If you need a good belly laugh, take a look at Progressive Insurance Co.'s latest television commercial. Flo, Jamie, Mara and the rest of the gang — just like so many of us — are relying on a videoconference platform to communicate from home. And just like us, they are working through some technology hiccups. Here's a link to an Ad Age website so you don't have to remain planted in front of a TV waiting to see it. https://adage.com/article/hot-spots/watch-newest-commercials-tv-verizon-pf-changs-progressive-and-more/2255486

Need another funny one? BJ's Wholesale Club produced a spot called “I'm hungry,” which highlights what I bet are painfully realistic scenarios for young parents working from home and the sheer torture of having to cook, cook, cook and be constantly reminded by their equally couped-up kids, “I'm hungry.”

I don't know if BJ's buys time with local television stations. They should as we have a number of their stores in our area, including Avon. Here's the link to that ad: https://www.ispot.tv/ad/n2ZW/bjs-wholesale-club-im-hungry#

Since most of us have spent a lot more time at home the past eight weeks, chances are you have seen a commercial with a coronavirus-related message.

In the past 60 days, a whopping 500 TV spots that tie to the virus pandemic in some way have been produced and aired, according to Ace Metric Research. That does not include ads that are purchased on websites or social media, although some companies use the same content across platforms.

On television, we watched emotional spots cheering on hospital workers; encouraging us to reach out to those who may feel isolated; and thanking essential workers at grocery stores or delivery services.

There were dozens more using words including “unprecedented times,” “We're here for you” or “together.”

Madison Avenue did not go all soft and gooey. The move was very strategic.

Companies that spend millions of dollars each year to build their brands faced a dilemma. So did the agencies that produce ads and help with messaging. Their businesses faced plummeting revenue losses.

Rather than double down and push sales or other gimmicks to get a stressed-out American public to buy amid so much economic uncertainty, they pivoted. They swiftly adapted their messages. It was no longer about buy and sell, it was about keeping us safe and staying together.

As recently as two weeks ago, the TV viewing public – which had substantially increased as a result of shutdowns, according to reports – had not lost interest in these spots. The coronavirus-themed spots pulled better numbers than the average spot. In other words, the American viewing public largely approved of the pivot because the softer messages struck a resonant chord.

Research organizations also reported some public anger at tone deaf companies that continued to tout sales during a time when people were falling ill and losing jobs, and appreciation for those who redirected messages from “buy our stuff” to those that connected to what so many were feeling and showed compassion.

This tells us so much about America and where Americans are in spring 2020.

For all those who worry that America has become hardened and lost its soul, many of America's biggest companies – Ford and other automakers; food and beverage manufacturers like Frito-Lay, Unilever and Hershey's, among others – spent a lot of money, during a time when money was tight, to show compassion and remind us that when the chips are down, Americans still come together.

That translates to the personal level as well. We never asked a doctor or nurse, a grocery store clerk or an Amazon delivery person what political party they belong to, or if they even vote.

As we dropped off tons of food and supplies for those who lost their jobs, no one said my can of corn only goes to someone who voted my way. It went to anyone who was hungry and needed help.

We clapped and cheered for seniors confined to their care facilities, high schoolers who lost out on proms, commencement exercises with their friends and those equally fun parties. We hung hearts and banners acknowledging acts of kindness and achievement.

As we emerge from our homes, I hope we keep reminding ourselves that we're the people who step up whenever there's a flood, hurricane or raging fire. We're the people who help build houses, mow a lawn for a neighbor in need, run errands for someone who is sick and volunteer for umpteen nonprofits.

That's not soft and gooey. It's the best of America. We're still here.

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