It’s a situation which is at the forefront of everyone’s mind globally. Two and a half months after the initial outbreak the Coronavirus or COVID-19 has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

How have these recent events affected the digital advertising industry though, and what changes have the dominating advertising and ecommerce platforms made as a result?

How has Google approached Coronavirus?

If you visit Google’s homepage you will immediately see a direct link to a company announcement from the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai demonstrating how they’re working to help communities by providing relevant information on Coronavirus.

Google have setup an SOS Alert for searches related to Coronavirus which displays the latest news, help and information from both local, national and international organisations and a map showing affected areas. SOS Alerts are setup by Google to make emergency information more accessible during a crisis. They bring together relevant and authoritative content and highlight that information throughout their tools such as maps and search results.

Google search results for Coronavirus displayed on mobile phone.

On Wednesday Google implemented restrictions on advertising as a result of the pandemic. All advertising related to face masks has now been banned. This includes credible businesses who’ve been advertising ongoing for related keywords for products such as dust masks. This is due to any topics relating to Coronavirus now being classed as a “sensitive event”.

How has Facebook & Instagram approached Coronavirus?

Facebook was one step ahead of Google on prohibiting similar ads relating to medical masks announced it on Friday. These same actions apply to Instagram as well.

CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has said “We’re giving the WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response along with other in-kind support. We’ll also give support and millions more in ad credits to other organizations too and we’ll be working closely with global health experts to provide additional help if needed.”

When searching for information on Coronavirus, Facebook follows a similar path to Google and shows a direct link to the user’s national health service and related organisations such as the World Health Organisation.

A search result on Facebook for the phrase Coronavirus.

How has Twitter approached Coronavirus?

Since the outbreak of the pandemic Twitter are now reporting a COVID-19 related tweet every 45 milliseconds, with the hashtag #Coronavirus being the second most popular hashtag of 2020. There have already been cases where the NHS has worked with Twitter to shut down fake accounts impersonating the NHS and spreading misleading information about Coronavirus.

On Wednesday Twitter released brand communication guidelines highlighting what’s appropriate during this crisis, stating “Let’s be clear. This is not a ‘marketing opportunity’ to capitalise on, and we do not recommend brands opportunistically linking themselves to a health scare. However, we want to recognise that this is a new reality and requires thoughtful navigation, from all of us”.

When it comes to advertising on Twitter however, there have been no restrictions put in place yet for businesses targeting Coronavirus related topics.

How has Amazon & eBay approached Coronavirus?

On Friday Amazon responded to criticism of price gouging in the marketplace with Coronavirus related products such as hand sanitiser and face masks, stating that they are aggressively enforcing their fair pricing policy in order to protect customers and have removed over a million products which breach the policy as a result.

Overpriced product on Amazon.

eBay have also taken action by banning the sale of face masks and hand sanitiser to avoid price gouging.

What’s next for advertising in the current climate?

We’re already seeing changes being made to existing advertising campaigns as a result of the current climate.

In the US the confectionary brand Hershey’s made the decision on Friday to pull adverts featuring people embracing one another and shaking hands. They’ve since replaced them with product centric advertisements.

Hershey's ad scene featuring people embracing.

The likelihood is that we’re going to see other brands temporarily going down the same route for the foreseeable future.