The colour of Covid; What students really want to see

Eleana Davidson on 11 November 2020
The colour of Covid; What students really want to see

What sort of images do students really want to see in advertising during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Without sounding like a broken record, Covid-19 has weaved itself into the very fabric of our lives. In the very beginning, it was the ‘new normal’ and every day felt like fighting fire, but after the year we’ve had, we can’t really say we’re in ‘unprecedented times’ any more. So where do we go from here, when it’s looking like Covid isn’t going away anytime soon, and it’s time to start seeking some sort of normality? 

To ignore the reality of the pandemic would be tone-deaf, but to centre it in everything that you do may not be the right route either. The only thing to do at these sorts of crossroads is to ask the students directly. So how are students really feeling about seeing the tint of Covid-19 wherever they look; in messaging, advertising and marketing? Our student panel told us what they want to see, how it makes them feel and what they hope for the future. 

Firstly, we gave the students the Opinion Panel equivalent of an Instagram Story Poll; this option or this one? 

The results?

  • Students are more than three times more likely to prefer an image that does not contain face masks or social distancing.
  • If shown Covid-19 imagery, students respond better to scenes with multiple people than scenes with just one person.

We then wanted to scratch beneath the surface a little more and find out whether the students would prefer images that showed life before or after Covid.

Would you rather see images in advertising that are reflective of; the current Covid-19 situation, images reflective of pre-Covid-19 or a mix of both?

Seven in 10 students said they want to see a mix of both Covid-19 and pre-Covid-19 imagery in advertising. They said it’s important and societally responsible to have advertising reflect real life and promote safety. But too much Covid focus can make them feel uncomfortable, isolated and hopeless.

“It's important to take notice of current life events but it's also important to show normality because that gives people hope of getting through the pandemic.”

And so, when it comes to striking the perfect balance, that will look a little different for every institution, brand and student. 

Overall, students told us they felt positively about adverts that included Covid-19 measures such as face masks and social distancing. 50% said that they at least somewhat liked them.

“It's important to me that advertising recognises the changes to the world we live in. if they can't reflect it in their advertising, why would I pay attention?”

Our advice has remained the same throughout this year; keep the lines of communication open, talk directly to students, stay transparent and honest, and approach with empathy. Take these insights into account and keep doing what you’re doing, and your students will continue to listen. If you would like to find out more about how students are feeling during the pandemic, you can subscribe to our student tracker here, or if you are interested in creating your own bespoke student surveys, using our diverse panel of over 140,000 students, you can get in touch here. 

Eleana Davidson
Eleana Davidson on 11 November 2020