending less effective, they still beat overall ad norms handily.

The average Ace Score for COVID-19 ads peaked at 618 on March 29, falling to 576 as of May 10, but still well above the 543 for all ads. The pandemic genre gets relatively high marks for relevance and likeability and being empowering. But the percentage of ads seen as exploitative has risen steadily.

One recent ad that fared particularly well, scoring 707, was a 60-second spot from Unilever, highlighting efforts by the company and its partners to provide supplies to Feeding America and DirectRelief. Ace Metrix finds it does well by being specific, showing (not telling) what the company is doing differently to help, and steering clear of widely mocked somber piano music in favor of Jackie DeShannon’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” The highest-scoring COVID-19 ad of all has been Frito-Lay’s “It’s About People.” The lowest scoring was Bud Light’s “#BooTheCommish,” though an Ace Metrix spokeswoman says that scored better among NFL fans.

May 15, 2020

Lay’s raises money for Feeding America by highlighting ‘JoyGivers’

Lay’s latest coronavirus-driven campaign thanks people beyond first responders. The potato chip brand wants people to give social media shout outs to people who are sharing joy during the pandemic. It highlights some “JoyGivers” in a new TV spot from David & Goliath — the agency’s first work on Lay’s — with a montage that includes a dancing mail carrier and a girl who leaves dandelions on people’s front steps. For each #JoyGivers post, the PepsiCo brand says it will donate $50 to Feeding America, up to $1 million. 

Amazon debuts digital storefront for fashion designers

Amazon announced that it has partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue on a digital storefront created to help designers impacted by the pandemic. Called “Common Threads: Vogue x Amazon Fashion,” the site will offer products from 20 creatives including Adam Lippes, Batsheva, Derek Lam, and Alejandra Alonso Rojas. Amazon Fashion is also donating $500,000 to a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund initiative to help fashion manufacturing workers such as pattern makers and tailors.

May 14, 2020

Cosmetics ads disappeared last month, but should they?

Many beauty brands disappeared from Facebook and Instagram last month. That may be a bad idea, because the market may not be as bad as it looks. 

Pattern89, which tracks ads across Facebook and Instagram, using artificial intelligence to predict trends and performance of various content approaches, found imagery of lipstick fell 93 percent in April from a year ago, while the word “makeup” in ad copy fell 91 percent. The word “stylist” declined 92 percent.

On the other hand, mentions of “shampoo” rose 598 percent, “conditioner” 1,275 percent and “deodorant” 1,381 percent. 

Cosmetics sales, even in mass outlets that have stayed open, are indeed weak. L’Oreal USA’s Maybelline and Coty’s CoverGirl both saw sales slide 40 percent the four weeks ending May 3, according to IRI data from EvercoreISI. But skincare sales are much stronger, up 8 percent for Procter & Gamble Co. 

Survey firm Opinium finds even color cosmetics have fans amid the pandemic. True, 25 percent of Americans say they’re wearing less makeup, and 15 percent expect to continue that. But 44 percent say they’re still using makeup as “a form of self-care,” Opinium finds. And 28 percent miss wearing cosmetics.

On the upside for beauty marketers, 29 percent of respondents report using more skincare products on lockdown, while only 11 percent report using less. Those using more hair care products outnumber those using less by 25 to 12 percent. Even with color cosmetics, those using less were balanced some by 18 percent using more.

That suggests beauty marketers might be advised to use Facebook and Instagram to find those folks still using cosmetics, says Pattern89 CEO R.J. Talyor. 

While the pandemic effect on beauty ads has been stark, Talyor is surprised overall messaging on the social platforms hasn’t changed that dramatically. But a few broad patterns do emerge. Currently, 39 percent of Facebook and Instagram ads show a phone or a TV, he says. “We’re isolated. Art imitates life, and so everyone is shown at home with an electronic.” Also, images of people sleeping are up 104 percent now vs. “pre-COVID” days, he says. And since everyone is talking about haircuts, or lack thereof, imagery of haircuts is up 337 percent.

All this will change. Top advertisers revise creative on average once every 10.4 days, Talyor says. The firm regularly analyzes billions of ads from 1,100 brands, monitoring 49,000 content permutations against various performance measures to predict what will work.

Coors Light builds ‘Clone Machine’ to remedy Zoom fatigue

Coors Light is out today with a solution for Zoom fatigue. The brand and Leo Burnett have created “The Coors Light Clone Machine,” which allows people to record a 30-second loop of themselves looking interested that be exported to Zoom. “While we know beer can’t fix everything, Coors Light is here to help you take time to chill from a calendar full of Zoom calls with a trip to the fridge for a mountain-cold beer,” the brand said in a statement.

May 13, 2020

8:00 PM EDT 

Bud Light brings back ‘Real Men of Genius’

Anheuser-Busch InBev—which last month remade its iconic “whassup” campaign for the stay-at-home era—is again digging into its archives. The brewer today released an updated version of its “Real Men of Genius” campaign for Bud Light, with several ads adapted for the current times. The effort, called  “Stay At Home Humans of Genius,” includes online videos featuring “indoor sports maker,” “creative recipe sharer,” and  “air high five Inventor.”

The original  “Real Men of Genius” campaign was created by DDB Chicago in 1998 and won multiple awards. Originally meant for radio, it moved to TV in 2003. The brewer brought back a version last year called “Internet Heroes of Genius.”

The new ads come from the brewer’s in-house agency, known as draftLine. “Fans loved and engaged with Bud Light’s past programs ‘Real Heroes of Genius’ and ‘Internet Heroes of Genius,’ so in this unprecedented time of social distancing, Bud Light wants to celebrate those making staying at home more fun for us all,” Conor Mason, director of Bud Light’s digital marketing, said in a statement.

5:44 PM EDT 

At-home coloring could be featured in an M&M’s commercial

M&M’s is putting an artistic twist on gathering user-generated content to use in COVID-19 advertising. It wants consumers who are looking for an activity to do at home to color a page from its digital coloring book. Submissions are due by May 17. Then, the brand will pick some of the pieces and put them into a commercial with a togetherness theme, which will air in June, according to the brand.

12:07 PM EDT 

Almonds head to Twitch to reach the growing crowd of esports fans

The Almond Board of California often markets during sporting events. Now, with live sports on hold and events including the Olympics postponed, it switched its media over to Twitch, the live-streaming platform for gamers. The campaign includes banners, digital billboards and digital videos with lines such as “natural fuel for keeping up your kill streak” that speak to gamers. It marks the board’s first esports buy. The move coincides with Twitch seeing increased usage as more people are at home. “While we have long used live sports to promote the health and natural fuel elements of almonds, we saw an opportunity to shift a portion of our budget to the only ‘live’ sporting opportunities available now,” Jenn Freeman, North American director of marketing, Almond Board of California, said in a statement. Sterling-Rice Group developed new creative and planned media in a matter of weeks. Plans include partnerships with influencers set to begin in mid-May. 

May 12, 2020

12:31 PM EDT 

PepsiCo and Food Network lure Guy Fieri and Bill Murray for nacho showdown

PepsiCo Inc.’s fundraising efforts for the restaurant industry now include a celebrity matchup for these times: Guy Fieri and his son Hunter facing off against Bill Murray and his son Homer in a nacho-making competition to raise awareness of and donations for the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. The “Nacho Average Showdown” will be presented by PepsiCo’s Tostitos brand on May 15, and is being judged by Shaquille O’Neal and Terry Crews. Carla Hall is set to emcee the event on the Food Network Facebook page. Other brands participating include Uber Eats, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Ecolab, Modelo Negra, Tyson Foods and Food Network, PepsiCo says.

Later that night, PepsiCo is hosting a virtual dinner and a movie night featuring the film “A Fine Line,” in support of the restaurant industry’s The Great American Takeout. PepsiCo is also selling a t-shirt featuring the Pepsi logo, as drawn by John Krasinski’s daughters and shown on his online series “Some Good News” in late April, with proceeds going to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.

12:30 PM EDT 

Closed for now, experiential venues test alternatives

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on experiential event venues, which have closed during lockdowns. And they could see germ-aware consumers continue to avoid even after restrictions are lifted. To that end, some companies are getting creative. The Museum of Ice Cream is offering delivery and has touted an “experience kit,” complete with ice cream socks. The Sloomoo Institute, an interactive play space for slime in New York City, has also branched out. Before the pandemic, Sloomoo sold slime online, but now, the company has introduced subscription boxes, DIY kits and is using Zoom for online classes and instruction. “Slime is a great stress reliever, a source of fun and has been known to help with mental wellness,” the company wrote in a press release, noting the substance can help “both children and adults to relax.”

10:26 AM EDT 

Walmart tries drive-thru sampling in Arkansas

If you thought sampling was dead during the pandemic, Walmart has another idea. Earth’s biggest retailer on Friday and Saturday tried drive-thru sampling, complete with multiple stations and masked employees handing samples on trays through car windows. It happened outside a Rogers, Arkansas, store close to Walmart headquarters, where it frequently tests new concepts. Research and store audit firm Field Agent, also based in Northwest Arkansas, was on hand and reports results in a blog and video post. The display included mannequins to show spring and summer styles, QR codes where drive-by customers could get more info, and physical samples from brands including Johnson & Johnson’s Aveeno body wash, Merci chocolate and Aha sparkling water. It’s unclear whether Walmart will roll the concept widely, but with thousands of stores and big parking lots, it has plenty of opportunity.

May 11, 2020

3:10 PM EDT 

BJ’s tackles hungry toddlers in new campaign

The ear-piercing beginning of BJ’s Wholesale Club’s new ad—“I’m hungry!” whined by a toddler—is all-too familiar to parents right now, as many deal with the constant stress of family meal prep alongside the anxieties of homeschooling and working remotely. The commercial, created with New York agency Terri & Sandy, shows a real-life family cooking through the crisis—including kids who try to serve themselves, potentially expired milk and all the dishes that go with it—as it highlights the ease of the grocery chain’s family-size delivery packs.

The ad is a light-hearted, humorous look at the some of the food-related realities of parenting during the pandemic.

“Our family-size packs are an affordable solution to keep families and refrigerators full, and our pick-up club and grocery delivery make it more convenient to shop at BJ’s,” said Donna Noa, VP of brand marketing at BJ’s, in a statement. The 30-second ad was directed by Todd Selby, who starred in it along with his own family. The ad is part of a broader campaign that Terri & Sandy devised in just two weeks. It also includes 30-and 15-second videos for digital and social channels.

11:35 AM EDT 

PepsiCo dives into d-to-c with two sites that cater to pantry loading

PepsiCo Inc. on Monday unveiled and, two sites for shoppers to buy products such as Gatorade, Quaker oatmeal, Doritos and Tostitos directly from the manufacturer. The sites were developed in less than a month, PepsiCo says, and come as more shoppers have become comfortable with buying groceries online. Most orders will be received within two business days, PepsiCo says.

The sites don’t carry the full range of PepsiCo products — its soft drinks aren’t featured, and neither are refrigerated Tropicana juices. But there are plenty of basics and treats people have been stocking up on as they spend more time at home. PantryShop, as its name suggests, offers pantry items packed together under themes such as “Rise & Shine,” which includes Quaker cereals and Tropicana shelf-stable juice, and “Workout & Recovery,” with Muscle Milk, bottles of Propel, and Gatorade bars. The kits are $29.95 or $49.95, with free shipping. The snacks site has products such as chips, dips and crackers, with introductory free shipping on orders of $15 or more.

While stockpiling was seen earlier on during the pandemic, snacks have expiration dates and there’s a repurchase cycle being seen in the snack business, PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta said late last month

May 8, 2020

6:07 PM EDT 

Alice+Olivia founder launches jobs platform for creatives 

Stacey Bendet, founder and CEO of retailer Alice+Olivia, has launched a free jobs platform for creatives. The effort, called Creatively, is a modern and stylish take on the typical jobs listing site. On, creatives can post their portfolios, create lists of businesses they follow and search for available positions.

Bendet says the idea for the site originally began when Alice+Olivia, which has an internal marketing team of 12, was having a difficult time finding the talent it needed. The site has been in the works for a few years, but was released early because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of creatives to be out-of-work. “We wanted to offer something to students so they have a place right now to start their professional careers,” she says. “This will be the place where companies like mine are looking to for talent. We really believe that the imagination and skill of creatives is needed now more than ever.”

The website is in beta, and will not charge monthly or annual membership fees at the start. At launch, several schools, brands and agencies, such as Academy of Art University, Collins, Neiman Marcus, Drybar and others are posting jobs or highlighting creative work. Benet worked with the Founders Group for the branding for the website.

5:30 PM EDT 

Peloton rival markets to home-bound consumers

Peloton isn’t the only home gym equipment seeing the benefit of quarantined consumers desperate for activity. Gym Source, which sells fitness equipment, said visits to its website jumped by nearly 150 percent in March. To capitalize on the new opportunity, the New York-based company has tapped Looney Advertising and Branding, its first agency in several years, according to a spokeswoman, for a new ad campaign. 

The #YourHomeYourGymChallenge will run in regional ads encouraging customers to enjoy at-home workouts during quarantine. Customers are asked to share such exercise on social media and possibly be featured in another commercial. Gym Source is spending six figures on the push, which includes 30-and 45-second regional spots.

3:25 PM EDT 

Progressive uses old footage for new campaign

Insurers like Progressive and Geico that are used to continually debuting fresh and often humorous creative campaigns are having to get even more creative than usual during the lockdowns. Progressive released a new spot using existing assets and footage from nearly a dozen other spots in its “Superstore” campaign, featuring the insurer’s characters Flo and Jamie. The 30-second commercial includes a voiceover from Progressive CEO Tricia Griffith, who speaks about the brand’s cost-saving strategies for customers. The spot was produced in “record time,” according to a spokeswoman, by Progressive’s in-house agency Ninety6. Several marketers are pursuing similar strategies—Etsyrecently ran a commercial with footage from its holiday campaign, for example—but as consumers begin craving fresh content, it’s unclear how much runway such efforts can provide.

1:20 PM EDT 

Molson Coors plugs “scream for wine” hotline while Smirnoff touts a ‘vrunch guide’ 

Just as Potbelly plugs “child-free parking spots,” for stressed-out parents, a Molson Coors brand is touting a “zero-judgement venting hotline for moms.” The so-called “scream for wine” hotline comes from the Movo, a new wine spritzer brand, and is timed with Mother’s Day. Moms calling 1-833-3-SCREAM-4-WINE will get the chance to “open up about complicated equations in their kids’ math lessons, embarrassing meeting interruptions, needy spouses, baking fails and other common injustices wrought by the stay-at-home era,” according to Molson Coors. The gimmick includes a chance for moms to win some free Movo. The agency behind it is Mono.

Meantime, Smirnoff partnered with Laverne Cox to publish a “Mother’s Day Vrunch Guide.” (Vrunch stands for virtual lunch; yes, these are the times we are living in). The guide includes cocktail recipes,  pop-culture terminology quiz and “Laverne’s guide to twerking from home.”

May 7, 2020

12:17 PM EDT 

Chick-fil-A gives kids an at-home musical project

Chick-fil-A is creating a virtual band to help kids from kindergarten through 12th grade “#BandTogether” as they continue to stay home. The leading chicken chain wants them to grab their instruments to help create a rendition of “Rockin’ Robin” that will be shared on its social accounts and elsewhere. There’s a little bit of work involved for parents, who can download the sheet music and lyrics, film the video of the child’s performance, fill out a talent release form and email the entry in by the end of May 11. The project was done with the VIA Agency. It isn’t the only musical concept from a chicken chain. Popeyes wants out-of-work musicians to record its jingle

May 6, 2020

2:18 PM EDT 

Gap begins reopening stores

Following the announcement of Macy’s reopening last week, Gap Inc. said it will begin opening a selection of its stores in Texas this weekend. The retailer plans to open the remainder of its 800 Old Navy, Banana Republic, Janie and Jack, Intermix, Athleta and namesake stores by the end of the month. As part of the reopening, Gap is adding curbside pickup to 75 shops, a program it plans to expand to more locations. In stores, the company will install hand sanitizer stations, plexiglass partitions by cash registers, and signage promoting social distancing. Gap fitting rooms and restrooms will be closed, and any product returns will be quarantined for 24 hours.

1:30 PM EDT 

Zappos goes beyond footwear with customer service

Zappos customer service representatives might have been used to helping consumers choose sizes and locate special styles of shoes. Now, they’re offering services far beyond footwear help with “Customer Service for Anything.” Originally rolled out in April, the hotline encourages shoppers to ask for help with non-sartorial issues like where to find Thai noodle takeout, apps for virtual workouts and how to get flour for making bread at home. Customers can get in touch via text, phone or email. Since the service launched last month, Zappos has fielded over 1,000 calls, according to a spokeswoman. One customer included a director of rehabilitation innovation at Mount Sinai Health who needed help finding pulse oximeters for patients for monitoring COVID-19 symptoms remotely. Other customers have asked for help finding 10-pound hand weights, open blood banks and DIY mask-making tutorials.  

8:30 AM EDT 

Hershey’s Super Hero bars go to heroes on the front line

Hershey’s is giving the first batch of its upcoming Super Hero Milk Chocolate bars to front-line workers. The bars, made in partnership with DC, are set to be sold starting in July. “A small gesture for their heroic efforts during these unprecedented times,” Hershey’s said of the chocolate bars making their way to healthcare workers. The rectangular pieces of the bar feature the symbols of Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman, as well as the word “bam” written in a comic-book style. The DC characters also grace the product wrappers. The company is sending pallets of the new bars to places like hospitals, police stations, and fire houses, focusing on some of the areas hit the hardest by COVID like New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

The launch comes as the debut of the next “Wonder Woman” movie, “Wonder Woman 1984” has been delayed due to COVID-19. It was pushed from a June 5 release to Aug. 14.  

May 5, 2020

9:47 AM EDT 

As Wendy’s kicks off a virtual treasure hunt, diners ask ‘where’s the beef?’

Wendy’s, the No. 3 hamburger chain known for its “Where’s the Beef?” ads from the 1980s that blasted rivals for tiny burgers and its fresh-never-frozen square patties, is in a bit of a predicament: it’s running out of beef at some locations. The U.S. meat supply chain is under pressure after some slaughterhouses closed due to outbreaks of COVID-19 among employees. Stifel analyst Chris O’Cull says he checked Wendy’s menus across the country and found roughly 5 percent to 10 percent were displaying chicken-only menu items.

Wendy’s acknowledges the issue, saying in a statement: “It is widely known that beef suppliers across North America are currently facing production challenges. We continue to supply hamburgers to all of our restaurants, with deliveries two or three times a week, which is consistent with normal delivery schedules. However, some of our menu items may be temporarily limited at some restaurants in this current environment. We’re working diligently to minimize the impact to our customers and restaurants, and continue to work with our supplier partners to monitor this closely.”

The shortages are coming to light just as Wendy’s hid gift card codes across digital brand assets including Spotify, Twitter and its own site, saying it plans to give away $5,000 in prizes from May 4 through May 8.

Wendy’s isn’t the only company facing shortages. Costco is currently limiting its members to buying three fresh meat items per trip, including beef, pork and poultry products. 

7:35 AM EDT 

What brands have planned for virtual Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo has been a big day for food and drink marketers for years and 2020 was gearing up to be an especially big day to celebrate as May 5 falls on a Tuesday, leading to plenty of #TacoTuesday possibilities. Coronavirus may have paused some of those efforts but many marketers are comfortable having some fun after a few somber weeks. Plenty are promoting online gatherings with fundraisers and other COVID-19-related efforts. Here are a few that caught our eye.

-Patrón’s plans include an Instagram Live event featuring 20 bartenders across the country giving tips on at-home margaria making. Patrón VP of Marketing Adrian Parker will appear live at 11:30 a.m. today on Add Age Remotely to discuss how the tequila brand is leaning into e-commerce.

-Procter & Gamble is a “major corporate champion” of the celebrity-packed livestream “Altísimo Live!” The online event seeks $5 donations, with a goal of $3 million total, for the Farmworkers’ Pandemic Relief Fund created by Justice for Migrant Women and Hispanics in Philanthropy. It is being co-hosted by Eva Longoria and iHeartLatino Chairman and Chief Creative Officer Enrique Santos.

-Tostitos teamed up with husband and wife Mario and Courtney Lopez for “Salsa For Cinco,” an online Salsa dance fundraiser for the UnidosUS Esperanza/Hope Fund that will provide emergency funding for low-income Latino families. The dancing will be shown on Mario Lopez’s Instagram Live at 7 p.m. EDT and Tostitos is donating each time someone tunes in.

-Chi-Chi’s salsa is offering private 30-minute mariachi sessions in what it’s calling “Singo de Mayo.” Those who are selected are given a Zoom link for them to invite their friends to the online fiesta, which is being done in partnership with the Mariachi Heritage Foundation, a non-profit that’s also getting a donation from the salsa marketer. Those who aren’t selected for their own concert can tune in to a virtual happy hour concert from 7-8 p.m. EDT on YouTube.

-Taco Bell posted recipes on its site for tacos and drinks and is selling $25 at-home taco bar kits. 

-Chipotle is having vlogger and brand fan David Dobrik help decide which TikTok users win the #ChipotleSponsorMe challenge. Winners get the chain’s “celebrity card,” usually reserved for celebs, athletes and influencers, which entitle the holders to free food. For the masses, Chipotle is offering free queso blanco on May 5, and free delivery through May 10.

-Avocados From Mexico’s #HomemadeCinco push includes a virtual wheel on its site for ideas of unique ingredients to add to guacamole, such as pistachios or chorizo, and the ability to add items to an online shopping list to pick up contactless orders at nearby retailers. Those who share their recipes on social media can win in a sweepstakes that includes a $500 grand prize. 

-Corona is promoting a #CincoAtHome Corona Beer Benefit Concert with Dillon Francis and Diplo, among others. The event begins at 9 p.m. EDT on LiveNation’s Twitter feed. Corona plans to donate $1 for every viewer, up to $500,000, to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.

May 4, 2020

6:03 PM EDT 

Founder of Schmidt’s Naturals helps entrepreneurs with grants and mentors

Jaime Schmidt, the founder of deodorant company Schmidt’s Naturals, has announced a pitching competition to support entrepreneurs who are trying to build new businesses during the pandemic. The program, called “The Entrepreneurial Dream Project,” is being run through Supermaker, an online community for entrepreneurs, started by Schmidt and her husband Chris Cantino.  

The top ten applicants will be mentored by Mark Cuban, Rebecca Minkoff, Harry’s and Warby Parker co-founder Jeff Raider and Annie’s Homegrown CEO John Foraker, among other leaders in Supermaker’s mentor network. The top two applicants will also split a $100,000 grant. Companies’ applications will be judged by their business plans and how they plan to use the money, among other notes. Only companies whose products were made available in 2019 or will be available within the next six months are eligible. Submissions are open until May 31, 2020.

12:20 AM EDT 

Miller Lite gets Busch to back down, then basks in Jordan doc product shot 

It’s been an eventful few days for Miller Lite’s twitter handle. First the brand laid the smackdown on Busch after its competitor tweeted that “If 2020 was a beer, it’d be Miller Lite.” Busch later deleted the tweet, but Adweek’s David Griner captured the exchange.

Then, Miller Lite started tweeting pictures of goats all weekend. Turns out it was a prelude to Miller Lite’s appearance in ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary. The brew got some valuable screen time in last night’s episode that showed Jordan and his teammates enjoying some postgame brews back in the 1990s. (Goat, of course, stands for greatest of all time.) Of course these days Jordan seems to have another alcohol of choice, at least judging by the glass of what appears to be bourbon he is sipping during sit-down interviews for the documentary.

11:23 AM EDT 

McDonald’s is in on the puzzle craze—in Belgium

Puzzles were so popular early into people’s pandemic stay-at-home routines that retailers were selling out of them. McDonald’s Belgium found a way to bring the brand into the now-popular pastime, giving away 500-piece burger puzzles to some brand fans who posted about them on social media. The campaign, which of course is likely to spur cravings for orders from McDonald’s, comes from TBWA\Belgium. No word yet on whether McDonald’s plans to bring these to the U.S.

Cholula is planning a restaurant fundraiser for Taco Tuesday

Vice’s creative agency, Virtue, won lead strategic and creative duties for Cholula Hot Sauce across North America. To kick off the partnership, they are hosting a virtual “Tacothon” to raise money for independent restaurants impacted by the pandemic. The event will be held on Tuesday, May 5, at 7 p.m. EDT on Instagram Live and will feature NBA stars Dwyane Wade and Victor Oladipo; actor Sophia Bush; chefs Tom Collcchio, Christina Tosl and Aarón Sánchez; among others—the celebrities will tune in from their individual Instagram handles. Cholula will pledge $1 for every viewer that joins, up to $100,000, with a minimum contribution of $50,000, to help save independent restaurants via The brand has also been delivering tacos and Cholula Hot Sauce to essential workers including medical staff at hospitals each week through its Operation Taco Tuesday initiative.

May 1, 2020

2:11 PM EDT 

Reebok promotes its new giveback program

This month, Reebok is urging its customers to recognize someone they know who is working on the front lines of the pandemic through a #ReebokLove program. Until May 24, consumers can nominate a “hero in your community” —including delivery people, postal workers, and health care workers—on by filling out a form explaining why that person deserves a free pair of shoes. The brand does not have a number of pairs it is planning to give away, according to a spokeswoman, who says Reebok wants to fulfill as many nominations as possible. In addition, Reebok is donating $10,000 to a fund for fitness teachers and instructors who are out of work because of the coronavirus, and a portion of website sales to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund created by the World Health Organization.

1:20 PM EDT 

Mercedes-Benz car show on  Zoom draws Martha Stewart, other celebs

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the summer’s most prominent car show originally scheduled for August 16, was cancelled last week. Mercedes-Benz still wants its car collectors to participate, so its hosting its own virtual showcase over Zoom.

On May 1 at 5 p.m. EDT,  participants will be showing off their Mercedes-Benz vehicles and share what they love about their cars in an event called “Concours de Zoom.” At the end of the event, a donation will be made to the American Red Cross. Some famous car collectors will be part of the event. Jay Leno, Martha Stewart, Ludacris, actress Madelaine Petsch, PGA Tour pro Rickie Fowler and Canadian filmmaker Cole Walliser are all involved.

Anyone can watch with the Zoom link, which Mercedes-Benz has shared to its social channels:

April 30, 2020

12:49 PM EDT 

Brands promote at-home internships 

Some marketers are still seeking summer interns, even though they won’t be at the office. Natural Light wants to find a “Natty-Qualified individual and will task them with the utmost responsibility, launching a new innovation,” the AB InBev brand says. That application process includes posting about their flavor innovation idea on social media. Hormel Foods is having 60 college students work 40 hours per week, from home, in its paid internship program. Hormel will send them technology resources, such as computers for lots of Microsoft Teams and WebEx meetings and virtual networking opportunities. There will also be some at-home cooking. And while the overall job market is tough, Hormel says it has averaged a 70 percent conversion rate of its past interns getting full-time gigs. Please note: This post has been updated to reflect that Hormel announced it has already found its interns, it is not searching for them. 

10:55 AM EDT 

Moving company offers free services to domestic violence victims 

As reports emerge of a rise in cases of domestic violence during the pandemic lockdowns, one moving company is offering its services free of charge. College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving, which is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, will move violence victims to safer locations. The company is working with local shelters to verify and help those in need of a transition. “Anyone in a domestic violence situation should first contact the police or a domestic violence shelter immediately. The shelter will contact us to coordinate the move,” College Hunks wrote on its site. The company also promoted the initiative on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

10:20 AM EDT 

Google forms COVID-19 task force to detect fraudulent ads

Google saw a “sharp spike” in fraudulent ads for in-demand products like facemasks during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the company said Thursday. “These ads promoted products listed significantly above market price, misrepresented the product quality to trick people into making a purchase or were placed by merchants who never fulfilled the orders,” according to Google. 

The company says it has since developed a dedicated COVID-19 task force, built new detection technology and improved its existing enforcement systems to prevent such ads from appearing. The news was shared in Google’s annual bad ads report. The search giant said it removed nearly 3 billion nefarious ads in 2019, up roughly 21 percent from the previous year.

April 29, 2020

11:55 AM EDT 

Stores are starting to carefully reopen

As lockdown restrictions begin to lift in some states, stores and malls are weighing their reopening options. Simon Property Group, the country’s largest operator of malls and shopping centers, is planning to reopen 49 properties between May 1 and May 4. In an update from President and Chief Administrative Officer John Rulli, the company said some properties in Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas will open May1; some properties in Indiana will open May 2; and some in Missouri will open May 4. 

Simon was one of the last malls to close in March, despite many of the brands in their malls closing earlier. Rulli said mall and store employees will undergo health screenings and that social distancing will be encouraged through measures such as spaced out seating in food courts and urinals in restrooms and the closure of high-interaction areas like play spaces. Best Buy said it will be doing appointment-only store visits as it adjusts to the new normal. The electronics chain is also returning to home visits for troubleshooting products, though it will follow new safety guidelines, according to CEO Corie Barry. “The conversation is now starting to move from what it means to be an ‘essential’ retailer, to what it means to be a ‘safe’ retailer,” Barry wrote in a blog post on Best Buy’s site.

10:00 AM EDT 

Mattel celebrates a new group of heroes

Toymaker Mattel is debuting a new collection of play figures designed to honor those front-line workers who are helping to keep consumers safe during the pandemic. The “Thank You Heroes” initiative will include collectibles that come in two versions: A 6-inch action figure-size, and the classic small Fisher Price Little People style. They are both modeled after doctors, EMT workers, delivery workers and grocery store workers. Consumers can purchase the dolls, which will ship through the end of the year, directly from Mattel. All net proceeds will go to nonprofit First Responders First.

“We’re focused on making sure people see play as essential but recognizing that our toys can also bring a slight smile during a difficult time,” says Chuck Scothon, general manager at Mattel’s Fisher Price and global head of infant and preschool at Mattel. Mattel will market the new offering via its traditional channels including email and social media, Scothon says.

April 28, 2020

5:24 PM EDT 

J&J has a vaccine, but its Pepcid AC gets treated like a cure

Johnson & Johnson – at least per social-sentiment tracker Influential – has done better than any other marketer at improving its image during the COVID-19 crisis. That likely owes to developing and testing one of the first vaccine candidates, starting to build a factory to produce it, and promising to do it all not-for-profit in Promoted Tweets and Facebook ads featuring Chairman-CEO Alex Gorsky. 

Now many folks seem to think J&J already has a cure in the form of its Pepcid AC over-the-counter acid reducer, which as of Tuesday meant the brand was out of stock at all major online retailers listed on the brand’s website as well as in many stores. The research behind this “cure” is more substantial than for, say, Lysol. But it still generates publicity J&J now feels the need to address.

The run on Pepcid and private-label famotidine equivalents began Sunday with the online journal Science reporting researchers at Northwell Health in New York are testing intravenous injections of famotidine at nine times the heartburn dose to treat COVID-19. Researchers had noticed in a small sample of critically ill patients that those who’d been taking the heartburn drug were dying at only about half the rate of others. They kept their work quiet until they had a stockpile of the drug, anticipating the very run they’ve since unleashed.

Now it’s up to J&J to tell people not to take Pepcid AC to treat COVID-19. In a statement, J&J points out that Pepcid is a heartburn drug that “is not indicated for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 and should be taken only as directed on the product label. We are experiencing increased consumer-driven demand for Pepcid and supply is temporarily out of stock in some stores and online. We are taking all possible measures to maximize product availability in a timely and quality-based manner.”

The Pepcid run is clearly good for business, but how this affects J&J’s reputation is harder to say. If the vaccine doesn’t work, maybe the heartburn drug will. But either way, Influential finds J&J has had a 61 percent increase in positive social-media sentiment during the coronavirus crisis. AT&T came in second, up 58 percent based on its pledge to keep paying support staff even if their services aren’t needed, followed by Amazon with a 52 percent jump for pledging $20 million to help accelerate coronavirus diagnostic testing and hire 75,000 workers (on top of 100,000 hired previously).

11:52 AM EDT 

Dunkin’ offers a day of free coffee and donuts for healthcare workers

Food giveaways continue to be rolled out during the coronavirus pandemic. The latest: Dunkin’ will give healthcare workers who stop at its shops on May 6 a free medium coffee and donut, in honor of National Nurses Day. It also announced a $200,000 grant to First Descents to create an adventure-based program for healthcare professionals experiencing trauma. The Dunkin’ announcement comes as McDonald’s has been seeing strong redemptions of its “Thank You Meals” for first responders, which are slated to end on May 5. 

10:30 AM EDT 

Grandparent-style shoes for seniors in need

Footwear brand Hush Puppies is debuting a giveaway program for seniors who may be lonely and in need of support—both emotionally and physically. The company is giving away 5,000 pairs of Power Walker shoes, what it describes as “grandpa style,” in a program that asks customers to send the shoes via a form on their website to those seniors in their lives who could use a lift. According to a Hush Puppies spokeswoman citing a report in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 43 percent of U.S. adults who are at least 60 years old were already feeling lonely prior to the pandemic. Hush Puppies will also give 500 pairs of Power Walkers, which retail for about $100, to a retirement home in Grand Rapids, Michigan that is near its Rockford, Michigan headquarters.

9:15 AM EDT 

Cherry pit spitting and other ESPN 8: The Ocho events make their flagship ESPN debut

ESPN announced that ESPN 8: The Ocho — programming dedicated to seldom-seen sports inspired by the 2004 movie “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” — will run for 11 hours on ESPN on May 2. While ESPNU and ESPN2 have aired ESPN 8: The Ocho programming before, this marks its first appearance on flagship ESPN, in what may be the clearest sign yet of people’s desire to watch any sports programming. The schedule begins with one live event from Iceland, as Thor Bjornsson attempts a world-record deadlift of 1,104 pounds, at noon ET. The rest of the day includes shows featuring challenges such as arm wrestling, cherry pit spitting, and lawn mower racing. ESPN 8 typically airs on Aug. 8, but most recently ran on March 22 on ESPN2, in an earlier attempt to fill the live sports void.

April 27, 2020

2:00 PM EDT 

Retail group tries to help stores reopen

As some states begin to reopen non-essential businesses, the National Retail Federation is trying to help. On Monday, the group announced Operation Open Doors, which provides guidelines and assistance for brands trying to bring their brick-and-mortar stores back into operation during the pandemic. The NRF separated retailers’ priorities into four areas: health and safety, people and personnel, logistics and supply chain and litigation and liability, and has resources available online to help with each. But the group stressed that it needs government help with such efforts. 

In a letter to President Trump and his administration, the NRF outlined what reopening businesses needs to include—social distancing and hygiene, including signage and plexiglass shields; flexible rules on personal protective equipment  for stores that might not have enough in supply; and health screenings and COVID-19 testing equipment.

“As a community, retailers are preparing for new processes, consumer behaviors and legal requirements or restrictions, where there was once no playbook,” wrote NRF CEO and President Matthew Shay in the letter. “Our country must not allow a lack of resources, regulations that are not fit-for-purpose, and the fear of litigation to delay efforts to return to work and live safely and sustainably.”  

12:11 PM EDT 

Restaurants get a celebrity-filled shout out on John Krasinski’s ‘Some Good News’

The fifth episode of John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” feel-good video series focused on the plight of the restaurant industry and how people within and outside the industry are giving back during the coronavirus pandemic. As Krasinksi pointed out, more than 15 million people work in the U.S. restaurant industry. “These are the people who once defined your neighborhood and are now defining humanity,” the actor said. He hosted an online potluck, with recipes submitted by fans. Krasinski had them watch along as Stanley Tucci, Martha Stewart, David Chang and Guy Fieri recreated their dishes. Fieri was also in for a surprise, as Krasinski told him that PepsiCo was donating $3 million to a fundraising effort he is part of, the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. Much like the shoutout AT&T got on the web series earlier this month, the PepsiCo news was announced with a homemade logo sign.

April 24, 2020

3:01 PM EDT 

Skechers says sales are skyrocketing

Many consumers might be in slippers, but a fair amount of others are buying Skechers, apparently. The sneaker brand reported such a robust rise in online sales this spring that it is likely the envy of many other struggling retailers. E-commerce sales were up 250 percent month-to-date for the period ending April 23, compared with the year-earlier period, Skechers executives said on a conference call to discuss earnings. “We are learning that during the crisis consumers still want comfort, quality and value in a brand they trust,” said David Weinberg, chief operating officer, on the call. Overall for the first quarter, online sales were up 70 percent. The vast majority of Skechers brick-and-mortar stores remain closed, though the brand has begun to open a few locations in China.

2:58 PM EDT 

Nestlé’s online sales jump during COVID-19

Nestlé’s quarterly report included a 29.4 percent jump in online sales in the quarter, bringing e-commerce to more than 10 percent of the Swiss food giant’s total sales for the first time. In North America, the Purina pet care unit was the biggest contributor to total growth, with momentum in e-commerce and premium brands. The Purina Pro Plan and Fancy Feast brands both grew at a double-digit clip, as did the products Nestlé sells in the veterinary space. But people weren’t just feeding their pets, of course. Beverages including the Starbucks, Nescafé and Coffee-mate lines, grew at a high single-digit rate. Frozen food did well, too, driven by brands such as DiGiorno, Stouffer’s and Hot Pockets. And, no surprise to anyone baking more, there was demand for Toll House chocolate chips. Hershey also saw increased demand for products such as its baking chips.

2:53 PM EDT 

Heinz will give $2,000 grants to diners based on fan votes

Heinz for Diners is a new initiative meant to help independently-owned diners, which are among the restaurants suffering right now. The move comes as Heinz ketchup bottles have long been ubiquitous on diner tables, including in the brand’s Super Bowl spot. Heinz plans to send $2,000 checks to 500 diners, for total support of $1 million. Heinz is asking people to nominate their favorite local diners, through May 31. “For decades, diners’ doors have been open to all of us,” Dalia Adler, the Heinz brand building lead at Kraft Heinz, said in statement. “At a time where every bit counts, we want to do what we can to help take care of these special places that are so much more to our families than just a restaurant.” 

12:35 PM EDT 

More bleach brand backlash for Trump 

More brand marketers early Friday joined RB, marketer of Lysol, to squash the notion put forward by Donald Trump on Thursday that it might be a good idea to inject disinfectants to fight COVID-19.  

“Disinfectants are meant to kill germs or viruses on hard surfaces,” according to a statement by the American Cleaning Institute. “Under no circumstances should they ever be used on one’s skin, ingested or injected internally.”

Trump’s suggestion and social-media reaction to it has been a huge fountain of unwanted publicity for ACI members, which also include Procter & Gamble Co. Lysol was joined by P&G’s Tide Pods among the top four Twitter trending topics early Friday, as Trump’s comments led to a resurgence in talk about eating Tide Pods. P&G declined to comment beyond the ACI statement.

“Bleach and other disinfectants are not suitable for consumption or injection under any circumstances,” according to a statement from the Clorox Co. “People should always read the label for proper usage instructions. Disinfecting surfaces with bleach is one of the ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s critical that everyone understands the facts in order to keep themselves safe and healthy, which is why we continue to educate people about how to use disinfectants safely and effectively against COVID-19.”

A large bottle of Clorox Bleach adorned the top of the Drudge Report from Thursday until Friday morning above the headline: “TRUMP: INJECT DISINFECTANTS INTO BODY?”. By late morning, Drudge had removed the Clorox bottle and replaced it with a picture of Trump above the headline: “DON’T DRINK THE BLEACH!” But the Clorox spokesman said the company didn’t request that change. 

April 23, 2020

3:17 PM EDT 

Unilever decreases out-of-home spend

Unilever is “reviewing all discretionary marketing spend to ensure it’s both effective and appropriate,” which includes moving money from out-of-home ads and toward faster-growing categories like skin cleansing, home and hygiene, said Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly, as the company reported flat organic sales results Thursday. With advertising production mostly halted and media rates declining, it’s not hard to save money in marketing, Pitkethly said. But the appropriateness part of the review also has meant temporarily shifting the “Dirt Is Good” positioning of Omo and Persil laundry detergents to a “Home Is Good” message encouraging people to stay inside.

Stock-up buying largely in the U.S. drove Unilever’s North American sales up 4.8 percent, which was offset by declines in emerging markets, prestige beauty and foodservice. Foodservice sales are off around two thirds in markets with lockdowns, said CEO Alan Jope.

3:05 PM EDT 

Snack innovation in the age of coronavirus

A mashup snack people don’t need but may really want to try while stuck at home will hit stores in May. Mondelēz International confirmed the launch of Chips Ahoy Sour Patch Kids cookies. Both brands are owned by Mondelēz, making this seemingly disturbing limited-edition product a real thing, right when people are home and might need to restock their pantries. It describes the product as “the crunchy, sweet texture of a Chips Ahoy cookie, combined with sweet and sour candy bits inspired by Sour Patch Kids candy. It’s a unique combination and a new, bold experience.” And here’s what Junk Banter had to say on Instagram: “When we look back at the effect the pandemic has had on the junk food industry, this is the product that will sum it all up better than words can. The purest symbol of self-isolation induced madness. And nobody around to stop it from reaching market. May God help us all.”

April 22, 2020

3:30 PM EDT 

Macy’s July 4th fireworks show goes on

Despite the uncertainty around much of the retail industry, including its own nearly 130,000 workers, the majority of whom are furloughed, Macy’s says it is moving forward with its annual July 4th fireworks display in New York City. Bill DeBlasio, the city’s mayor, wrote on Twitter that “Summer’s going to be very different in our city this year, but I can promise you one thing: we’re working with @Macys to find a safe way to celebrate the Fourth of July.” The department store chain has been hosting the summer extravaganza since 1976, according to a spokeswoman for the company, which according to reports is looking to financial advisors to help it weather the current economy. She says that this year’s show will be different than previous years, however. “Together with our partners in the City of New York, we are reimagining how to safely share the nation’s largest 4th of July fireworks show with America again this year,” she says. “This year’s show will be a celebration of the strength and resilience of New York City and will honor frontline workers across America.  

2:32 PM EDT 

Denny’s is your new gamer friend — with discounts

As people are stuck at home and likely playing more video games than usual, Denny’s is getting itself into the culture. Denny’s is now moonlighting as a gamer on PS4 and Xbox One, where it plays as Dennys247. It’s also on Nintendo Switch, where it hit the limit on its number of friends on the platform in less than a day. The diner brand is giving codes and discounts to the people it connects with in gaming. And it’s seeing some fan engagement with gaming-related posts on Twitter and Instagram

1:19 PM EDT 

This franchisor has the oddest pandemic pitch we’ve seen yet

As restaurant operators struggle to stay in business, one chain is pitching the pandemic as a unique business opportunity. Paris Baguette issued a press release making its bullish pitch that now is the time to invest in opening up its shops, and included mentions of the Black Death in the 1300s, SARS and the Great Recession. It’s too soon to say whether restaurant workers who have found themselves out of work will invest in opening a shop. As Restaurant Business pointed out in its take on the news, “This is uncharted territory. There were no franchises during the plague, after all.” 

April 21, 2020

6:02 PM EDT 

‘I think there’s fatigue in cooking’ Chipotle CEO says, explaining sales improvement

Chipotle Mexican Grill’s comparable sales fell substantially in the most recent week of April, declining by a high-teens percentage versus the same week in 2019 (adjusted for Easter). But that’s a huge improvement from a 35 percent drop in the week ended March 29. How does Chipotle — which has done everything from offering free delivery and giveaways for first responders to hosting online events featuring celebrities — explain the improvement? “I think there’s fatigue in cooking,” CEO Brian Niccol said on Chipotle’s quarterly conference call. Pantry loading was common as the pandemic began but that behavior has slowed down and people have worked through much of the food they bought, he said. Plus, some diners may have a bit more money on hand to spend after receiving stimulus checks or tax refunds, he added.

Chipotle withdrew its 2020 guidance. It also said it would pay a $25 million fineand enhance its food safety protocols to resolve the U.S. government’s criminal investigation into the foodborne illness incidents that began in 2015 and already led to an overhaul of the company’s practices.   

5:30 PM EDT 

Video game sales skyrocket

Across the bleak retail landscape—retail sales fell 8.7 percent in March, the most on record—one bright spot is emerging. Sales of video game hardware, software, accessories and game cards was up 35 percent in March to over to $1.6 billion, compared with the year-earlier period, according to market research firm NPD Group, which found that figure to be the largest March sales number of the category since 2008. All video game categories saw double-digit sales increases for the month, when many consumers across the country began their coronavirus lockdowns. “As communities have practiced social distancing and observed stay at home orders across the United States over the past weeks, many people have turned to video games as a means of finding connections,” said Mat Piscatella, games industry analyst at NPD, in a statement. “Whether together on the couch playing locally, or playing online, gaming has generated increased engagement, which has resulted in corresponding increases in consumer spend.”

1:21 PM EDT 

Oscar Mayer encourages socially-distant cookouts

Oscar Mayer, which typically does big business during the spring and summer, has cooked up a way to promote grilling from a distance. Staying home, of course, means fewer neighborhood barbecues, graduation parties and other gatherings where its hot dogs might be served. So, it is suggesting people do a Front Yard Cookout where they can see their neighbors, but from a distance of at least 12 hot dogs apart. Each time someone shares an image from a cookout with the #FrontYardCookout by the end of May it will donate a meal to Feeding America, which is already getting 1 million meals from the Kraft Heinz brand. The campaign comes from McGarryBowen.

12:49 PM EDT 

Planters’ Baby Nut is back

Following the January death of Kobe Bryant and eight others in a helicopter crash, Planters was among the brands that had to rethink its Super Bowl ad plans. The Kraft Heinz brand was featuring the death of its longtime spokescharacter Mr. Peanut. He was reborn as Baby Nut and took on a new persona on social media for days after the game. Then Baby Nut was then silent for months. Weeks after COVID-19 put a pause on many light-hearted social media campaigns, Baby Nut returned in mid-April to discuss National Cheez Balls Day. Now, the character is back to being chatty, perhaps a sign that brands are eager to move on from the nearly constant coronavirus news. On April 20, the @MrPeanut Twitter account posted a thread including “First, for those who have asked, am I Mr. Peanut? Long story short, when a nut like me completes its life cycle, our spirit moves to another shell.” And now, the account has begun posting animated tales it says were written and recorded by kids.

April 20, 2020

10:54 AM EDT 

Campbell Soup Co.’s at-home montage channels ‘Crowded Table’ by The Highwomen

Campbell Soup Co. on Sunday night began airing a 30-second version of this 45-second video showcasing people at home making the most of their social distancing, of course with a few quick views of its products, such as Goldfish crackers. The Leo Burnett spot is called “Crowded Table,” and features the song by the country group The Highwomen of the same name. The lyrics, written well before the coronavirus pandemic, include: “I want a house with a crowded table / And a place by the fire for everyone / Let us take on the world while we’re young and able / And bring us back together when the day is done.”

9:30 AM EDT 

McDonald’s showcases changed moments that are ‘still the same’ in newest spot

McDonald’s latest spot suggests that while plenty of moments feel different these days there is still a sense of normalcy in everyday acts such as texting about McDonald’s and eating its food while social distancing. “Still the Same,” the chain’s newest spot from Wieden & Kennedy New York, began airing April 17. It follows “Lights On” which began airing April 13 and, as its name suggests, shows the lights turning on at McDonald’s to remind people that the restaurants are open. Even as McDonald’s U.S. is operating carryout, delivery and drive-thru, all McDonald’s locations in Singapore shut down as of April 19. W&K New York worked on the spots, which are also running in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Taglish, with support from Admerasia, Alma, Burrell, IW Group, Admerasia and OMD, McDonald’s said. 

April 17, 2020

7:45 PM EDT 

Terry Crews returns—kind of—in Old Spice social PSAs

Terry Crews is making a return of sorts for Procter & Gamble Co.’s Old Spice in the form of public service announcements telling people to wash their handsand stay inside. Wieden+Kennedy repurposed work Crews did for Old Spice in 2012 and 2015 for the new Instagram and YouTube posts on behalf of the P&G brand for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The new messages are re-dubbed into old video, so everyone involved could remain socially distant and, thus, on message.

11:41 AM EDT 

Uncle Ben’s stay-at-home spin on dinner with grandma

Uncle Ben’s has promoted cooking with kids for years, including through recipes on its site. Now, the Mars brand has put a coronavirus-driven spin on the idea in an online spot featuring a dad and daughter’s new at-home routine, including an adorable ballet lesson. They also cook, using a recipe sent from grandma, who in this time of social distancing can’t visit in person. Soon, the young daughter finds a way to bring grandma to the table in a way that still manages to feel touching even if viewers anticipate the plot. The “Special Guests” spot from Energy BBDO features a real dad and daughter and was made following social distancing protocols, the brand said.

10:30 AM EDT 

NBA starts selling team-branded face masks

The National Basketball Association is getting into the branded face mask game. Face coverings featuring logos for all  30 NBA and 12 WNBA team will be sold at and, the league announced today along with Fanatics, which handles its ecommerce. Proceeds will benefit Feeding America in the U.S. and Second Harvest in Canada. “As a global community, we can all play a role in reducing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic by following the CDC’s recommendation to cover our nose and mouth while in public,” Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s president for social responsibility and player programs stated in a press release.  “Through this new product offering, NBA and WNBA fans can adhere to these guidelines while joining in the league’s efforts to aid those who have been directly affected by COVID-19.”

9:04 AM EDT 

Publisher raises funds for restaurant workers with compilation cookbook

Penguin Random House has, um, cooked up a way to help the restaurant industry while inspiring today’s budding at-home chefs. The publisher is compiling “Family Meal: Recipes from Our Community,” a digital collection of more than 40 recipes from authors it works with. The $5.99 digital book, set to be released on May 5, includes dishes from the likes of Hugh Acheson, Dan Barber, Molly Baz, Bobby Flay, Edouardo Jordan, Kwame Onwuachi, Ruth Reichl and Danny Trejo. Proceeds go to the Restaurant Workers’ COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.  

April 16, 2020

5:24 PM EDT 

L’Oreal China sales bounce back, but it slashes spending globally

L’Oreal’s organic sales fell 4.8 percent in the first quarter, in line with a pre-announcement last month, but the surprise optimistic note is that sales in China are bouncing back quickly as that country emerges from its coronavirus lockdown. In a conference call Thursday, L’Oreal Chairman-CEO Jean-Paul Agon said China, after a decline in February, returned to year-over-year sales growth in March, with sales up 5 to 10 percent so far in April. 

But Agon also said the world’s largest beauty marketer has postponed key launches originally planned this quarter into the back half of the year and curtailed ad spending. Some products launched last quarter will probably be re-launched later this year, he said. “It doesn’t make sense to advertise on TV products when consumers can’t purchase them because stores are closed.” 

But Agon also noted a surge in e-commerce averted sales declines in China. And data show L’Oreal spent little from April 2-15 on TV in the U.S. behind mass brands sold in stores that remain open. The company’s key L’Oreal Paris, Garnier and Maybelline brands got a combined $1.1 million in support, all on L’Oreal and Garnier hair care. By contrast, shows Unilever spent nearly $14 million April 2-15 on just Dove; Procter & Gamble Co. $5.7 million on just Olay; and Johnson & Johnson $8.6 million on just Neutrogena during the period.

Similarly, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, owner of brands such as Dior and Sephora, also reported that its sales in mainland China have improved since the middle of March following the reopening of some stores. The luxury giant said an uptick in online sales has helped mitigate some store closures.  

1:54 PM EDT 

Impossible Foods expands into 777 more supermarkets during restaurant slowdown

Impossible Foods sped up its retail expansion as the coronavirus pandemic upended the restaurant industry, getting its plant-based burger meat alternative into an additional 777 grocery stores. That means that its 12-ounce packs of ground plant-based meat, which sell for $8.99 to $9.99, are now being offered for sale in more than 1,000 supermarkets after launching in September. And, as restaurants may now find themselves with more supply than demand, Impossible says some of its restaurant customers are selling the five-pound bricks of plant-based meat they buy from the company directly to consumers, a practice Impossible is promoting on its social channels.

Impossible said it saw its strongest retail sales in March, as people have been eating more of their meals at home, and it has ramped up production to meet the demand. It is still exploring the possibility of selling directly to consumers but didn’t announce any set plans during its virtual press conference. The brand is promoting at-home cooking ideas with new Instagram Live content airing on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But it isn’t making a big in-store marketing push at its newest retailers due to the current situation. The supermarkets adding Impossible Burger are Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions in Southern California, Safeway in Northern California and Nevada, and Jewel-Osco, in the Chicago area and parts of Iowa and Indiana.

April 15, 2020

4:41 PM EDT 

Kraft Heinz is the latest marketer putting staffers to work as its ad team

Kraft Heinz began using the internal rallying cry “We Got You America” in March (as mentioned in a March 20 item in this blog) as its teams got really busy filling orders for packaged food. Now, that line — and the workers on its plant lines — are the focus of a new 60-second TV spot shot by the staffers themselves.

The maker of Kraft macaroni and cheese and Heinz ketchup says this is the first spot it has done that was directed and shot by plant employees. The video shows workers in plants in Fremont, Ohio and Champaign, Illinois, with voiceover work by Dana Cockrell, a line operator at that Illinois plant. Other brands have had staffers record and appear in coronavirus pandemic-related campaigns. Panera’s delivery drivers recorded themselves on the road, for example (see below). Perdue Chicken, meanwhile, put its chairman to work holding the smartphone. The idea is one of many that has emerged as a storytelling tactic as the pandemic persists, along with a few others that are starting to feel a little stale.

Kraft Heinz points to its staffers for credit, but also gives a nod to VaynerMedia for this campaign (the agency wasn’t actually on set). The spot is set to air on network and cable tv, and short videos of interviews with plant staff will be posted online, it said. 

3:08 PM EDT 

An unusual pairing between DSW and supermarket chain Hy-Vee

Like most retailers, DSW has closed many of its stores in response to the pandemic. But the footwear retailer has found a way to get distribution in the one place that is drawing a ton of visits lately—grocery stores.

The brand has a new deal with midwestern supermarket chain Hy-Vee that will eventually put smaller DSW stores inside the grocery outlets. For now, DSW will have a digital presence on and the two companies are working on a buy-online, pick-up in-store program. A pilot test of DSW shops in 120 locations will test the format before it is rolled out to all 265 supermarkets. The deal was in the works before the coronavirus, but it looks especially timely now.

Roger Rawlins, CEO of Designer Brands, which owns DSW, said the new partnership continues DSW’s position as an innovator. Such innovation is needed now more than ever, as retail sales plummet. Overall retail sales fell 8.7 percent in March, the biggest decline since 1992. Analysts expect the trend to continue downward as retailers close stores and consumer pullback on non-essential purchases like apparel and footwear. However, if shoppers see such items near their everyday groceries, they may be more inclined to purchase. “Quality footwear and accessories will always serve as a top need for the American consumer, which is why we’ve made these solutions available to our shoppers,” said Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s chairman, CEO and president, in a statement.

April 14, 2020

6:40 PM EDT 

Carter’s debuts homemade, family-centric ad

Baby brand Carter’s, which also owns OshKosh B’gosh and Skip Hop in addition to its namesake label, is urging consumers to stay home with new creative it produced entirely in-house. A 60-second spot stars Carter’s employees and their children, who change the lyrics of the kids’ classic song “The More We Get Together” to “We’re All In This Together.” 

The spot shows children making new memories like baking, getting piggyback rides, and celebrating socially distant birthdays. “There’s pjs all day, and more time to play,” a child sings, as another mentions, “Snacks on the floor and homework galore.”

The “Stay Home & Make Memories” campaign began running on Carter’s social channels this week. As part of the effort, the company has committed $1 million in product to families impacted by the coronavirus in partnership with nonprofit Delivery Good, which facilitates apparel donations. Carter’s has also switched up its social channels to include more educational resources and activity ideas for parents, such as a recent post about making shapes out of playdough.

4:41 PM EDT 

Cosmetics and condom sales tank as beer and aluminum foil soar

As shelter-in-place orders continue, retail scanner data is sorting the stuff people were just panic buying from what they’re really using more, and things they really need much less of – like cosmetics and condoms.

Packaged food, beer, dish soap, hand soap, aluminum foil, trash bags, and cleaning supplies continued to fare well the week ended April 5, according to Evercore ISI. Some things people stocked up on in March —including diapers, feminine care, laundry detergent and toothpaste —also saw sales declines as people started using the stuff already bought. Trojan sales fell 21 percent the first week of April, accelerating first quarter’s 5 percent decline for the Church & Dwight Co. brand. Perhaps that portends a baby boom, since sex hasn’t declined that much by one measure. A CivicScience survey of 6,000 adults last month found 62 percent said they were having sex as often before and 17 percent having sex more, though 21 percent said they were having sex less. 

Bright spots in beauty include Clairol hair color and Sally Hansen nail-care products, since hair and nail salons remain closed. But lipstick, foundation and other color cosmetics are tanking, off 44 percent for L’Oreal USA, 25 percent for Coty and 49 percent for Revlon the week ended April 5, intensifying a decline started last quarter. 

Many people don’t seem to feel the need to groom for Zoom, or when they’re newly unemployed, with sales of Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette razors also down 20 percent. With even skincare products from Olay declining, P&G saw sales for the week down 4 percent, despite continued, if slower growth in sales of Charmin toilet paper. 

Continued winners from the latest IRI data include most of what Clorox Co. sells, including those hard-to-come-by disinfecting wipes, other household cleaners, Glad trash bags and Brita water filters, pushing company sales up 35 percent. RB (Reckitt Benckiser) continued to do well too, up 15 percent powered by Lysol disinfectants plus vitamins and supplements. Reynolds, including its namesake Wrap and Hefty trash bags, also continues faring well, up 42 percent. 

Packaged foods sales continue to soar, with Kraft Heinz sales up 30 percent. That’s a deceleration from the 70-plus-percent growth the company had in mid-March, but still heady territory for a marketer that was battling sales declines last year.   

1:47 PM EDT 

The Great American Takeout gets big sponsors

The push to order takeout to support nearby restaurants continues weeks into America’s stay-home effort. One push, #TheGreatAmericanTakeout, focuses on Tuesday night orders and is getting some big brand support. On April 14, Coca-Cola is joining with The Great American Takeout to give away more than 100 gift cards each worth $50, and a single grand prize of $5,000. Organizers are asking participants to post a photo of their takeout meal with certain hashtags to be entered. On the same day, Rich Products is donating $5 to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund for each social media post including #TheGreatAmericanTakeout, up to $25,000. Pepsi, Smithfield and Tyson are among the other brands backing the broader effort to support restaurant employees.

1:33 PM EDT 

Pebbles will pay $1,500 for for videos meant to inspire kids

Pebbles — yes, the cereal you might remember from decades past — says it will pay artists and creators $1,500 when it features videos they submit for its new “Daily Yabba Dabba Doo” video series. The effort is meant to support creative professionals who are home due to the pandemic and gives Pebbles fresh content for kids stuck at home who, of course, might then ask their parents to buy the cereal. “Pebbles cereal has a long history of inspiring kids and kids at heart to create and do,” Brand Manager Amy Brothers said in a statement. “We felt that at this time, it was important for us to show up to inspire kids and support the creative community.” The 30 days of videos featuring activities kids can do with minimal parental supervision will launch on April 15. They will pop up on Facebook, Instagram and the brand’s site daily at 6 a.m. ET, so kids and parents can watch them over breakfast, Pebbles said. 

9:39 AM EDT 

Panera Bread delivery drivers record themselves for new delivery campaign

Panera Bread is the latest marketer to turn the camera — the smartphone camera, that is — on staffers to highlight their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. The chain, whose own employees handle the bulk of its delivery, had some of those workers record themselves while on the road. The campaign from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners emphasizes that Panera is still open for business, including delivery for those staying home. “I’m here for you and we can get through this together,” Velinda, a delivery driver in Texas, says in one of the spots.

The recordings, which were largely unscripted, were shot on the drivers’ smartphones. Panera asked managers to choose outstanding drivers in their areas, who were then approached about the project and paid for their participation, the agency says. GS&P’s in-house group handled production. “The role of digital video in breaking through the feed is paramount right now, and these films bring heart and humanity to a world that needs it right now,” Chris Hollander, Panera’s senior VP of marketing, said in a statement.

April 13, 2020

6:35 PM EDT 

93-year-old Olive Veronesi made a beer plea and Coors Light delivered

Countless people are drinking beer at home to cope with the pandemic—judging by surging grocery sales— but nobody has attracted as much attention as 93-year old Olive Veronesi. A relative recently took a photo of the Pittsburgh-area resident showing her staring out her window holding dry-erase board reading “I need more beer!” while clutching a Coors Light. 

It soon went viral, delivering an easy marketing win for the brand, which has now seized on it by delivering her 150 cans of Coors Light. “We’re starting out with plenty of Coors Light, but we’ve also let Olive and her family know that they have a standing offer for more Coors Light whenever they’re ready for a restock,” a Molson Coors spokesman told Ad Age.

Credit:Molson Coors Brewing Company

2:35 PM EDT 

Krasinski plugs AT&T in his hit show ‘Some Good News’

AT&T found a way to get some nice publicity in John Krasinski’s hit online show“Some Good News,” which is about people coming together amid social-distancing restrictions. On Sunday, the actor thanked AT&T for giving nurses and doctors three months of free cellphone service. “I may not know much, but I do know what good news looks like,” Krasinski said during the episode. “And AT&T, through FirstNet, their network dedicated solely to first responders, are offering to take care of our healthcare heroes in an unprecedented way.”

The plug happened after AT&T reached out upon learning that Krasinski was planning an episode thanking healthcare workers, the actor explained during the episode, saying he suggested the company cover the cellphone bills of every nurse and doctor in America for a month, and AT&T came back and offered three months. It’s an especially savvy PR move for AT&T considering that rival Verizon has made first responders a central focus of its marketing.

1:35 PM EDT 

TripAdvisor and Airbnb go virtual 

Travel companies like TripAdvisor and Airbnb are boosting virtual options with most of the industry shut down. TripAdvisor’s tour company Viator recently rolled out more than 100 virtual experiences as part of a #RoamFromHome campaign. It includes virtual cooking classes, such as one on making the Indian dish paneer mutter masala;  and sight-seeing tours, like a video tour of Berlin. Roughly 80 percent of the paid-for experiences are from small business operators, a spokeswoman says. Airbnb recently messaged its customers with a similar option—Online Experiences. Consumers can pay to see magic shows, meet special dogs or take a family baking class all from the safety of their living rooms. “Thanks to the dedication and passion of hosts, you can keep traveling even when you’re staying home,” reads an email Airbnb sent out.

11:10 AM EDT 

Groupon restructuring, cuts workforce by 2,800 as business takes a huge hit

Groupon plans to cut 1,400 jobs, many by the end of June, as business shutdowns globally due to the coronavirus pandemic have drastically hampered its performance, it announced today. In total, Groupon plans to cut or furlough about 2,800 employees. Groupon, which sells discounted vouchers for local experiences, says the temporary closure of bars, restaurants, event venues, and spas, led to a “material deterioration” in its performance in March. Groupon also stated it would reduce its marketing expense “by significantly shortening payback thresholds and delaying brand marketing investments,” which were not quantified in a regulatory filing. Its restructuring plan assumes reduced levels of local spending will continue for the rest of 2020. “Given the significant level of uncertainty around the impact of Covid-19 and timeline for businesses and consumers around the globe to resume normal activity, it is unclear how long the company’s financial results will be negatively impacted,” Groupon stated. The cuts of 2,800 jobs would account for 44 percent of the workforce of 6,345 that the Chicago-based company reported at the end of the year, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.

10:43 AM EDT 

U.S. restaurants may have hit a bottom in transaction declines, NPD Group says

Transactions at U.S. restaurants fell by 41 percent in the week ended April 5, after falling 42 percent in the week ended March 29, which may indicate a bottoming out in the industry’s woes, according to the NPD Group. Still, “we also need to be aware that further erosion could occur if consumers’ economic situations worsen,” David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor, said in a statement. Early on, many people have still purchased from restaurants through carryout, delivery and drive-thru orders, but “with rising unemployment, payroll reductions, and temporary furloughs, consumers may begin to think differently about their food budgets overall,” Portalatin said. For the week ended April 5, transactions plunged 79 percent at full-service restaurants and fell a less drastic 38 percent at quick-service restaurants, NPD said. 

April 10, 2020

2:05 PM EDT 

Chase pushes home-based wealth management biz

JP Morgan Chase has a new ad from Droga5 showcasing how its wealth-management advisors are working from home, but still working. The 30-second spot, devised by Kristin Lemkau, who was recently appointed CEO of Chase’s U.S. Wealth Management division, shows advisors in their work-from-home setups. “In these uncertain times, look after yourself, your family, your friends, but know when it comes to your finances, we are here for you,” a voiceover says, adding that the bank has helped clients navigate “historic challenges” in the last two centuries. “And will get through this one, together.”  

12:37 PM EDT 

J&J no longer blacklisting coronavirus content

Marketers and third-party measurers have taken heat from publishers for blacklisting coronavirus content, even as viewership of such news has soared. Count Johnson & Johnson among marketers that aren’t doing that, at least not anymore. 

Speaking yesterday in a Brand Innovators Fireside Chat, Chad Mizee, senior director-global media and digital excellence-North America for J&J, said the company  did pause such placements last month, but has stopped blacklisting coronavirus content in April. “We have not blocked terms,” Mizee said. “We did early on when there was some, I think a lot, of fake news going around. But since the end of March we have relaxed all of that, and I think it’s super important that we are investing alongside our publishing partners that are providing valuable information to the public.”

It’s actually a pretty good time to advertise in many ways, Mizee said. “The attention on media has never been higher. There are savings to be had in some channels.”

J&J, maker of Tylenol, Neutrogena, Aveeno and Listerine, has stuck with the launch of a new Listerine-branded gum therapy product, he said. But the company has altered shopper-marketing programs to ensure they don’t encourage extra shopping trips or stock-up buys amid widespread shelter-in-place orders and panic buying.  

11:57 AM EDT 

Hormel and Diageo push at-home food and drink making, including one collab with Kimmel

Food and beverage marketers are testing out new ways to reach people eager to try new recipes and use up any food they already have at home. On April 11, Hormel Foods plans to feature chef and caterer Vanessa Cantave and HGTV personality Laurie March on Instagram Live chatting about brunch ideas featuring one of its products that might already be in people’s pantries, Hormel Mary Kitchen hash. And Diageo North America is seeking support for workers in the bartending and restaurant business with virtual events. Bartenders suggest cocktail recipes that include Diageo’s Bulleit Bourbon or Tanqueray Gin along with some pantry staples. Diageo said it would donate $1 (up to $1 million) each time people share cocktail images on social media with its #TipsFromHome and #DiageoDonation hashtags with and is asking viewers to donate, or tip, through Givz. Diageo’s effort kicked off with a segment on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” called Cocktails De La Casa.

10:05 AM EDT 

Wisconsin brewer announces ‘FVCK COVID’ lager

Madison, Wisconsin-based craft brewer Ale Asylum gets right to the point with the name of its newest beer: FVCK COVID.

The lager was announced Thursday and will be available across Wisconsin starting next week, reports Milwaukee Magazine.  “Never in my lifetime would I expect to witness something of this nature, but to also experience the sheer totality of each and every way this affects our staff, our community and my family,” brewery co-founder Otto Dilba stated in a press release cited by the magazine. “The name may not be subtle, but it succinctly captures exactly how we (all of us) feel about this moment.”  

April 9, 2020

1:10 PM EDT 

Panera and Patagonia pivot into grocery biz

Brands not known for groceries are moving more aggressively into selling them as regular food providers such as Peapod and Amazon’s Whole Foods are often sold out of delivery slots.

Since 2012, Patagonia has operated Patagonia Provisions, which sells food products ideal for the outdoors, like tinned fish, buffalo jerky and grains. Now, Provisions is opening up its site to more grocery options from outside brands including Sol Simple, which sells dried fruits, Dr. Bronner’s, which sells coconut oil, and Grain Place Foods, which sells popcorn kernels. But the new goods are still on brand with Patagonia’s principles. A spokeswoman explains that “Just like Provisions’ branded products, all additional items are sourced from farmers and suppliers who are committed to regenerative organic practices.”

Similarly, Panera just announced it is pivoting to include Panera Grocery in its offerings. Customers can order pantry items like milk, bread and produce for pickup or delivery alongside regular Panera menu items such as soup and sandwiches.

12:05 PM EDT 

This college graduation is sponsored by Natty Light

It sounds like every college senior’s dream—a graduation ceremony sponsored by a beer brand. Natural Light is making that a reality—at least virtually— on May 14 with a star-studded Facebook Live event dubbed “Worldwide Commencement.” The economy brew promises the live-streamed event  “won’t be a typical commencement with a drawn-out speech by someone you’ve never heard of.” Guests include Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, actress Jane Lynch, sports commentator Stephen A. Smith and Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini. It will be hosted by actress Amanda Cerny. 

The Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned beer is asking students to sign up at a special microsite, where they will also be entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to have their name featured during the event. Fifty winners will be picked randomly, according to the rules, which note that “acceptance of prize offered constitutes permission for sponsor to use winner’s name, voice, biographical information and/or likeness for purposes of advertising and promotion without further compensation…” Translation: If you win, they can use you in an ad and you won’t get paid. (Welcome to the real world, kids.)

The promotion comes as the coronavirus has led to scores of college and university graduations being canceled, postponed or moved to a virtual ceremony. Forbes is tracking them all here; according to the magazine’s count, 88 schools have already altered their ceremonies.

Daniel Blake, VP of U.S. value brands at AB InBev, in a press release noted that “the public health crisis has had a massive impact on college students,” adding that “the Class of 2020 not only deserves a commencement, but one of epic proportions. Natty Light is going to host the most memorable graduation ceremony to date.” 

11:47 AM EDT 

Ebiquity finds 80 percent of brands expect to cut spending

Brands are slashing media spending vigorously, according to a new survey from consulting firm Ebiquity, which goes against the firm’s advice that brands maintaining spending will come out of the downturn stronger.

In a March 16-31 survey of 44 brands globally representing $15 billion in combined spending and $200 billion in sales, Ebiquity found 80 percent are planning to cut media spending for the rest of the year. More than half expect to cut by more than 20 percent. That’s because three quarters of the brands now expect sales to either be flat or decline for the year. On a spending-weighted basis, Ebiquity’s survey projects overall media spending to decline 16 percent as brand revenue falls 9 percent. A modest 10 percent of brands do actually plan to increase spending by between 10 to 40 percent.

Even packaged-goods and food brands, which have seen sales boosted by coronavirus panic buying and consumption shifts so far, still mostly expect to cut spending, albeit less than others. 

Offline budgets are taking the biggest hit, according to Ebiquity, with online spending down only 2 percent. The biggest media losers in the survey were out-of-home, print and radio. 

April 8, 2020

1:16 PM EDT 

Coke turns over social channels to outside groups

Brand social media managers are in a tough spot. This is not the time for jokes or self-promotion, and there are only so many times brands can post or tweet about their philanthropic efforts. Coca-Cola has come up with a solution to fill the void. The beverage giant has turned over its channels—Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—to outside organizations including the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Club, Feeding America, Salvation Army. The channels “have large audiences and we felt the Coca-Cola brand could use its reach to help and support communities and organizations,” a spokeswoman said.

April 7, 2020

5:58 PM EDT 

More time at home means time for more milk drinking

Milk was one of the items consumers were quick to purchase as the coronavirus pandemic led people to spend more time at home, where they’ve been baking and eating more items such as bowls of cereal. Now, MilkPEP, which markets dairy milk, is out with new ads from Campbell Ewald in its “Milk. Love What’s Real” campaign. One TV spot highlights the work people across the dairy and retail industry do to keep milk in stock, while others show families enjoying milk at home. Social posts are also showcasing MilkPEP’s support of Feeding America. During two weeks in March, weekly gallon sales of milk were up 33 percent from a typical week earlier in the year, in a category that already saw 94 percent of households purchasing before the pandemic, MilkPEP says, citing IRI data. Non-dairy alternative milks such as oat milk are also seeing sales gains.

3:30 PM EDT 

How TV ad spending is trending by category

TV ad spend across key categories fell 8 percent for the week ending March 23, compared with the year-earlier period, according to Kantar. As many experts predicted, retail spending is down considerably as store closures give brands little budget for marketing. On the other side of the spectrum, household products ads increased 43 percent for the week, following an 84 percent rise the week prior. Below, the category breakdowns of 30-second commercials on the top 25 national TV networks:

-Household products up 43 percent

-Automotive up 13 percent

-Telecom down 11 percent

-Retail down 16 percent

-Personal hygiene and hair care down 9 percent

-Medical supplies down 45 percent

-Food down 21 percent

-Restaurants are down 7 percent

12:50 PM EDT 

Tripadvisor aims to help travel industry

Tripadvisor is urging its members to assist the beleaguered travel industry. The Needham, Massachusetts-based platform asked members to purchase gift cards, which can help restaurants and hotels get through the short-term with rent and employee payments, and to write reviews and guides of their favorite restaurants, bars and cafes. In addition, the Tripadvisor Foundation will give $1 million to support companies in communities around the world that have been most impacted by the coronavirus. As part of the effort, the Foundation will give $1, for up to $150,000, for each Tripadvisor review posted or for shares of the #LoveYourLocal hashtag on social media to World Central Kitchen and The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.

11:15 AM EDT 

Lowe’s urges DIY thank you signs for health care workers in new spot

Lowe’s—one of the few retailers that hasn’t had to close its doors or furlough employees—is urging its customers to give thanks to health care workers in a new campaign. After committing $170 million to coronavirus relief, the Mooresville, North Carolina-based retailer has a new commercial airing on broadcast networks this week that showcases do-it-yourself thank you signs that customers have made. “Join us and DIY a thank you message of your own,” a voiceover says in the 30-second spot, one of the first efforts from Lowe’s new chief marketing officer Marisa Thalberg, who joined in February. The retailer worked with the Via agency on the creative, while Starcom handled media duties. Lowe’s is using #BuildThanks hashtag to highlight the push, which is supported by celebrities such as Kristen Bell and Kevin Love.

10:17 AM EDT 

P&G’s #DistanceDance grabs 8.7 billion TikTok views

What began as a request from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to Procter & Gamble Co. Chairman-CEO David Taylor to find a way to get Gen Z to abide by social-distancing orders has spread well beyond Ohio, spawning a #DistanceDance TikTok video that’s generated 8.7 billion views to date globally and 1.7 million response videos. 

Taylor instantly turned the request over to P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard on March 21, who in turn took the assignment to Grey late that Friday night. By the following Tuesday, with help from TikTok steering Grey toward 15-year-old influencer Charli D’Amelio, the video was born. P&G issued a challenge for user videos since taken up by celebrities, college mascots and athletes from four sports leagues among many others. For every #PGpartner tagged video, the company will donate essential items to Feeding America or Matthew 25: Ministries.

“When we heard the audience was Gen Z,” the first thought was TikTok, says Grey CEO Debby Reiner. Within three hours, she says she texted Pritchard back with the idea. 

“The challenge was reaching people who don’t listen to any PSAs, don’t listen to any press conferences,” says Kenny Gold, director of social media for Grey North America. And while it’s hard to know for sure if all those views made anyone stay home who wouldn’t have anyway, the message certainly got out, and Grey has 1.7 million pieces of video evidence and counting of people staying at home dancing.

April 6, 2020

1:30 PM EDT 

In-house agencies gain work during pandemic

Marketers are grappling with slashed budgets, a revised media mix and new creative messaging—and many of them are turning to their in-house agencies to get the job done. In a recent Association of National Advertisers survey, 55 percent of respondents identified in-house agencies as the most important in producing new creative assets. More than 90 percent of respondents said they have changed their messaging since mid-March, when the coronavirus reached pandemic proportions. In a statement, ANA CEO Bob Liodice highlighted the need for fast, reactive marketing, “even in a time of severe crisis.” The ANA recently formed a coalition of high-profile CMOs including Target’s Rick Gomez in order to help members navigate the crisis. Many brands say they have pivoted to messages around helpful information for consumers as well as to more emotional pleas urging public safety and social distancing. Visa, an Olympics sponsor, recently repurposed its creative content for the game to support hand-washing following the event’s postponement, for example.

10:49 AM EDT 

McDonald’s donates 1 million masks in Illinois

McDonald’s says it is donating 750,000 N-95 masks to the City of Chicago and 250,000 to the state of Illinois. The world’s largest restaurant company says that while it was getting supplies for its restaurant crew, it was able to obtain 1 million medical-grade masks for the healthcare community. McDonald’s previously donated $1 million and 400,000 KF94 masks to the State of Illinois COVID-19 fund, along with monetary donations in China to support healthcare workers and in Italy for the construction of a temporary hospital in Milan. 

10:43 AM EDT 

Domino’s gives away 10 million slices of pizza 

Domino’s is giving away about 10 million slices of pizza — let’s just call it 1.25 million pizzas, assuming each one is eight slices — to thank first responders and others. The food is going to hospitals and medical centers, grocery store workers, and others. Domino’s says all 6,126 U.S. locations, the majority of which are owned by franchisees, are expected to take part in the “feed the need” giveaways. Late last month, Domino’s said U.S. same-store sales rose 1.6 percent in the first quarter ended March 22 after rising 3.6 percent in the first month of the quarter, before the pandemic began leading to stay-at-home precautions across the country.

10:05 AM EDT 

Bacardi backs bars in cocktail delivery program

Bacardi is attempting to help independent bars and bartenders in the delivering premium cocktails to local bar customers. It’s part of an initiative called #RaiseYourSpirits, in which Bacardi has invested 1.5 million pounds. It will partner with Deliveroo Editions, giving over 120 bars in London and Manchester a “virtual bar” platform to sell their cocktails to local customers and have them delivered. The company is also hiring bartenders to host training events, such as YouTube tutorials on how to make cocktails, and is paying some bartenders their fees in advance for future events. It’s also making hand sanitizer, with its Bombay Sapphire distillery producing 2,000 litres per week.

April 3, 2020

2:02 PM EDT 

Touch-free products get a boost

Home products brand Simplehuman reports it is seeing a surge in demand for its touch-free products, like trash cans and soap dispensers as consumers are more mindful of virus-carrying germs. The Torrance, California-based retailer is donating such products, as well as sanitizer, to needful charities across the country and asking consumers to submit their own ideas for which organizations need product the most. As part of the campaign, Simplehuman is partnering with influencers and celebrities including DJ Khaled and Elizabeth Banks, who will begin posting about their involvement and charities. For example, Banks will be donating Simplehuman pumps and soap to hospitals in her hometown and writing on Instagram about the effort. Khaled is working with nonprofit Direct Relief on donations to hospitals in New York and Miami.

April 2, 2020

6:45 PM EDT 

Little Caesars delivers to Conan in ‘At Home’ series integration

Little Caesars is trying to stand out from a slew of pizza chains and others promoting free delivery with a custom integration into Thursday night’s Conan O’Brien’s #ConanAtHome series. During the show, Little Caesars will deliver pizza to O’Brien in a pre-taped segment. In late March, Little Caesars began airing a new spot that emphasizes how its pizzas are cooked in a 475-degree oven and are not touched once they are baked.

6:37 PM EDT 

Taco Bell shows user-generated drive-thru videos in new commercial

Taco Bell’s newest campaign shows brand fans embracing the drive-thru process including sticker-sealed bags that’s the new norm during COVID-19. “When you need a little light, it helps to open a window,” a voiceover says as consumers’ videos appear, like windows, and soon fill up the screen. The campaign was assembled remotely by the chain’s creative agency, Deustch LA. It is set to run on TV, social, digital video and radio through June, and replaces a previously planned effort that was also expected to rely on user-generated content. The 15-second “Windows” spot ends with the voiceover saying “let our drive-thru help you get through.”


5:37 PM EDT 

LinkedIn should be key part of CEO coronavirus comms plan, according to new study 

TBWA has a message for CEOs: Don’t go dark on LinkedIn. The agency’s “Livebosses” unit, which specializes in executive communications on social networks, reports that bosses who are posting on LinkedIn about their response to coronavirus are getting “exceptionally high engagement rates.” Livebosses bases its findings by examining the posting habits of 100 CEOS representing multiple sectors, including financial services, automotive, retail and consumer packaged goods. Sixty of the CEOs have communicated on LinkedIn since the crisis began, and half of them are getting the best reactions they have seen on a post all year.

“People want to hear from their employers in turbulent times, and not just through traditional internal communications channels,” Nicolas Bordas, who leads Livebosses for TBWA, said in a statement. “CEOs are seen as the most credible sources of information but not enough of them are using their voice. The high engagement levels we saw in our analysis from those who did show just how important it is for leaders to not ‘go dark’ in crisis.” 

The best posts communicated gratitude to internal teams, ensured business continuity during the crisis and explained how the company was giving back, according to Livebosses. The worst posts “did not express enough gratitude to employees, were too company-centric, were presented without a photo, or included a reposted link without context or comment,” it stated.

Among the posts that Livebosses singled out for getting a great reaction was one from Visa CEO Alfred Kelley who pledged in a post that “we will have no COVID-19 related layoffs in 2020. There is enough sadness in the world and already too many families impacted by job losses.” Livebosses also gave a shout-out to posts from Arianna Huffington of  Thrive Global; Arne Sorenson of Marriott; Satya Nadella of Microsoft; and Doug McMillon of Walmart.

3:15 PM EDT

EBay offers free services for small businesses eyeing ecommerce 

With small business retailers closing shop—in many cases for good—eBay says it wants to help. The online marketplace debuted an accelerator program for retailers that only have a brick-and-mortar shop—no ecommerce site—and pledged up to $100 million in support. Called “Up & Running,” the initiative is designed to help the small businesses that sell on eBay’s site. New businesses can run an eBay store for free for three months with no selling fees to eBay, which will also provide educational webinars and business support. In March, eBay said it was discouraging price gouging by prohibiting coronavirus-related items and blocking new listings for much-needed health care supplies such as masks and home essentials such as toilet paper.

10:07 AM EDT 

Shake Shack furloughs some staff and pauses construction as sales plummet 

Shake Shack is seeing drastic sales declines, especially as many of its locations are in urban areas people are no longer visiting. Same-store sales at its U.S. restaurants are down anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent, and down about 70 percent, on average, excluding nine locations that are now closed. The company says it has furloughed or laid off about 20 percent of its home office staff, reduced salaries for all home office staff and executives, suspended new design and construction of locations except a few that are nearly complete, doesn’t plan to open any new locations at this time, and may close more locations or reduce operating hours depending on demand. It is trying to drum up business by adding a slew of third-party delivery services in addition to Grubhub, which was an exclusive partner. It is also shipping make-at-home burger kits with Goldbelly and is selling Pat LaFrieda Steak Frites meals to go from two locations.

9:45 AM EDT 

Panda Express trims its menu to ease kitchen stress

Panda Express is removing five main dishes and sides of brown rice from its menu, saying offering only its most popular dishes should make restaurant staff jobs easier during the pandemic. Starting April 6, Panda Express says its will continue to offer items such as Original Orange Chicken, Broccoli Beef, Grilled Teriyaki Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Mushroom Chicken, Honey Walnut Shrimp, Sweetfire Chicken Breast, Firecracker Shrimp and New Black Pepper Angus Steak. Main dishes removed from the national menu are String Bean Chicken Breast, Black Pepper Chicken, Beijing Beef and Eggplant Tofu. Panda Express is also starting to offer contactless service, with a designated area for walk-up ordering at the front door and pick-up at the side door. 

April 1, 2020

3:00 PM EDT 

Help for the wedding industry

The Knot Worldwide, which owns wedding sites The Knot and WeddingWire, is helping its advertisers—vendors like caterers, flower companies and apparel brands— with financial assistance. 

The wedding industry, which typically ramps up in the spring, has been a hard hit by the pandemic. More than half of Americans are postponing their weddings, according to Bloomberg report. The Knot’s Vendor Assistance Program includes $10 million to help the company’s local advertisers with their advertising payments. The site is also rolling out new editorial features to help couples continue to plan for their nuptials at this time, even while homebound, like a virtual concierge. In a blog post about the new offering, Knot CEO Tim Chi struck a hopeful note, “It is clear that this crisis and the social distancing that it has required, will only enhance our deep desire to be connected with our closest family and friends. Weddings will come back strong and love will be unphased in the time of Coronavirus.”

2:45 PM EDT 

Stella hooks up with ‘Love is Blind’ stars

Stella Artois is also doing its part to help the wedding industry, or at least one lucky couple. The Anheuser-Busch InBev brand is partnering with “Love is Blind” stars Lauren Speed-Hamilton and Cameron Hamilton on a promotion in which the beer brand pledges to pay for the wedding of a couple who gets engaged during the social distancing era. The Hamiltons gained fame when they appeared in the Netflix reality show that tests if people can fall in love and get engaged without ever seeing each other.  Lauren and Cameron got married in November 2018.

On Thursday, Stella will sponsor a live stream on Lauren’s Instagram channel during which the couple will “share tips and tricks on how to make a connection from afar.,” according to the Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned brand. To enter the free wedding contest, couples must have gotten engaged between March 13 and May 25 and tag the brand on Twitter with  “#WeddingContest,” as well as attach a photo, video or audio of the engagement. According to the rules, it is not explicitly required that couples get engaged while physically apart, but the criteria includes “creativity originality; and photo composition.” Cameron and Lauren will select the winner.

2:30 PM EDT 

Chipotle offers 100,000 free burritos for medical staff

Chipotle Mexican Grill is the latest chain to offer free food for medical workers, with the goal of giving away up to 100,000 burritos to employees at healthcare facilities who register by April 2 to receive a box of 25 burritos. The deliveries will be made with DoorDash from April 6-10. Chipotle is also promoting its new queso blanco by offering it for free with online orders on April 2, which just so happens to be National Burrito Day.

1:51 PM EDT 

T-Mobile skips its normal April foolery

In a typical year, brands are anything but shy when it comes to pulling a prank on April Fools and T-Mobile is no different. The wireless carrier in the past has done everything from offering unlimited plans for pets to creating onesies that also act as a fitness tracker. This year, however, the Un-Carrier is taking a different approach amid the current climate by donating $1 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for each tweet with the hashtag “GiveThanksNotPranks.” Phone maker OnePlus joined the cause, saying it would pledge $50,000 toward T-Mobile’s effort. Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners and Republic Wireless were also among some of the brands who retweeted T-Mobile’s message.

March 31, 2020

1:00 PM EDT 

Toy makers provide at-home play resources

In recent years, Mattel has consistently promoted a marketing message of the power of free play for child development. During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s amping up that push with a new resource for parents. The toy giant debuted Mattel Playroom, a one-stop shop with activities, tips and content from Mattel brands such as American Girl, Barbie, Fisher-Price and Thomas & Friends. Updated on a weekly basis, the site will offer DIY designer tutorials and advice on how to play with toys. “We recognize the unique challenges that parents and caregivers are facing right now both working and playing from home,” Richard Dickson, president and chief operating officer of Mattel, said in a statement. Hasbro has created a similar initiative, #BringHomeTheFun, which gives parents ideas to “reduce the reliance on screens.” 

Like many retailers, Mattel also said it plans to produce face masks—in this case fashioned from Barbie and Fisher-Price fabric—for health care workers in need as the national supply continues to dwindle. Workwear brand Carhartt will shift its production as well to face masks and medical gowns—the brand plans to produce 2.5 million masks and 50,000 gowns beginning in April.

12:19 PM EDT 

Direct-to-consumer brands team up

As consumers shy away from spending amid economic upheaval and job loss, retailers are pooling their resources together. Some 26 direct-to-consumer brands, including Boll & Branch, Greats and Rockets of Awesome, announced a new effort called Brands X Better in which each company will donate 2 percent of gross sales, or 10 percent of proceeds, to a charity helping with the COVID-10 pandemic during the month of April. For example, menswear brand Rhone is donating to Direct Relief, which offers health care support. On a website to promote the effort, the brands explain the initiative: “By purchasing from companies taking part in our coalition, you are not only supporting charities fighting COVID-19, but ensuring employees and suppliers of brands can keep working.”  

10:45 AM EDT 

KFC sends 1 million pieces of chicken to U.S. restaurants for goodwill efforts

KFC is sending 1 million pieces of chicken to its more than 4,000 U.S. restaurants to help them with donations and food giveaways such as feeding first responders. Some restaurant operators have already been handing out food, including franchisees making deliveries to essential personnel. Now, each KFC is set to get an additional chicken supply at no cost that it can cook and serve however it feels is best in their community, the Yum Brands chain says. “Seeing our franchisees coming together and helping their neighbors during this crisis has inspired us to do more,” KFC U.S. President Kevin Hochman said in a statement. KFC previously said it would donate $400,000 to Blessings in a Backpack to help provide food for children. And some of its restaurants are donating unsold food to local food banks.

March 30, 2020

4:43 PM EDT 

L’Oreal postpones meeting, warns of sales decline

L’Oreal has postponed its annual meeting from April 21 to June 30 and warned that first-quarter sales would fall around 5 percent because of the widening coronavirus crisis and its effect on store closures, travel and overall need for beauty products. The company also suspended guidance for the full year. Evercore ISI had previously forecast flat sales for L’Oreal this quarter. Evercore said sales could fall 33 percent at Estee Lauder next quarter and 40 percent at Coty amid impacts that include closing of stores and salons and fewer people going out. Procter & Gamble Co., Unilever, Clorox Co. and RB (Reckitt Benckiser) have gotten at least a temporary lift from people stocking up on essentials and disinfectants at still-open mass retailers, but the stock-up effect in many categories—such as toilet paper and diapers—is only temporary, and sales growth could turn into declines quickly as people draw down pantry inventory.

2:15 PM EDT 

Nearly half of advertisers have stopped campaigns already in progress

If you have axed your latest ad campaign, you are not alone. A new survey from Advertiser Perceptions shows that one-third of advertisers have canceled at least one campaign before it started in response to the pandemic. Meantime, 45 percent of respondents pulled a campaign already in progress, while 49 percent delayed a campaign until later in the year. Advertiser Perceptions, a research group that regularly polls media decision-makers, conducted interviews with 203 marketer and agency representatives for the survey, which was conducted March 17-20. Below, some more findings:

-81 percent of respondents expect to cut ad budgets significantly this year, and 68 percent expect to spend less next year because of the pandemic.   

-41 percent have decreased broadcast TV advertising, while 38 percent have slashed cable buys.

-48 percent are upping spending with Facebook, while 21 percent are taking it down. 

-37 percent will increase spending on Google, while 14 percent are decreasing it.

12:15 PM EDT 

Macy’s cuts staff

With no end in sight for brick-and-mortar closures, some larger retailers are implementing cuts. Macy’s said that it will be putting the majority of its 130,000 employees on furlough starting this week. The department store chain, which was already struggling with sales long before the coronavirus pandemic, said it has “lost the majority” of sales due to closed stores, which shuttered March 18. Macy’s digital business remains open, and not all employees in that sector will be furloughed. “We expect to bring colleagues back on a staggered basis as business resumes,” the company said in a press release, striking a hopeful tone. Both larger chains, such as DSW, and smaller brands, including trendy Brooklyn-based jewelry retailer Catbird, have also put staffers on unpaid leave.

11:30 AM EDT 

New stats are in on what COVID-19 is doing to restaurants

Market researcher NPD Group has quantified the impact restaurants felt early on after closing their dining areas as more regulations have been put into place across the country. Transactions plunged 71 percent at full-service restaurants, and fell 36 percent at chain restaurants overall, in the week ended March 22, the tracking firm said. 

Even fast feeders, which have largely remained open for drive-thru, carryout and delivery, are under intense pressure, with transactions down 34 percent that week, NPD said. “It’s highly probable that this crisis will define winners and losers by their digital proficiency since consumers may prefer the contactless delivery protocol that digital ordering offers,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor. 

One bright spot for the industry is that 56 percent of consumers are maintaining or increasing their spending on takeout or meal delivery, according to a study of 200 Americans conducted by Boulder, Colorado-based marketing agency Sterling-Rice Group. Still, 37 percent said they’re spending less on ordering from restaurants. “During this time in which the restaurant industry has seen huge declines in dine-in volume, it is encouraging that more than half of our respondents said they are maintaining or increasing their takeout and delivery spend,” said Cindy Judge, CEO of SRG. The agency notes that 52 percent of respondents said their top reason for ordering was to support local restaurants and businesses. “We believe the emotional bond between restaurants and their consumers may be strengthening as we weather the COVID-19 crisis,” Judge said.

10:40 AM EDT 

Yum Brands CEO’s salary to go toward bonuses and a COVID-19 relief fund

Yum Brands announced that CEO David Gibbs voluntarily chose to forgo all of his salary compensation for the rest of 2020, which works out to about $675,000, based on his annual salary of $900,000. That money will instead go toward funding two efforts. First, Yum is giving one-time $1,000 bonuses to the nearly 1,200 general managers at its own KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger Grill locations. It is also setting up an employee medical relief fund to distribute financial hardship grants to corporate or franchise restaurant workers with a COVID-19 diagnosis, or those caring for someone with a confirmed diagnosis, “as well as other front-line workers and those facing food insecurity,” Yum said. The restaurant operator hopes to add to the relief fund through voluntary donations. 

March 28, 2020

10:30 AM EDT 

The latest on charitable efforts from Unilever, P&G, McDonald’s, Coty and Serta

-Unilever on Thursday distributed 200,000 masks to hospitals in New Jersey, where its U.S. headquarters are located, as part of its broader global contribution of more than $100 million in goods. The company also declared May 12 a “Day of Service,” saying it would donate “every essential item” produced that day at its 14 U.S. factories. Unilever also will earmark its entire marketing and advertising outlay for the day to support nonprofits and relief organizations to distribute those products. And in the meantime, the company said in a statement that it will ask media companies, retailers, tech, delivery, packaging and other suppliers to join in the May 12 initiative.

-Procter & Gamble Co. Chairman-CEO David Taylor said in a statement the company has begun to make protective masks to donate to health workers at more than a dozen locations around the world. Another five locations are now producing more than 45,000 liters of hand sanitizer weekly for health workers, as part of a combination of cash and in-kind donations totaling $15 million to date. 

-Coty says it also has begun making hand sanitizer for health workers at plants in the U.S. and Monaco.

-Even McDonald’s is getting into mask distribution. It plans to donate 400,000 KF94 masks to the State of Illinois emergency operation center. The world’s largest restaurant company said it has access to a reserve of masks in China. “Although the need for protective gear is great throughout the U.S., our home state is nearing depletion of its supply, and we are proud to contribute,” McDonald’s said in a statement. 

-Serta Simmons Bedding is donating 10,000 mattresses to New York City hospitals and medical facilities, and is calling on its competitors to do the same.

March 27, 2020

3:06 PM EDT 

Google promises free ad space

The tech relief keeps on coming, with Google now promising $800 million in aid to small and medium-size businesses, including $340 million in free ad space. On Friday, Google announced the financial package to support businesses, health organizations and governments. 

The internet giant is following in the footsteps of some of its Silicon Valley peers that have developed their own rescue funds to support communities dealing with coronavirus, COVID-19. Facebook has put together $100 million it says will support 30,000 small businesses on its platform. Netflix has promised $100 million to workers displaced by the freeze that has halted work on movies and TV series throughout the world. Facebook and Google have pledged to donate ad space to businesses that use their platforms. “We hope it will help to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers,” Google said in its blog post about the relief fund. The $340 million in ad credits will appear in the accounts of active advertisers and will be good through the end of the year, Google said.

1:20 PM EDT 

Audi is the latest brand pushing branded video call backgrounds

Add Audi to the list of brands trying to get a little bit of free publicity via video conference backdrops. The auto brand today released several images it plugs as “specially curated images” that “allow Audi fans to enjoy the thrill of the road while working from home.” It follows similar moves by other brands, such as Taco Bell and West Elm, which are all seizing on the sudden popularity of Zoom calls.

1:09 PM EDT 

Perdue Chicken chairman records himself in selfie mode to say thanks

Perdue Chicken is out with a selfie-style video campaign thanking the people on the front lines of food production and delivery who are busy working during the pandemic. The spots feature Chairman Jim Perdue, who recorded the campaign on his own cell phone with one of his company’s trucks in the background. Perdue thanks everyone from farmers to shelf stockers, “folks who are rarely seen, even more rarely thanked, yet they’re always there when we need them the most,” he says in the 30-second “We Thank You” spot. That video, and a 15-second “A Time Like This” clip, were shot with a script and directions provided remotely by The Via Agency. The clips have a genuine feel, with elements like the wind being heard in the background. Perdue plans to run these spots instead of a campaign it had previously planned to launch on March 30.

March 26, 2020

12:24 PM EDT 

QuickBooks switches ad campaign to support small biz

Software maker QuickBooks is hitting pause on its current campaign, which featured 80s-era stars from Karate Kid and Ghostbusters, and using its TV ad buy to direct consumers to donate to a new Small Business Relief Fund. In a new 30-second spot debuting Friday, a voiceover says, “QuickBooks salutes the grit and determination of those who work for themselves—they’re the backbone of our economy and in these challenging times, they’re adapting to support their communities,” before urging viewers to help their local businesses by donating through the fund, which was created by QuickBooks parent Intuit and GoFundMe earlier this week.  

11:45 AM EDT 

Jimmy John’s aims to rake in more dough by selling loaves of bread

One grocery category seeing a rise in sales during the pandemic is bread. There are reports of increased demand for freshly-baked and packaged bread at grocery stores, and even some reports of stores selling out of flour. Now, Jimmy John’s is jumping at the opportunity, selling loves of its fresh-baked French bread for delivery or pickup. In Chicago, a single loaf is selling for $2. “Jimmy John’s wants to help our neighbors across the country by making it easier to get daily necessities like freshly baked bread,” Jimmy John’s Chief Marketing Officer Darin Dugan said in a statement. The chain isn’t limiting how many loaves people can order, “but Jimmy John’s is urging guests to order what they need for their families so supplies are available to as many as possible.”

Selling loaves also serves as a reminder to people that Jimmy John’s remains open for drive-thru and delivery at a time when sandwich shops are seeing fewer customers as more people stay home. Where is this increased appetite for bread coming from? Breads, muffins and cookies bring comfort to people who are home, and baking provides an activity for those looking to fill the endless time with — or away from — their kids. And it appears plenty of people who were trying to be gluten-free for trends, not health reasons, have let that slide during coronavirus. Nielsen reported that U.S. sales of pastries rose 23.6 percent in the week ended March 14 versus the same period in 2019. And in-store bakery sales rose 10.3 percent in the week ended March 15 versus a year ago, according to Supermarket Perimeter, which cites figures analyzed by 210 Analytics and IRI. That publication also says sales in the bakery aisle shot up 44.3 percent, with sales of fresh bread and rolls up 58.6 percent.

March 25, 2020

3:45 PM EDT 

The Waffle House Index shows hundreds of closures due to coronavirus

Waffle House has closed more than 400 locations in perhaps the clearest sign yet of the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the restaurant industry. Waffle House restaurants are seen as a mainstay even during weather disasters. Its breakfast-focused restaurants typically remain open all day, all year, even when catastrophe strikes. “The Waffle House Index” tracks how many locations close, and serves as a measure of the severity of a situation. This time, it’s not a weather disaster that’s hitting the chain. Due to coronavirus, the company has declared it is at #WaffleHouseIndexRed. On Wednesday, Waffle House said 418 of its restaurants were closed, up from 365 a day earlier. The 1,574 locations that remain open are taking carry-out orders.

3:28 PM EDT 

Sales of essentials surge at Target, while clothing falters

Sales of essentials surge at Target, while clothing falters As shoppers flock to Target for coronavirus must-haves like cleaning wipes and gloves, and household essentials such as food, the retailer is seeing traffic surge, the Minneapolis-based marketer said. In the month-to-date in March, same-store sales, which measure stores open a year or more, are up more than 20 percent compared with the year-earlier period—the essentials and food and beverage categories lead the charge with same-store sales up over 50 percent. However, in the period, sales of apparel and accessories, which are typically higher margin goods, declined more than 20 percent, the brand said.

3:00 PM EDT 

Crocs gives shoes, JanSport gives backpacks

Quirky footwear brand Crocs announced it will be donating a pair of shoes from its classic clogs and at-work collections to health care workers across the U.S. as part of a new “A Free Pair for Healthcare” program. Individuals are advised to select their shoe of choice on Croc’s ecommerce site; shipping is free. Separately, Crocs will also donate up to 100,000 pairs of shoes to hospitals and other health care facilities.

Meanwhile, heritage backpack brand JanSport is unpacking its own initiative. The brand pledged to donate 10,000 packs of food to the World Central Kitchen to help underprivileged students who are not able to get free meals with school closures. In a #UnpackThatChallenge, JanSport is asking students to create videos on TikTok as they unpack their at-home desks in a challenge created with JUV Consulting, a youth-focused marketing firm.

8:22 AM EDT 

Unilever makes huge donation, speeds payments to small firms

Many marketers have made seven- and eight-figure philanthropic commitments the past week to address the coronavirus crisis, but Unilever has stepped up with perhaps the biggest donation yet. 

CEO Alan Jope on Tuesday pledged 100 million euros ($108 million, retail value) in such products as soap, sanitizer, bleach and food for charities, about half going to the COVID Action Platform of the World Economic Forum. Plus, he pledged 500 million euros ($540 million) in cash-flow relief for suppliers and retail customers, which includes credit for small retailers to protect jobs, and “early payment for our most vulnerable small and medium-sized suppliers.” That comes just after the Association of Independent Commercial Producers on Monday said its membership of largely small U.S. production and post-production firms was owed an estimated $200 million in late payments from brand marketers. Jope also said Unilever will pay an unspecified amount for employees, contractors and “others who we manage or who work on our sites” to guard against sudden drops in pay stemming from the crisis. “While it is difficult for even the most ardent optimist to stay positive, there are some signs that we are beginning to mobilize at the speed and scale to lift ourselves out of this crisis as quickly as possible,” Jope said in a message posted on, LinkedIn and elsewhere.

March 24, 2020

3:50 PM EDT 

Hotels open up their beds

The American Hotel and Lodging Association said its members, which include the likes of Marriott, Hilton and Red Roof Inn, have identified over 6,500 hotel properties across the U.S. that are near health care facilities and available to house health care workers and other first responders. “The hotel industry is uniquely positioned to support and help strengthen our communities and first responders who are on the frontlines of dealing with this ongoing public health crisis,” said Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO, in a statement. “Hotels have always been an active member of our local communities, and this time is no different.” The AHLA is dubbing the effort “Hotels for Hope” and is working with local, state and federal governments to create a database of locations available for use. Earlier this week, Chicago officials said some rooms at Chicago hotelswill be repurposed to house COVID-19 patients in isolation. Meanwhile, Hyatt Hotels said it will be laying off most corporate employees as it deals with the business loss from the pandemic.

1:33 PM EDT 

Aviation Gin says you should #TipYourBartenders

Aviation Gin kicked off a #TipYourBartenders effort with a $15,000 donation — or tab — to the United States Bartender’s Guild. The gin brand owned by Ryan Reynolds says it plans to add an additional 30 percent “tip” to that tab from each bottle of Aviation Gin delivered through its major national partners through May 1.

11:50 AM EDT 

Danone announces donations

Danone says it will donate $1.5 to food banks including New York’s City Harvest and Feeding Westchester and Colorado’s Community Food Share and We Don’t Waste. It also said that its hourly employees working in manufacturing plants will get a pay bump through at least the end of April. 

10:48 AM EDT 

Restaurant industry urges Americans to order take out on Tuesday 

Numerous efforts have popped up this month to support restaurants, which are in dire straits after largely being forced to shutter their dining rooms due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to Technomic, the overall foodservice industry is currently expected to see year-over-year declines of 11 percent to 27 percent. Some restaurants have shut down completely, at least for now. Others have made the switch to drive-thru, carryout and delivery models. Now, March 24 is being promoted as “The Great American Takeout,” with supporters asking people to eat at least one delivery or takeout meal to support struggling restaurants. The coalition behind the takeout push includes Panera Bread, Noodles & Co., Veggie Grill, El Torito, Jason’s Deli, The Habit Burger Grill, Lemonade, Modern Market and Chevy’s Fresh Mex, according to Restaurant Business magazine. Plenty of others have also been voicing their support of the plan with tweets that include the hashtag #TheGreatAmericanTakeout.

8:00 AM EDT 

Ford joins forces with 3M and GE Healthcare to make respirators, other equipment

Ford today outlined its plans to boost production of healthcare supplies. The automaker is joining forces with 3M to design powered air-purifying respirators that can leverage existing parts from both companies. For instance, parts could include fans used in the F-150 pickup truck and 3M’s air filters. “This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers,” Ford said in a statement.

The automaker is also hooking up with GE Healthcare to “ expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19,” Ford  stated. “These ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location. “ Ford’s plans also include the assembly of more than 100,000 face shields per week, while leveraging its in-house 3D printing capability to make  components for use in personal protective equipment.

“Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,” said Ford CEO Jim Hacket. “We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs.”

March 23, 2020

1:56 PM EDT 

Hormel, Walmart, Kroger and more hike bonuses and hiring

Coronavirus has sent shockwaves through the labor market, with some industries—like bars and airlines—shedding jobs and others—like grocers and foodmakers—needing more workers. Below, a quick look at how some companies in that latter group are trying to keep, and/or lure, help:

-Hormel Foods says it is paying more than $4 million in special cash bonus to the workers in its plants who are busy producing food such as Spam and Skippy peanut butter during the COVID-19 outbreak. Full-time plant workers each get $300 and part-time employees each get $150. 

-Walmart says it plans to hire 150,000 workers primarily for distribution and fulfillment centers, significantly upping the ante of Amazon, which announced 100,000 such hires recently. Starting pay for Walmart centers ranges from $15 to $19 an hour, with hourly pay for existing workers at fulfillment centers going up $2 an hour through Memorial Day. Those employees also can get $250 bonuses for referring new hires, who get $250 bonuses themselves. 

–Kroger Co., whose stores and delivery operations also have been deluged with coronavirus-related buying, also has been hiring heavily and announced yesterday that it’s giving bonuses of $150 to part-time workers and $300 for full-time workers hired before March 1.  That matches similar bonuses Walmart offered all hourly associates last week, plus acceleration of first-quarter bonuses by a month. Walmart’s bonus program alone will amount to a $550 million outlay, not counting the impact of the new hires. Kroger also bought Donatos pizza for 12,000 stressed-out workers at its Columbus, Ohio, stores on Sunday, setting a single-order record for the regional pizza chain.

–Target similarly announced Friday that it will offer employees a $2 an hour pay raises effective immediately through May 2 and give bonus payouts to 20,000 hourly store team leads of $250 to $1,500. Other retailers offering temporary $2 per hour pay hikes include Amazon, H-E-B, Albertsons and Giant.

–Mondelēz International plans to hire 1,000 people in distribution and sales. It is also giving its hourly manufacturing, distribution and sales workforce a $2 per hour increase for hours worked March 23 through May 2, while sales reps get a $125 per-week bonus.

9:58 AM EDT 

Papa John’s hiring push includes some same-day starts

Papa John’s says job seekers may be able to get hired and start the same day in some locations. The chain says it aims to hire up to 20,000 people, becoming the latest pizza seller to announce it is ramping up hiring in a big way as orders continue to roll in during the coronavirus pandemic, and as it knows that many service industry employees have suddenly found themselves out of work. “For anyone looking for immediate ways to earn an income, we’re making it quick and simple to apply, interview and be hired at Papa John’s,” Marvin Boakye, Papa John’s chief people and diversity officer, said in a statement. “We want to add talented team members to our Papa John’s family across the country to deliver food safely to our customers’ doorsteps. We are in the unique position – as a restaurant that specializes in delivery and carryout – to help our communities through this crisis.”

Papa John’s, the 4th-largest U.S. pizza chain, says that in most cases, job applicants can expect to get an interview and potentially start the same day.

9:05 AM EDT 

Popeyes tries a ‘fried chicken and chill’ approach on Twitter

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen says it’s giving its Netflix username and password to fans in a socially-driven campaign from Gut. The chain wants to remind people that it treats its customers like family. And families, as we all know, share streaming service passwords.

There’s a purchase involved, though. The first 1,000 people who post photos of themselves on Twitter with the hashtag #ThatPasswordFromPopeyes get the access. Popeyes, like many other major U.S. chains, is still offering delivery, pickup and drive-thru during the pandemic. A campaign video was shared on Twitter on Sunday. 

March 22, 2020

5:05 PM EDT 

McDonald’s is shutting down in UK and Ireland

McDonald’s U.K. and Ireland said it has decided to close all restaurants by 7 p.m. local time on March 23. “This is not a decision we are taking lightly,” McDonald’s UK said in a statement posted on Twitter. “We look forward to seeing you all again as soon as it is safe for us to reopen.” McDonald’s in the U.S. is continuing to offer drive-thru and delivery.

9:50 AM EDT 

Anheuser-Busch starts sanitizer production

Add Anheuser-Busch InBev to the listing of companies making hand sanitizer. The brewer made the announcement on its social channels on Saturday night. An AB InBev spokesman said the brewer will “work with our non-profit partners for the distribution,” adding the more details would be shared in the next few days. Other companies making sanitizer include luxury goods maker LVMH, which is using some of its perfume and cosmetic production lines to make sanitizer for France. U.K.-based craft brewer BrewDog is making sanitizer branded “Brewgel” that it says it will give away to charities. Tito’s Vodka, whichearlier stressed that its regular vodka is not strong enough to be used as a disinfectant, announced that it “will now indeed be producing and distributing 24 tons of actual hand sanitizer to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

March 20, 2020

10:01 PM EDT 

Bud Light sponsors a virtual concert

Plenty of homebound pop stars have performed virtual concerts during the coronavirus outbreak—now Bud Light is getting in on the act. The brew on Friday night sponsored its first “Bud Light Dive Bar Tour: Home Edition,” featuring country music star Jake Owen. The show, which Owen performed from his house, was streamed on his Instagram Live page. It carried sparse branding; the most noticeable plug was a pinned message saying, “Live at the @budlight Dive Bar Tour: House Edition: Come have some beers and hang with us.” 

By about 10 pm EDT the show drew about 4,000 live viewers. The show was free, but Owen and Bud Light solicited donations to the American Red Cross. It also featured a cross-promotion with alcohol delivery service Drizly, which gave people $5 off their orders with the promo code “BUDLIGHT.”

The brand in a statement said the show was “the first of many activations that Bud Light is introducing to raise awareness of practicing social distancing and raising funds for important charities.”  Shana Barry, director of experiential marketing for Bud Light, said: “In these uncertain times, we want to make sure we can still deliver a fun experience for music fans while keeping everyone safe.”

9:15 PM EDT 

Starbucks goes to a drive-thru only model in U.S. for two weeks

Starbucks has now decided to close its company-owned cafes in the U.S. and Canada for two weeks, limiting service to drive-thrus. There are, however, exceptions for cafes near hospitals and health care centers. Previously, it had removed seating and shifted to “to-go” only, which included carryout orders. The world’s largest coffee chain has been under pressure from some employees to shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. Starbucks also said it is going to pay all in-store staff for the next 30 days, whether or not they choose to come to work.

“Let’s be real. Lattes aren’t ‘essential,’” Rossann Williams, executive VP and president of U.S. company-operated business and Canada, said in a statement. “But in times of crisis, the government asks convenient food and beverage outlets to remain open when possible for pickup, drive-thru, or delivery.”

6:30 PM EDT 

Miller Lite starts ‘virtual tip jar’ to support out-of-work bartenders

It’s rare, if not unprecedented, for a beer brand to feature a completely empty bar in its marketing. But these are not normal times. Miller Lite today tweeted an image of a desolate drinking hole as part of a new campaign called  “#VirtualTipJar” aimed at raising money for bartenders that have been sidelined as bars close in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The tweet includes a link to the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program run by the United States Bartender’s Guild National Charity Foundation. Miller Lite owner Molson Coors has chipped in $1 million. Liquor marketer Beam Suntory has also pledged a $1 million donation to the bartender program and the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation. According to Molson Coors, an estimated 241,000 restaurants and bars have closed their doors as of this week.

6:05 PM EDT 

Putting the week into perspective—and what a week it was

On the latest edition of Ad Age’s “Marketer’s Brief’ podcast, E.J. Schultz, Jessica Wohl and Adrianne Pasquarelli discuss the latest on how marketers are responding to the crisis.

4:40 PM EDT 

Burrow makes store employees available online

Like other direct-to-consumer brands with stores, Burrow, which sells furniture like sofas and tables, has to contend with closing shop during the coronavirus. Burrow opened its New York store in September 2018 and relocated to a larger location in February, only to close it this week. However, like other d-to-c brands, Burrow is well-positioned to make the leap to online, and so is making its store specialist available virtually. With what the brand is calling “Burrow House at Home,” shoppers can make 15 or 30-minute appointments with store employees for any design or product questions.

3:04 PM EDT 

Varsity Tutors launches free live classes next week

More than 90 percent of public and private K-12 students in the U.S. are off school because of coronavirus closures, according to Education Week. Assuming all those school districts don’t have the remote curriculum fully up and running yet, Varsity Tutors is looking to fill the gap. The online marketplace ordinarily connects students and their families with company-screened tutors to get one-on-one help for a fee. But starting next week, Varsity Tutors is also launching free live, interactive streaming classes for K-12. Some of its Virtual School Day offerings are as basic as algebra and Spanish. Others are highly topical enrichment courses, such as Science of Pandemics and History of Stock Market Crashes.

“We have 40,000 tutors and hundreds of thousands of students, and the vast majority of our business is done virtually,” says Adam Weber, chief marketing officer of Varsity Tutors, and a veteran of both Procter & Gamble Co. (Art of Shaving) and Unilever (Dollar Shave Club). “When school closures started to kick in, we realized parents are now being asked to fill in a whole syllabus of daily schedules.” Varsity Tutors began marketing the free classes via organic social media this week, getting thousands of sign ups. The company is almost entirely a distributed workforce, so workplace closures haven’t affected its operations, Weber says. And the free classes serve to potentially expose more parents and students to the platform for possible paid use down the road. “I feel like this is a massive tipping point for education,” he says, “and we wanted to step in and do something to help parents.”

10:30 AM EDT 

Kraft Heinz gives $12 million in money and food

Kraft Heinz Co. says it will donate $12 million in cash and food globally to help address the Coronavirus pandemic. “This donation is an immediate and impactful way we can help our neighbors in need around the world and help fill this critical gap,” Kraft Heinz CEO Miguel Patricio said in a statement. 

Kraft Heinz also launched an internal rallying cry, #WeGotYouAmerica, to recognize the U.S. plant employees ramping up food production in the midst of the pandemic.

Its donation plans include giving $1.9 million to U.S. hunger organization Feeding America, which will also receive $4.7 million worth of products such as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Heinz gravy, Planters nut mixes and Devour frozen meals to be provided to U.S. food banks.

In the UK, the company is working with the charity Magic Breakfast to provide 12 million breakfasts for school children in need. In Canada, its donations to Food Banks Canada include more than 100,000 boxes of KD/Kraft Dinner (the Canadian version of Kraft mac & cheese). Kraft Heinz added that it already made donations in China, where it has factories and offices, including more than 4,000 boxes of Heinz infant food. 

9:34 AM EDT 

Purell manufacturing worker may have COVID-19 virus

Gojo Industries, makers of Purell hand sanitizers, announced Thursday that a manufacturing worker at its Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, plant may have the COVID-19 virus. Purell, of course, has been widely out-of-stock for weeks online and in stores as people stocked up on its products to fight against coronavirus. Gojo announced earlier in the week that it’s hiring for its two Ohio plants to ramp up production to meet the unprecedented demand. “While not a confirmed case at this time, we are working to do everything we can to support this individual’s well-being and the well-being of our entire organization,” Gojo said in a statement. “We immediately took action to further protect the health of our team members at this location and are in touch with the other team members who worked this production line about additional preventative guidance and isolation measures.”

The company added: “Unlike companies making non-essential products, we do not have the ability to stop production, and in fact are ramping up our operations to meet the pressing need at this time, and have always understood that the possibility of one our own being impacted by this virus was probable.”

9:08 AM EDT 

Fauci joins Zuck in Facebook stream

“Where’s Fauci?” was trending on Twitter yesterday when the expert U.S. medical official was surprisingly missing from the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing. Then, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, showed up on Facebook later last night in a livestreaming interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Fauci wasn’t in hiding, and he had a nearly hour-long question-and-answer session with Zuckerberg, which reached more than 170,000 concurrent viewers at points. Fauci discussed everything from developing a vaccine to his forecast for how long the U.S. will have to continue to shelter in place, as cities across America are living with the new social distancing protocols.

“At the fastest we can go it is going to take a year, year and a half,” Fauci said of a vaccine, which would prevent transmission of COVID-19. As for how long the U.S. will have to hunker down, “I believe it likely will be more than just two weeks,” Fauci said.

For Facebook, it was a time to highlight its information services capabilities, providing hopefully more credible information than some of what’s been spread on the social network the past few weeks regarding the disease. Facebook, along with Google, Reddit, Twitter and Snapchat, has begun clipping links to official health sources at the top of its websites and apps. Facebook has also been promoting the power of livestreaming video as a way to share personal stories as people interact remotely.

7:57 AM EDT 

Cadbury pulls Easter ad

Cadbury has pulled its U.K. Easter campaign, which featured an older man planning an egg hunt for his grandchildren, in the light of the coronavirus pandemic and the new rules about social distancing. The ad from VCCP broke two weeks ago and depicts the man hiding eggs around his apartment, climbing up onto high shelves and crouching down under beds to place them high and low, before his two grandchildren arrive, one a little girl and one a tall teenager.

A spokesperson for the brand commented: “We take our responsibility for marketing and advertising very seriously. Our television ad was intended to inspire generosity and happiness in the run up to Easter. However, due to current government guidance on social distancing, we recognize it’s no longer appropriate to encourage close physical contact, particularly with older generations. For that reason, we’ve made the decision to replace our current Easter ad with spots that are mindful of the current climate. We’re working to do this as soon as possible.”

The ad, directed by Si&Ad at Academy Films, was part of a long-running kindness-themed campaign by the Mondelez brand titled “There’s a glass and a half in every one,” which has focused particularly on kindness to older generations and reducing their loneliness. Another execution from last year featured neighborhood kids showing kindness to an elderly man next door.  

March 19, 2020

9:20 PM EDT 

Guinness ‘knocked it out of the park’ with its St. Patrick’s Day ad: Ace Metrix

For marketers wondering if they should address the coronavirus in ads, Ace Metrix has the answer: Yes, but make sure it’s not empty rhetoric. The ad-tracking service—which scores ads using a panel of 500 viewers—in newly released findings reports that only 10 percent of its survey respondents say that it is not OK for brands to mention COVID-19, while 42 percent say “any mention is OK” and 44 percent say it “depends on the message and/or brand.” But Ace Metrix adds that it is “key for brands to show actual action, not just words” with 75 percent of its respondents saying brands have a responsibility to help out during the pandemic. 

To date the number of brands addressing the coronavirus in ads remains relatively small. Among the first ones to get near the subject was Guinness, which last Friday released a spot from Philadelphia-based agency Quaker City Mercantile acknowledging that St. Patrick’s Day would not be the same this year with all the parade cancellations. The ad sought to unify people with the message that “we’ll march again.” The spot never specifically mentions  COVID-19, but the intentions are clear, and the ad ends with a pledge by the Diageo-owned brand to commit $500,000 to “help the communities where we live, work and celebrate.”

‘To say Guinness knocked it out of the park would be an understatement,” Ace Metrix reports, noting that the viewers ranked it as “the No. 1 beer ad of all time—that’s nearly 1,900 ads going back to 2009—and seven in ten reported increased purchase intent.”

Ford, the first brand to specifically mention COVID-19 in ads, also scored well. Its two spots from Wieden & Kennedy New York, plug a new program in which Ford Credit customers can defer payments. According to Ace Metrix, 58 percent of viewers reported a positive change in perception of Ford with only 4 percent reporting a negative change.

5:16 PM EDT 

Snapchat is ‘Here for you’

With the stress and anxiety people are feeling over coronavirus, Snapchat is expediting its “Here For You” feature. First announced in February for an early April launch, Snapchat’s “Here For You” provides users resources when they search for topics related to mental health, such as anxiety, depression, stress, suicidal thoughts and grief. The resources are provided by health partners including: Active Minds, Because of You, Crisis Text Line and Seize the Awkward in the US and Young Minds, The Samaritans and Diana Award in the UK. A section of Here For You will be devoted to the coronavirus and will share updates from the World Health Organization, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Crisis Text Line, National Health Service and the Ad Council. Snapchat has also launched a nationwide filter with advice on how to stay safe.

3:30 PM EDT 

Best Buy limits in-store customers

Electronics retailer Best Buy, which has seen demand surge in recent days on products that allow people to work from home and freeze food, according to a spokesman, is switching up its in-store operations. Beginning March 23, the store will only permit as many as 10 or 15 customers in each store at one time to enforce the social distancing guidelines advised by the CDC. Stores will have shortened hours but will not fully close in order to meet the needs of customers, according to CEO Corie Barry.

“Right now, our role as a consumer electronics retailer is rapidly shifting,” wrote Barry in a blog post. “You are turning to us for help getting the technology that allows you to continue running a small business or shift your usual job from an office setting to your home. You are turning to us to help your children continue their education outside of their classroom. And, you are turning to us for necessities that allow you to store and prepare food for your family.” The company is also ramping up its curbside pickup services.

12:10 PM EDT 

Domino’s and Jet’s Pizza among chains promoting available jobs

Domino’s and Jet’s Pizza are two of the chains seeking service industry workers who may be struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic to come work for them as delivery drivers and in other roles. Domino’s, the world’s largest pizza chain, says open positions at its shops include delivery, pizza makers, customer service representatives, managers and assistant managers. Domino’s U.S. supply chain operation is also looking for Class A CDL drivers.

11:57 AM EDT 

National Restaurant Association pegs industry loss at $225 billion

“While many local, state, and federal rules are closing dine-in restaurants, the opportunity to keep feeding our neighbors through delivery and carryout means that a small sense of normalcy is still available to everyone,” Domino’s CEO Richard Allison said in a statement. “Our corporate and franchise stores want to make sure they’re not only feeding people, but also providing opportunity to those looking for work at this time, especially those in the heavily-impacted restaurant industry.”

Jet’s, meanwhile, said it has delivery gigs available at each of its 386 locations, and

11:49 AM EDT 

Grocery shortages expected to ease

Shoppers should see products returning to grocery store shelves and coolers soon, according to Clay Detlefsen, senior VP of regulatory and environmental affairs for the National Milk Producers Federation, who also serves as the private-sector chair of the Food and Agricultural Sector Coordinating Council. “There is plenty of food in this country. There is no food shortage,” he said in a statement from the milk group. “We have a bit of a distribution problem caused largely by consumers, in essence, over-consuming.”

March 19, 2020

9:55 AM EDT 

Putting it into perspective

Take a spin through all the marketing-related coronavirus news with our latest edition of Remotely. Ad Age’s Jeanine Poggi and E.J. Schultz put the latest headlines into perspective, including the Cannes Lions delay, how the outbreak is affecting General Mills and a lighthearted effort by a creative to reimagine brand logos in the age of social distancing.

March 18, 2020

4:46 PM EDT 

BK’s family time promo

As restaurants try to remain relevant in a non-dining-out market, Burger King has found its way to stand out: some free grub for kids. Starting March 20, Burger King is offering two free kids meals with any purchase made on its app for takeout or drive-thru. The offer can be redeemed one time per guest per day, through April 6.

4:17 PM EDT 

Dunkin’s social distancing reward

To promote ordering from a distance, Dunkin’ says that it will give loyalty members who use on-the-go ordering on March 19 an extra 100 points in their DD Perks program.  

12:44 PM EDT 

Free, free, free

One way brands are trying to hold onto or win consumers is by offering more stuff for free. Here are two examples:

-Dish Network’s Sling TV is providing free news and entertainment content amid the coronavirus outbreak. “Stay in & Sling” will give those with no paid Sling TV account access to free coverage around COVID-19 from ABC News, and on-demand access to kids, lifestyle and entertainment programming.

-Meanwhile, Popsugar released its new subscription fitness app early to get people exercising amid the outbreak. While Active by Popsugar will normally be a paid app, the company is offering the platform free for the foreseeable future. The app features over 500 fitness classes from celebrity trainers and other experts in yoga, strength, cardio and pilates.

Here is the danger: If you condition consumers to expect stuff for free, there is a risk that they will demand deep discounting once things return to normal.

11:05 AM EDT 

Assessing the damage

As long as coronavirus dominates the news Ad Age will dedicate its weekly “Marketer’s Brief” podcast to how brands are responding to the pandemic. On the latest edition, Ad Age journalists sort through the damage caused so far and look ahead to possible winners and losers once the crisis passes.

March 17, 2020

6:00 PM EDT 

One Medical ramps up virtual offerings

Health care provider One Medical has always offered 24/7 virtual care to its members, but the San Francisco-based health care brand is intensifying such efforts as more consumers worry about coronavirus. One Medical has added COVID-19 screening questions to its “Treat Me Now” feature in its app, and will route the data to a provider based on answers. As of March 12, the company said that it has seen an 82 percent increase in video visits, and 30 percent of members have sought out virtual care in March, which lessens the burden on hospitals treating those with more urgent needs, a spokeswoman says.

5:49 PM EDT 

Starbucks extends star expirations

Starbucks Rewards members don’t have to worry if they can’t or don’t want to leave home right now to redeem their loyalty points, or stars, for free drinks or other merchandise. In its latest update to customers, Starbucks said it will delay the expiration of all stars that were slated to expire between now and June 1.

11:26 AM EDT 

Jameson looking out for bartenders

It’s not a normal St. Patrick’s day this year…even the bars in Ireland are closed. Whiskey brand Jameson is stepping up to help support bartenders, a lot of whom are now out of a job due to bars closing for the coronavirus. On social, the Pernod Ricard brand announced it’s pledging $500,000 to support the charity of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. “We know there may be some hard roads ahead for members in this community,” reads a tweet with the hashtag #LoveThyBartender. “To our local bartenders: You’ve always had our backs, and we promise to have yours.” Jameson is also matching every dollar donated by others up to $100,000 to the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program until the end of March.  

11:22 AM EDT 

Mint Mobile gives out free unlimited data

Mint Mobile and owner Ryan Reynolds is offering all new and current customers free unlimited high-speed data add-ons through April 14. “The last few days have thrown the world into an unprecedented moment of uncertainty where reliable communication is of the utmost importance. As your communication provider, we feel it’s necessary to do something that could possibly help all of us navigate this tough time a little bit better.”

10:17 AM EDT 

Facebook pledges small business aid

Facebook says it is prepared to dole out $100 million to small businesses to weather the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak. On Tuesday, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, announced the program that’s being called “Boost With Facebook.”

“We’ve listened to small businesses to understand how we can best help them,” Sandberg wrote on her Facebook page on Tuesday. “We’ve heard loud and clear that financial support could enable them to keep the lights on and pay people who can’t come to work.” Sandberg said businesses would be able to apply for grants in the coming weeks, but in the meantime asked companies to sign up for updates online. The website for the program says that the grants could be used to cover expenses like rent, employees and other operational costs. Facebook also said it would also provide advertising assistance for businesses marketing on the social network. Facebook says 30,000 small businesses could be eligible in 30 countries.

10:00 AM EDT 

More stores close, as household goods sellers make special hours for seniors

The list of temporary store closures has grown to include the likes of Nordstorm, Sephora, J. Crew, Uniqlo, Under Armour and Saks Fifth Avenue’s Manhattan flagship.  Ralph Lauren and Foot Locker also announced closures, while JC Penney said it will operate in shortened business hours. Adidasremains open, however, as do several malls. While Nordstrom, which said it will “do our part,” promised a two-week closure, other retailers  have more grim predictions. Uniqlo said stores are shuttered “until further notice.”

Meanwhile, several grocers and other chains selling household essentials are offering special shopping hours to seniors, that segment of the population that is especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based Dollar General announced that beginning March 17, the first hour of operation will be dedicated to seniors, who can avoid the crowds of later, busier hours. Shops will also close an hour earlier each day to restock shelves and clean. Grocery chain Stop & Shop has made similar adjustments for older consumers as well. 

9:20 AM EDT 

Restaurant woes continue

A number of restaurant chains have announced the shut down of their dining rooms over the last day, including McDonald’s, where customers can no longer fill their own drinks or make use of the PlayPlace for kids. Wendy’sDunkin’ and Arby’s are among the other chains that continue to provide drive-thru, carryout and delivery where possible.

March 16, 2020

2:05 PM EDT 

Looking for ‘dining bonds’ 

In a sign of what those in the restaurant industry are trying to do for operators, an initiative called “Dining Bonds” was announced as a way to suggest customers support smaller restaurants that can’t stay open. The idea is for consumers to pay up front for gift certificates, often offered at a discount, from a growing list of restaurants, and is being led by two PR firms, HP-PR and Hall PR. Then, consumers can redeem the gift certificates at a later date once restaurants resume service. 

1:13 PM EDT 

Show goes on at ANA … for now

The Association of National Advertisers still technically has seven conferences scheduled for the next eight weeks, a period when the Centers for Disease Control said in a guidance yesterday that businesses and individuals should avoid holding events with 50 or more people.  As of today, the ANA hasn’t postponed the meetings, but President Bob Liodice in an email this morning the group is “continually evaluating how the spread of the coronavirus will affect the hundreds of events we hold throughout the year. To address concerns and requests, where possible, we are looking at online alternatives for our existing products.”

In an update on the group’s website, the ANA advises “travelers can best protect themselves by following CDC guidelines” but goes on to list eight upcoming conferences during the CDC’s eight-week window. Only the first—the ANA Media Conference set to begin March 25—has been canceled so far. The next one up is the Email Evolution Conference set to begin April 13 in Nashville.  As of late Friday, the ANA still was running promoted tweets for its Brand Activation Conference set to begin April 22 in San Diego. But a spokesman says “such promotional tweets are now on hold as of today with the recent updates from the CDC about an eight-week period of no large gatherings.”

The Advertising Research Foundation on Monday postponed its biggest conference of the year, AudienceXScience 2020, set to start April 19 in Jersey City, New Jersey, until Sept. 20-22. The 4As on Monday postponed its biggest show of the year, Decisions 20/20, to sometime in early 2021, and its Management Practitioners Forum from March 30-31 to fall 2020.

10:45 AM EDT 

Shake Shack withdraws 2020 financial guidance

Shake Shack has moved to a “to-go” only model in its U.S. company-owned restaurants. The fast-casual burger chain also withdrew its 2020 financial guidance, citing “the current unprecedented market conditions domestically and internationally,” and its shares were down roughly 15 percent in morning trading. “When the time comes to re-open our dining rooms as the community gathering place we were born to be, our teams will be ready,” CEO Randy Garutti said in a statement issued Monday morning. “Until, then we are thankful for the privilege to serve our guests safely.”

9:35 AM EDT 

Chipotle offers Zoom lunches with celebrities

Chipotle Mexican Grill is trying to put an uplifting spin on the situation by offering “Chipotle Together” virtual hangouts on Zoom. Each day this week, 3,000 fans will be able to mingle virtually with celebrities in online chats that will also include codes for free entrées. Monday’s chat, scheduled for 2 p.m. ET, is set to be co-hosted by “The Bachelor” Colton Underwood, “who will chat with fans and walk them through a hilarious Chipotle-inspired presentation,” Chipotle said. The company is sharing links to the Chipotle Together Zoom meetings on Twitter.

In more serious details, Chipotle said it is using new tamper-evident packaging seals to reassure diners that food is untouched during delivery.

March 15, 2020

6:50 PM EDT 

Starbucks moves to a to-go only model in U.S. and Canada

Beginning Sunday, March 15, Starbucks is making all of its stores in the U.S. and Canada “to go” only for at least two weeks. People can walk up and order at the counter, using the order ahead feature on the app, in the drive-thru and using delivery. There is no seating for customers, and condiment bars are being modified to minimize people touching things such as milk canisters. Some stores in locations such as malls and on university campuses may temporarily close, and stores in areas with high clusters of COVID-19 cases may close or reduce operating hours. Many of the measures are similar to what the world’s largest coffee chain did in China when coronavirus was prevalent there. 

5:00 PM EDT 

Governors of Ohio and Illinois order restaurants and bars to shut down

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Sunday said the state is ordering all bars and restaurants to close beginning at 9 p.m. tonight, though they can continue to offer carryout and delivery. “Every day we delay, more people will die,” DeWine posted in one of a series of tweets. “If we do not act and get some distance between people, our healthcare system in #Ohio will not hold up.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made a similar announcement, ordering all bars and restaurants there to close as of the close of business March 16 through March 30. Delivery, drive-thru and curbside pickup may continue, Pritzker said. “I know how difficult this will be on small businesses around the state,” Pritzker wrote on Twitter. “But we must do everything we can to safeguard the health of the citizens of Illinois, and that requires this urgent action.”

Alcohol brands typically get about a quarter of sales from bars and restaurants, but with so many people making grocery runs to stock up, it’s possible brands could make up for the lost bar visits. 

March 14, 2020

2:45 PM EDT 

Experiential venues begin to shutter

Museum of Ice Cream, the interactive ice cream-themed experience in New York and San Francisco, is closing its doors temporarily, according to founder and CEO Maryellis Bunn. On Instagram, Bunn announced the coronavirus-fueled decision: “While the world has been fighting to contain COVID-19, we have been fighting to make sure MOIC can get through this unprecedented time. With the growing health concerns and the consideration of the greater public, we made the only possible call, to temporarily shut our doors.”

The closure follows that of interactive venue Color Factory, which recently tweeted that it will be closed for two weeks beginning March 16 to limit the spread of the virus. Experts are not optimistic about the business survival of such venues, which are built on sensory marketing at a time when consumers are unable to touch.

12:50 AM EDT 

Taco Bell may close some dining rooms

Taco Bell is putting plans in place to deal with any required closures of some of its dining rooms. “As regions of the U.S. begin to mandate public closures and self-quarantine, we are equipping our restaurants to serve our guests via drive-thru and delivery only where necessary,”  CEO Mark King says in a letter to fans posted on Taco Bell’s web site. If Taco Bell’s dining rooms need to close, that would limit millions of interactions, “further enabling  social distancing,” King writes. Taco Bell, which is heavily franchised, says that at the U.S. restaurants it owns it will pay staffers who are required to stay home or who work at a restaurant that is closed, and is working with franchisees “to encourage a similar approach.”

He added: “We are going to redefine what it means to be a social brand during this coronavirus pandemic, while at the same time keeping our team members safe, and continuing to provide our fans with the delicious Taco Bell food they love.”

12:45 AM EDT 

Domino’s updates its plans

Domino’s, the world’s biggest pizza chain, has stepped up the frequency of disinfecting surfaces and delivery bags, CEO Ritch Allison said in a letter issued March 14. “It’s also important to note that all of our freshly made products are baked in a 450-degree oven,” Allison writes. Domino’s also pointed out that customers should put instructions in their order if they want contactless delivery. That practice, of having the delivery person leave the item at a designated spot so that the customer can then pick it up separately, is quickly becoming the norm in food delivery. Domino’s is also expanding paid leave for full- and part-time hourly employees at its company-owned stores and its supply chain centers.

8:23 AM EDT 

Hyundai brings back ‘Job Loss Protection’

As the coronavirus spreads and the economy sinks, brands will be hard-pressed to stir demand for big-ticket items, like cars. Hyundai and sibling brand Genesis are trying to spur purchases by relaunching a recession-era program called Assurance Job Loss Protection. The brands promise to make up to six months of payments for drivers who lose their jobs and have purchased or leased their vehicle between March 14 to April 30, 2020. The brands, owned by Hyundai Motor America, are also allowing buyers to defer payments for three months if they buy certain models. For Hyundai that includes: Santa Fe, Tucson, Elantra, Elantra GT, Kona, Venue and Accent. Hyundai first created the program in January 2009 amid the Great Recession.

“We understand the extreme uncertainty created by the coronavirus and the anxiety experienced by our customers, and wanted to tap into Hyundai’s legacy of having people’s back,” José Muñoz  president and CEO of Hyundai Motor North America stated in a press release. “Bringing back the job loss protection program in this unprecedented time will allow our customers to have one less thing to worry about if something unexpected happens to their employment status.”

March 13, 2020

8:21 PM EDT 

Patagonia closes all stores

Patagonia is temporarily closing its stores, offices and other operations, effective at the close of business on March 13. “We apologize that over the next two weeks, there will be delays on orders and customer-service requests. We ask for your understanding and patience. We will reassess and post an update on March 27, 2020,” Patagonia CEO and president Rose Marcario stated in a letter posted on the company’s web site. Employees will get their regular pay during the shutdown. “The scale of impact is still unknown, and we want to do our part to protect our community especially while testing availability is unknown,” Marcario stated.

7:30 PM EDT 

Hershey’s Chocolate World to shut down

Hershey Co. announced on March 13 that it will close its Hershey’s Chocolate World locations in Hershey, Pennsylvania and New York City for two weeks, beginning when the locations close at their usual times on March 15. For now, Hershey’s Chocolate World locations in Niagara, Canada, and Las Vegas, Nevada are set to remain open until further notice.

The company, an NCAA sponsor since 2009, also provided an update on its March Madness plans, saying it “is fully committed to continuing to support the NCAA and our annual program in partnership with many of our retailers—even in a time when the physical games and tournaments have been cancelled,” it said in a statement issued Friday. “While our hospitality and events programming surrounding Final Four activities have been cancelled, our products, including Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, will still be found at all major retailers with corresponding NCAA-themed merchandise.”

5:20 PM EDT 

Ford delays Bronco announcement

Ford had planned to make a splash next week with an announcement related to the Bronco, the SUV that the automaker is bringing back after last selling it in 1996. But like so many other brand plans, the announcement is being delayed as a result of the coronavirus. Ford earlier announced a policy instructing much of its global workforce to work from home (see more on that further down). “The decisions we are making are based on the health and safety of our employees, dealers, customers, and partners who are always Ford’s highest priority,” a spokeswoman stated in an email. “We have dedicated teams closely monitoring the coronavirus situation, including the latest directives and guidance from national and regional authorities, and across our supply chain. We are planning and acting accordingly.”

3:17 PM EDT 

Jersey Mike’s ‘Sub Guy’ plans are altered

Jersey Mike’s had timed the launch of a campaign emphasizing the friendliness and knowledge of its sub shop staff for mid-March, including a heavy rotation of ads during sporting events including March Madness. But the chain must now shift gears after the tournament was cancelled, joining the list of other brands that are scrambling to adjust their marketing. “The cancellation of the NCAA Tournament and other sporting events is, of course, unprecedented,” Rich Hope, chief marketing officer of Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems Inc., said in a statement to Ad Age. “We are in wait and see mode. For now, the campaign will still run on a broad cable buy.” The campaign, which features an enthusiastic “Sub Guy” at one of its shops, now comes as many people are likely to skip restaurant visits as they stay home with office and school closures. The work comes from Planet Propaganda. 

11:57 AM EDT 

Unilever, Ford opt for work-at-home

Unilever and Ford have joined the ranks of companies asking employees to work from home. Unilever’s policy, which follows a similar move by Procter & Gamble Co., includes a prohibition on all air travel except return flights. It is also requiring employees who do come to work to undergo thermal testing upon entry. 

In a message to employees posted on March 13, CEO Alan Jope said any air travel currently booked, apart from return flights, will be cancelled centrally by the company’s booking partners. Unilever employees are also now forbidden to work from any company site other than their principal locations, enter a Unilever site if suffering cold or flu symptoms, invite any visitors into a site without prior approval of the site leader or attend any meetings of more than 20 people. Employees are required to self-isolate for 14 days if suffering from cold or flu symptoms, and apply hand sanitizer when they enter a company site. Hand shaking is now forbidden too, as employees are expected to use “non-physical greetings.” Jope said field sales and merchandisers should observe similar hygiene and social-distancing measures where possible, including connecting with retail customers remotely, and should minimize use of public transport.The work-from-home requirements don’t necessarily apply in China, where national authorities are allowing people to return to work, Jope said.

“We are continuing to support global and local authorities by donating hygiene products to support the fight against coronavirus, and we will be further stepping up these efforts,” Jope said. “I am acutely aware that these changes to our working arrangements will have a big impact on our lives,” he said. “None of the measures have been taken without careful thought and consideration about what this will mean for all of us, and I want to reassure you that we will support you through this change.”

Ford’s policy starts Monday.  “We are instructing much of our global workforce—except those in business-critical roles that cannot be done away from Ford facilities—to work remotely until further notice,” the company announced.

11:44 AM EDT 

Snapchat cuts virtual summit

Snapchat has canceled its April 2 summit. The messaging app maker had planned to livestream the keynote address of the Snap Partner Summit, but now just says it will indefinitely postpone activities around the event, including any online component. The Snap Partner Summit is like Facebook F8 and Google I/O, which are the companies’ largest self-produced conferences for developers, marketers and brands. Facebook and Google have both, so far, said they would stream some of their events. “We’ve made the difficult decision to postpone our virtual Snap Partner Summit keynote out of an abundance of caution for our partners and employees involved,” a Snapchat spokesman said in an e-mail statement. “We’re looking forward to celebrating our partners at a later point.”

11:15 AM EDT 

Planters Nutmobile hits the brakes

Planters has been silent on social media for weeks since its big Super Bowl push. Late on Thursday, the Kraft Heinz brand posted on Instagram for the first time since Feb. 4, with a message similar to the one from Oscar Mayer about its Wienermobile. The Planters post reads: “We have made the difficult decision to cancel currently scheduled NUTmobile events for the near future. The health & safety of our fans, Peanutters & the public is top priority. Take care of yourselves & each other. We look forward to getting back on the road as soon as we can.”

11:00 AM EDT 

Guided tours at Warby Parker

Warby Parker, the eyeglass company, is switching up the try-on tactics in its stores. Normally, customers are able to walk in, pick up a pair of glasses and put them on. Stores even have photobooths where customers can email pictures. But now, the brand is “providing customers with guided experiences throughout each of our stores so that we can sanitize glasses before and after each use—and we are training teams on social guidance best practices,” according to co-founders and co-CEOs Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa. The execs also noted that Warby Parker recently added more disinfectant to stores after customers asked for it. All of the company’s stores, which number over 100 in the U.S. including seven in New York City, remain open.

10:02 AM EDT 

More free delivery

Restaurants are doing what they can to keep customers. KFC says that starting March 14 it will offer free delivery through April 26 through its site, Grubhub or Seamless. 

9:30 AM EDT 

Glossier closes up shop

Popular direct-to-consumer beauty brand Glossier emailed customers March 13 to explain how the cosmetics company is helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. All retail locations, including shops in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and London, will be closed for two weeks beginning March 13. A planned March 18 opening in Arizona has also been postponed. Emily Weiss, founder and CEO, wrote about the decision in a blog post, explaining that the NYC flagship alone sees 2,000 customers daily. “We’re not alarmists, we’re realists,” she wrote, urging consumers to stay in touch on Glossier’s virtual channels and to visit its well-staffed website.

March 12, 2020

9:22 PM EDT 

Blaze Pizza adjusts Pi Day offer

Each year, Blaze Pizza offers $3.14 pies on March 14, which has come to be known across numerous pizza and bakery chains as Pi Day. On March 12, Blaze said that it would make this year’s Pi Day reward open to users of its app, and redeemable March 16 through Dec. 31, rather than on a singular day, citing concerns regarding large crowds potentially gathering amid COVID-19. 

9:15 PM EDT 

Wienermobiles stop rolling

Oscar Mayer’s 27-foot-long driving hot dogs, the Wienermobiles, are off the road for now. “We’ve made the difficult decision to cancel currently scheduled Wienermobile events for the near future,” the brand said in a statement on the @Wienermobile Twitter account on March 12. “The health & safety of our fans, the Hotdoggers and the public is top priority. We look forward to getting back on the hot dog highway as soon as we can. Stay safe everyone,” the statement read. The first Wienermobile was created by Carl Mayer in 1936 and usually, there are six Wienermobiles being driven across the country.

8:30 PM EDT 

Coke issues work-from-home order at Atlanta HQ

Coca-Cola is ordering the vast majority of the employees in its Atlanta headquarters to work from home starting Monday through April 13. The only people coming in will be workers that must be onsite to effectively do their jobs, according to a company memo sent by CEO James Quincey. He cited “guidelines provided by health experts to reduce large gatherings and increase social distancing.” He stressed that there “continue to be no cases of COVID-19” at the headquarters but that “we are aware of employees who have indicated that they are not feeling well.” He added that “in come cases employees have decided to self-quarantine and/or their teams have decided to stay away from the campus. We support these decisions.”

3:48 PM EDT 

P&G goes for work-from-home

Procter & Gamble Co. on March 12 said it’s asking all North American employees able to do so to collaborate with their managers to work from home, effective until the end of March, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The company is also cancelling all large in-person gatherings in the coming weeks. “The situation is highly dynamic and we are working diligently to ensure we can continue to serve consumers and customers at this time when consumers depend on our products for their daily routines,” Chairman-CEO David Taylor said in a statement.

Dickey’s starts ‘contactless’ deliveries 

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit on March 12 said it would begin to offer a “contactless” doorstep drop-off delivery option through its site and app beginning March 13. The fast-casual barbecue chain also says its delivery orders will now arrive in sealed packaging and extended its free delivery offer through April 30.

ANA cancels media conference

The Association of National Advertisers on March 12 canceled its media conference slated for March 25-27 at the Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa in Aventura, Florida. The event’s lead sponsor was A+E Networks, which on March 9 announced it will stream its upfront presentation instead of hosting an in-person event that was scheduled for March 25 in New York City. Events are a key revenue-driver for the ANA, which represents some of the nation’s largest advertisers. In a statement, the organization said “the status of future ANA events and conferences will be reviewed and evaluated on a case-by-case basis and any postponements or cancellations will be announced accordingly.”

Branson’s cruise line delayed

Virgin Voyages postponed its launch, the company said on March 12. The much anticipated cruise line from Richard Branson, a partnership between the Virgin Group and Bain Capital in the works for seven years, will be delayed. The inaugural season of the Scarlet Lady ship will begin July 15, while the maiden voyage, originally slated for April 1, will take place on Aug. 7, according to a message sent out by Branson and Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin. Affected travelers can choose to receive a refund or credit. “We want to assure you that we have absolutely no health issues aboard our ship and have elevated protocols in place as we continue to put your well-being first,” Branson and McAlpin wrote in their message. Three more ships are slated to launch after the Scarlet Lady, bringing the total in the fleet to four. The company also said it is researching new technologies to “expedite health screenings and make people feel safe.” Virgin is just the latest cruise line affected as consumers flee ships. One crisis expert says it will take a miracle for the industry to recover in a decade.

PepsiCo reopens office after scare

PepsiCo on March 12 reopened its office in Chicago’s West Loop. It was shut down a day earlier after the company learned that a family member of an employee was possibly exposed to coronavirus, according to a company email obtained by Crain’s Chicago. The office was reopened after a deep cleaning. “We’ve confirmed that the employee in question and their family member have both consulted with doctors and show no signs of having contracted the coronavirus,” a PepsiCo representative told Ad Age.

McD’s promises more frequent cleanings

McDonald’s on March 12 sent an email to customers with the subject line “Your health and safety are our top priority.” The note, signed by McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger, begins with the salutation “Dear Valued Customer,” and includes some details on the plans the world’s largest restaurant company is taking, such as doing more frequent cleanings of “high-touch areas” including ordering kiosks, pick-up counters and restrooms, and “supporting employees in staying home from work if they are sick so they can rest and recover.”

Coke stops Atlanta’s ‘State of City’

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms postponed her March 12 “State of the City” address at the request of Coca-Cola, which sponsors the event. “While the number of presumed cases of coronavirus in Atlanta is currently low, we believe acting with an abundance of caution is the right thing to do for all of us,” Coke stated. Here is a look at other measures Coke is taking, which include distributing alcohol wipes and hand sanitizers; and installing temperature screening in certain international offices.

BMW postpones experiential events

BMW has postponed two of its “Ultimate Driving Experience” events, one slated for March 27-29 in Cincinnati and Dayton, and the other for April 4-10 in Washington D.C. The road shows involve bringing cars to venues like stadium parking lots and include immersive experiential driving events for customers and potential customers, designed to showcase the newest vehicles in BMW’s line up.

KFC pulls an ad

KFC pulled a U.K. campaign that focuses on “finger-licking” after the Advertising Standards Authority received multiple complaints that the content was inappropriate during the coronavirus outbreak.

Silk pauses brand ambassador search

Silk on March 12 paused a campaign searching for a “Granbassador” to give a “grandparent stamp of approval” on using its dairy-free Silk Dairy-Free Heavy Whipping Cream Alternative in desserts. The campaign, which kicked off March 9, included a trip for two to Silk’s Colorado headquarters scheduled for May or June. “Health is the number one priority for Silk and in an effort to keep all parties safe and minimize nonessential travel, we are pausing our search for the Granbassador at this time. We plan to resume the search later this year and will reach out when the application re-opens,” Silk, which is owned by Danone, said in a statement.  

Cosmetics giant suspends in-store classes

Sephora reached out to North American customers on March 12 via email to provide an update on how it is keeping stores clean at a time when many are concerned about the spread of virus-carrying germs. In addition to more regularly disinfecting product displays, makeup testers and hygiene stations, Sephora is also suspending all free and paid in-store services, including makeup and skincare applications and classes.

Coors Light changes ad plans

Molson Coors on March 11 halted a planned March Madness campaign called the “Official Beer of ‘Working’ Remotely” because it did not want to look insensitive as many companies adopt work-from-home policies to deal with coronavirus. The ad, originally meant to play off the notion that people blow off work to watch the basketball games, was planned but never ran.

Hershey avoids human interaction ads

As more people practice “social distancing,” Hershey Co. on March 10 said it had pulled two ads that featured human interaction, replacing them with spots featuring only chocolate bars, text, and voiceover. Hershey is also “discouraging participation in large group meetings internally and externally until further notice.”

Starbucks limits seating

On March 11, Starbucks sent an email to customers from CEO Kevin Johnson about how the company is navigating through COVID-19. While Starbucks is maintaining regular operations in the U.S. and Canada, as the situation evolves in-store changes may include “limiting seating to improve social distancing,” using mobile order-only scenarios (as it previously did in some locations in China) or only having the drive-thru open, Johnson said. Starbucks is also expanding catastrophe pay for its employees.

No more free cone day

Ben & Jerry’s has put its annual free cone day on hold, the brand said March 10. “This year, some of our scoop shops in communities around the world will be unable to take part in Free Cone Day due to precautions put in place by local Governments around large public gatherings, considering the increasing presence of COVID-19,” Ben & Jerry’s wrote in a statement. “So, to stand in solidarity with ice cream lovers everywhere, we have made the difficult decision to postpone Free Cone Day this year. We hope to reschedule our global Free Cone Day event for later in the year, when we know more.

Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Adrianne Pasquarelli, Jessica Wohl, Jack Neff, Garett Sloane, Ilyse Liffreing, Jeanine Poggi, Alexandra Jardine

JUV Media is a collection of JUV press features — from our staff to our campaigns.