Ad agency Tier10 now shoots two versions of the commercials it makes for auto dealerships and manufacturers: one with people wearing face masks and one without.
Advertisers have a responsibility to produce content that is relevant and empathetic toward what consumers are dealing with, Tier10 co-founder Scott Rodgers said. Having both versions of an ad lets the agency easily re-edit it as mask usage becomes more or less common.
"When you buy a car or service a car, someone's going to show up with a mask on," Rodgers said. "It shouldn't scare you because we're conveying that we take this serious, and we're here to protect you."
The COVID-19 pandemic is steadily reshaping how the dealership environment is presented to the masses, and showing masks is a key piece in some stores' efforts to convey a dedication to safety and cleanliness. Masks are increasingly showing up in dealerships' Facebook ads and informational YouTube videos.
Some agencies say they don't see any drawbacks to dealerships telling consumers that their employees don masks. Health experts encourage wearing them, and certain states require them for anyone who works or shops in an indoor space such as a showroom or service department.
But plenty of people don't wear them, and masks have taken on political implications many dealers would rather avoid. Some dealers fear alienating consumers or making them less eager to buy a vehicle if an ad reminds them of the pandemic.
"We've seen it kind of go both ways from what the dealers have been looking for. Some dealers are wanting to really harness the new norm," Drake Baerresen, a co-founder of ad agency TurnKey Marketing, told Automotive News. "Then it's funny, because we have some dealers that don't want to do that. They want to try to go ahead and not bring more attention on it than there already is."