Only one-fifth of Canadians want brands to stop advertising entirely

A study by Corus also found that Canadians, while overwhelmed by information, are looking for reflections of "normal life" in their media.

Experts around the world have warned advertisers that during the COVID-19 pandemic, they should not pull ad spend in order to aid brand-building. But does that align with what consumers want?

Canadians know that the current situation is not “business as usual.” As such, only 16% of Canadians surveyed by Corus say they want brands to continue advertising as though everything were normal.

But, only 18% say they want brands to stop advertising at all. Many respondents actually want brands to advertise, but 56% of them want messages about how brands are helping during the crisis, while 50% of respondents want brands to tell them how they can still access the company’s products.

Corus issued the survey to just over 1,000 Canadians in the last few days of March, as part of an effort to gauge Canadians’ mindsets, what they are spending their time doing during periods of social distancing and how they’re responding to ads.

Many brands have pulled or paused spend during the crisis; some brands and agencies report that they have resumed, or plan to resume, spend in the near future.

Indeed, many brands that have resumed media spending have pivoted their messages, which falls in line with what Canadians say they want. But although only 16% of respondents said it would be advisable to advertise “as usual,” Corus found that even brands carrying out their standard messages were somewhat well received.

For example, a QSR delivery spot without a “special” COVID message received a net positive score for positive brand impression of 42% (with zero as the index). This is compared to QSRs with special COVID messages which saw a net positive score of 53%. E-commerce brands and food delivery brands also saw a net positive score of more than 30%.

Regardless of radically changed circumstances brought on by the pandemic, many Canadians still anticipate that some of their usual purchasing patterns will continue – eventually.

Few are thinking about large purchases immediately, but a combined 27% do have a major purchase in their playbook – 19% say they plan to make a large purchase once things return to “normal,” while 8% say they are looking at a large purchase sooner. The biggest intended purchase category is auto (30%) but appliances and home renovation purchases are close behind at 28% each. For purchases that Canadians anticipate making when their routines return, clothing is at the top of the list with 40%.

Besides advertising, Canadians also shared their attitudes toward media and content.

According to the study, 36% find the fact that they have time to watch TV and movies to be a silver lining. While many studies indicate that Canadians are consuming more media – both news and entertainment media – more than half (56%) say they find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of information they receive. Just under half (49%) say they try to limit the information they take in, but it’s difficult to avoid. Still, 48% say they’re looking for reflections of “normal life,” and an additional 29% say they’d like to see reflections of normal life, but again, have been hard to find. With that said, while Canadians are consuming more news, they are tuning into entertaining content like Survivor and The Good Doctor in droves, according to recent report from Numeris.