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How the Fourth of July Presented a Turning Point in Pandemic Advertising

How the Fourth of July Presented a Turning Point in Pandemic Advertising

If you sat around with friends at a BBQ yesterday trying to remember what you did last 4th of July with a hazy look on your face, you’re not alone. Parades and fireworks just didn’t translate to virtual… and last year’s fourth was quite forgettable for most. 

But it’s 2021. And the majority of Americans are vaccinated. We hope you were able to gather with your community around the grill and enjoy some fireworks. 

Retail brands spent the month of June running campaigns getting us to yesterday’s party, reminding us of what normal 4th of July’s look like, in case we forgot. 

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Time to Move “Fourth” in Pandemic-Era Advertising

Consumers might have been planning for the holiday by thinking about what sides they’d bring to the barbeque. Deviled eggs, potato salad, or veggie coleslaw? Brands were thinking about how to advertise these foods, and what type of messaging felt right for this time of change.

Creative campaigns that stole the show included Tostitos, Sam Adams, Budweiser, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon created a 1776Pack campaign. They created four cases full of 1,776 beers that were sent to influencers, including skateboarding podcasters The Nine Club, comedian Ali Macofsky, Michigan pop-punk band Hot Mulligan and cooler brand Igloo. These recipients will be sharing beer content via @pabstblueribbon and #1776pack through Labor Day. 

Sam Adams and apparel company American Giant teamed up to create gear to go along with Sam Adams beer. The ad message from the companies was, “Cheers to good company. And here’s to getting back to it.”

The campaign getting the most attention was Budweiser’s vide ad, “Go Fourth America.” The ad plays off the 1996 film “Independence Day.” Actor Bill Pullman gives a 2021-inspired, patriotic speech that calls Americans to “go fourth” despite all their differences. 

In 2020, the call to unity backfired for many brands, especially after the election (e.g. the Gap sweatshirt that fell flat). It seems that messaging around unity might not feel as tone deaf as it once did. Budweiser pulled it off particularly well, with lines like:

Whether you drive a pickup or a hybrid, you live in the heartland or on the coast, whether you pronounce it America or ‘Murica, we are all Americans. We’re seldom on the same page, but reading from the same book, on holidays anyway.”

It’s important for brands to pay attention to this because they’ve spent a year and a half wondering what’s appropriate and what’s not. Budweiser went for the ‘unity’ and ‘let’s move on together’ message, and seems to have landed it. 

After more than a year of COVID ads, people are tired with repetitive messaging (or sometimes messaging that is out-of-touch). It seems that the 4th of July was used as a turning point in ad creative. 

Some brands either ignored the pandemic and homed in on the history of Independence Day (#1776pack) or effectively communicated the excitement and importance of moving forward. 

MediaRadar Insights

While we can’t tell you exactly how the 4th of July ads were perceived, we can tell you about how much spending took place and how that compares to the past two years. 

Traditional backyard BBQ fare for the 4th of July was up year-over-year. Advertising spend from hot dog, chip, soda, and beer companies totaled $127.9mm in June 2021, up from $81.5mm in 2020.

But we all know that 2020 is not a fair comparison.

When 2019 spending levels are considered, spending is still down 24%. 

Chips and soft drinks accounted for $62.9mm. This is huge when you put that next to hot dogs. Hot dogs only accounted for $147k, and beer made up 50% of total spending in the month of June.

Hot dog spend is down, but as they are a BBQ staple, brands may not have felt the pressure to advertise significantly this year. Hot dog brands who advertised in June include: Bar-S Food Company, Hebrew National, Oscar Mayer, and State Fair Brand.

Top spending brands from the chips and soft drink categories include: Doritos, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Lay’s Potato Chips, Cheetos, and Dr. Pepper. Their spend accounts for 55% of all hot dog, chips, and soft drink ad spend in the month of June.

Coca Cola Together Tastes Better Ad Example

The top advertising beer companies in the month of June are: Casa Modelo, Coors Light, Corona, Miller Lite, and Heineken. 

These brands made up 53% of all beer advertising in June. 

An interesting note: as discussed above, the beer brand garnering most recognition for 4th of July advertising is Budweiser. Though it was in the top ten advertisers in the month of June, it didn’t come close in spending compared to the top beer spender. The top spending advertiser (Casa Modelo) outspent Budweiser by 421%.

Sometimes spending more on high-quality ad creative can get brands more organic reach than by pouring money into placements. 

This year’s Independence Day was one of the first major holidays in which most Americans were vaccinated. Advertising spending is still not back to ‘normal’ (aka 2019 levels), but it is getting closer. What will the next major holiday have in store?

For more updates like this, stay tuned. Subscribe to our blog for more updates on coronavirus and its mark on the economy.