Coronavirus and advertising: interview with Matthew Hibberd in Corriere del Ticino

Institutional Communication Service

20 April 2020

"Several companies have embraced the message of governments and started promoting their brand on television, in newspapers or on social media, through commercials or ad hoc campaigns, that urge consumers not to leave their homes". This is how Marcello Pelizzari's article begins. In Corriere del Ticino, he presents an analysis of "advertising in the days of coronavirus" with the contribution of Matthew Hibberd, Full Professor at the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society and Director of the Master in Media Management.

A type of advertising that is first and foremost also adopted by the authorities themselves. Isn't there a risk of "branding" COVID-19 and trivializing the situation, fuelling the idea that "after all it is only a commercial"? According to Hibberd we do not run this risk, the seriousness of the situation is tangible and moreover advertising has a long history of public service announcements.

What about companies, what are their main motivations? Professor Hibberd highlights two of them in particular. First of all, reputation. In class, students of the Master in Media Management are constantly taught how crucial is this aspect. "It was Iago, in Shakespeare's Othello, who said that reputation is the most precious thing we have". By accepting and conveying the messages of the authorities, companies aim to highlight their civic commitment and social responsibility, and before that, the very fact of being an integral part of a community.

The second main objective of companies is to maintain brand awareness, especially for those businesses that are still idle due to the situation. Others, on the other hand, are enjoying a privileged position (e.g. online commerce and digital platforms in general) and Prof. Hibberd expresses the hope that these economic realities will redistribute part of the additional profits to the healthcare system or the community in general.

Finally, what about a possible long-term impact of advertising in the coronavirus era on consumer confidence? "This is a complex relationship, since consumers have never fully given credit to the impact of advertising. Advertising helps to promote and sell goods and services and many, in normal times, are wary of it. But, in this case, advertisers are revealing civic responsibility and great unity. Advertising has long been a promoter of globalisation and consumerism, but now it is showing the importance of the so called nation-state and of commitment," Hibberd concludes.

The full interview in Italian by Marcello Pelizzari is available in the attachment. We thank author and newspaper for the granting us sharing priviledge.

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