Stunning News for COVID Advertisers

In a study of 360 COVID ads measured by ABX across all media, advertising effectiveness scores were some of the highest we’ve seen.  Ads featuring thanks to first-responders, helpful advice regarding resisting the virus, and Gender Equality in all ads rose to the top.  See which top three ads worked, and which bottom three didn’t.

Recently, ABX was asked by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) to summarize how consumers were responding to advertising during this time of  Covid-19, and also how men and women are being presented in these ads.  We are an ANA SEEHER research partner, so we were also eager to see.

We’ve now tested 360 ads across all mediums within the month of March, and have been amazed to see that consumers are not reacting negatively to advertising at all!  In fact, they are welcoming ads and responding more positively to them than before the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.  Here are some highlights, and then we’ll look at examples of approaches that work, and a few that don’t, when addressing an emergency situation.

  • ABX sees that overall consumer response to ads during the month of March improved +5%.
  • More important, ads with  COVID-related content perform better than non-COVID-related ads by a full +175%.  
  • This also applies to Gender Equality Measure™ testing, as well.  GEM™ scores are up 4% for all ads, but are more than 50% better for COVID-related ads.

We’ve also seen that 56% of recent TV creative has COVID-specific content, and much of that content shows “heroes” working to enable most of us to stay home and break the infection cycle.  Once again, we see that positive gender portrayal – higher GEM scores … result in higher Reputation scores and higher Calls-to-Action.  The sheer number of ads above the ABX “Average” Index dwarfs the small number below the average line.  Usually, we see a more even distribution of ads above and below that mid-point.

The ads that follow include ads with some of the highest scores we’ve ever measured. They are in the top 1% of the 200,000 + ads measured by ABX.   They demonstrate three of the most successful strategies we’ve seen employed by advertisers during this time of crisis.

  • Appreciation for first-responders and employees.
  • Guidance on how consumers can  help themselves during this time.
  • Presenting characters in ads  in alignment with GEM principles.

McDonald’s nailed it with,” After Billions and Billions Served …” with one of the highest scoring ads we’ve ever tested, with an ABX Index of 159 (with 100 being Average).  The ad is really quite plain, but the Message is huge – that McDonald’s will be feeding First Responders and Healthcare Workers free meals, scoring 166.  The Reputation score at 385 was, again, one of the highest of the 200,000 ads tested.  First Responders are today’s heroes, and aligning with them does incredible good for your brand.

At 156, At Amazon, Challenges are what Motivate Us is Amazon’s super high-scoring ad.  The whole spot focuses on how Amazon employees are taking every precaution to deliver the goods you need.  And they won extra points for high Gender Equality Index scores for both the male and female characters in the ad.  Using Sarah Rhoads, Vice President Amazon Global Air, in the ad was pitch-perfect. But there is still much work to be done among all advertisers to eliminate gender bias.  On average, ads with only female actors have higher GEI™ scores than ads with only male actors.  But when a male and female actor are in the same ad, the male gender scores average 1.5% higher…a clear sign that unconscious bias continues to exist.

Clorox’s “When Fighting Germs, Avoid …” is also in the ABX Index 150’s, a rare score indeed.  This spot works because it is very quick, showing consumers how to properly disinfect their homes with no mention of their products … though they are using the products in the ad.  It does not feel commercial, but rather educational in nature.  Since all consumers in these Covid-19 times want to learn how to do things right to stay well, they responded with a very high Message rating of 176, Reputation of 274 and planned Action of 156.
Now, without being critical, let’s look at three ads that didn’t score so well, to see what we might learn.

Smirnoff’s “Diane BB it’s Diane I Know you Want to Eat Out” is a good example of what not to do to your female actors.  While the overall scores weren’t terrible,  with a decent Message about staying at home and not touching your face during this crisis, the character Gender Equality Measure for both Female and Male are at 83, which is 17 points below norm.  How much higher would Smirnoff scored without taking a silly approach to something serious.  Given that high Female GEM scores add to Reputation and Action, there seems to be an opportunity lost.

As a Category, financial services had the worst advertising during this Covid  time.  Like Charles Schwab’s “Market Volatility: What Investors Should Know” online ad, the Message at 81 is the lowest we’ve seen.  That’s because it appears this is a regular commercial ad with no concern for what people are going through.  Charles Schwab lost in the areas of the ABX Index at 91, low brand awareness, low intentions to Act and a barely average Reputation.  Having said this, personally, I appreciate the ad.  When the Dow lost thousands of points a few weeks ago, those worried about their finances as well as their health may have found the “See More” information useful.  Regardless, don’t go out with purely commercial ads in the middle of a crisis.

Well, you’d have had to see the TV ads to make sense of this Burger King, “Be at Patriot,” print ad.  In the TV spots, Burger King calls for all couch potatoes to become couch-patriots while Burger King donates to the American Nurses Foundation.  Cute idea, but not so much in print.  The wording is too small to read, and most of the scores below show this did nothing for Burger King’s brand awareness, Message retention or planned Action.  The learnings here are to use the right media for your message, and to be careful of which talent you choose for your message (this guy is slightly below average) to portray genuine caring to your audience. 

Be a Patriot score

If you have questions about this article or how ABX can help your brand, contact us HERE.

Leave a Reply

Jeff Schamel

Vice President, Operations

Jeff Schamel Directs Operations for ABX with Experience from IPSOS and P&G

Jeff has more than 25 years of market research experience including project management, client service, operations, production and sales.

Before joining the ABX Senior Management team, Jeff was a Senior Account Manager at Ipsos, working with Procter & Gamble and other client assignments. Prior to that, he was Senior Project Manager for Opinion One, where he was responsible for guiding the company’s online, mall and other initiatives for eight years.

Jeff began his market research career with Cooper Research while participating in the Professional Practice Program at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. Upon graduating with his BS in Marketing and Management, Jeff led a team of data analysts as Group Manager at Matrixx Marketing Research (now Concentrix).

Jeff’s broad in-depth marketing research experiences enable him to bring a unique perspective to directing operations that creates effective and efficient environments to support a wide range of client activities.  Having come up in the industry alongside the advent and progression of online interviewing, he has a unique perspective on the benefits and challenges of conducting quality research resulting in meaningful results.

Jeff considers himself an amateur music historian and sports enthusiast, as well as a family man, who takes advantage of the many outdoor activities in his community including biking, hiking, kayaking and swimming.

Dr. Peter Moomaw

Co-Founder, Vice President, Development

Peter is the primary developer of operations technology and data analysis. As a chief visionary on the Research and Development team, Peter works to generate innovative ideas for the continued development of processes and protocols.

Peter brings 17+ years’ experience in software development in the market research industry. He was previously at Opinion One, where he was integral in the development of research software systems covering a number of areas.

Peter has a BA in Mathematics, a BS in Physics, and a PhD in Physics, all from the University Cincinnati.

Martin Geraghty
Martin Geraghty

Vice President, Client Services

Geraghty Brings Experience from Roper Starch, GfK, MRI and IPSOS to ABX

Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the market research space including business development, methodology, product design, operations, client service, analysis and sales. He is a member the ABX Management Group with both client-service and operational responsibilities. Before joining ABX, Martin held senior management positions at Roper Starch Worldwide, GfK, MRI (Mediamark Research) and Ipsos. At Ipsos, he managed client service covering all aspects of the research process including research design. He managed the development and implementation of several brand and advertising measurement programs across a broad range of business sectors, helping clients maximize marketing objectives and return on investment. Prior to joining Ipsos, Martin was Vice President at MRI and was involved in business development, day-to-day management and long-term planning and growth for syndicated and custom programs. He also developed and updated the organization’s operational infrastructure to bring new and improved measurements to the marketplace. Before joining MRI, Martin was a Vice President of Operations at GfK. He managed researchers developing programs to monitor and improve methodologies. He played a key role in overseeing profit responsibility of client programs. Prior to his role at GfK, he was Vice President of Research and Operations at Roper Starch Worldwide.
Michael Alf

Co-Founder Ocucom and ABX, Vice President, Software Development

Michael Alf Brings 12 Years’ Software Engineering in the Market Research Industry

Michael is one Founders of Ocucom, of which ABX is a division, and has over 12 years’ of software engineering experience in the market research industry. As a Lead Software Engineer with Ocucom, he brings a unique blend of a technological background along with hands-on market research experience. Michael specializes in providing custom software solutions utilizing Ocucom’s dynamic software platform to address unique client needs in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Prior to starting with Ocucom, Michael was a senior software engineer at Opinion One in Cincinnati, where he was one of the principal architects of the OASIS 2 Survey Software Package. He also played a key role in developing a licensable solution to bring to the market place as well as handling the logistics of on-site training and support of end-client users.

Michael obtained his B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Cincinnati.

Greg Tunstill

Co-Founder, Chief Information Officer

Greg Tunstill Leads the Creation of ABX Communications Tools

Greg Tunstill, a founder of ABX, is the Chief Information Officer responsible for ABX’s technical infrastructure and maintenance. He also leads the design and development of ABX’s communications tools, a critical component of its technology services.

Prior to joining ABX, Greg was Director of Network Operations of Opinion One since its inception in 1992. He designed and developed the communications systems that were the core of its data collection networks and was responsible for continuing development and implementation of information technologies. Prior to his position at Opinion One, he designed inventory control and expert systems for BellSouth field offices and worked as a consultant and independent contractor. In 1991 he joined Americom Research as a systems engineer where he advanced to Director of Network Operations and met members of the team that formed Opinion One.

Greg is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

Julian Brown

Chief Technology Officer

Julian Brown is an ABX Founder and Chief Visionary for Strategic Planning

Julian brings 20+ years of software engineering and market research experience to ABX. As one of the Founders and in his position as Chief Technology Officer, Julian is the chief visionary responsible for strategic planning and development.

His primary day to day roles include management of software development, oversight of survey production, and lead architect for custom software development projects. As the principal technology architect, Julian adapts emerging technologies for use in market research. He is responsible for maintaining the “continuous development” philosophy.

Before becoming one of the Founders, Julian was Vice President, Software Engineering at Opinion One. In this capacity, he was responsible for the design and development of Opinion One’s core technology and licensing products.

Prior to Opinion One, Julian worked for Americom Research, starting as a Software Engineer and progressing to Director, Software Development. While at Americom Research, Julian pioneered the design and creation of one of the market research industry’s first fully interactive computer-aided interviewing suites.

Julian received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Middle Tennessee State University.

Gary Getto


A Pioneer in Measuring Across all Media Types

Gary has an extensive background in product development, strategic planning, and sales/marketing. He is a frequent speaker to the advertising, marketing, and public relations communities.

Gary is a pioneer in efforts to measure and analyze the combined impact of news coverage, social media, and advertising communications on key business metrics, such as sales or product preferences, with ground-breaking work linking communications activity to business outcomes. He was also one of the first to apply artificial intelligence to better understand how communications impacts consumer behavior.

As part of these pioneering integrated measurements, the need to benchmark every ad and build a comprehensive database of advertising performance metrics for evaluating all advertising creative became clear. Gary has been part of the ABX management group that developed the methodology, technology, and criteria for measuring advertising performance globally, and at scale, in an affordable manner. 

Now Gary and all ABX partners work with communications leaders across a diverse set of industries to expand that understanding by incorporating the first-ever Gender Equality Index™, creative measurement solutions for ESG, Diversity & Inclusion, Ethnicities (in and out-of-country), Product Placement/Integration, Brand Fit™, Gaming, Audio and more.

Gary holds a B.S., in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University and a Masters in Management Science from Stevens Institute of Technology.

J. J. Klein​

Chairman & CEO

Developing Valid and Reliable Information through Syndicated and Custom Research

JJ Klein has devoted his entire career to developing more valid and reliable information through syndicated and custom longitudinal research programs for Fortune 500 companies. This extensive knowledge base enabled him to create and develop ABX, which now offers the most accurate normative database for advertising effectiveness measurement in the marketplace.

JJ brings more than 35 years of marketing, research, consulting, and technology experience in designing and developing methodologies and programs for long-term growth. He has exceptional strength in domestic and international new business development, strategic planning, and identifying and tracking consumer, retail, and industry trends.

Leadership in Top Global Research Firms

Early in his career, after attending City University in New York as a math and science major, JJ joined Simmons Market Research Bureau as a Project Director. Over time, he rose to Associate Executive Vice President. Among his accomplishments, JJ created the first online interactive data analysis and delivery system for agencies, media, institutions, client, and service companies.  

JJ and Bill Simmons then founded a new venture …Three Sigma Research Center. It was here that JJ, Chief Operating Officer, created the first major syndicated rating system for Newspapers in the U.S., which later became the Scarborough Report. Three Sigma Research was eventually sold back to Simmons; Simmons sold it to Scarborough; and then Scarborough was acquired by Nielsen.

Following the sale of Three Sigma, JJ joined Audits & Surveys Worldwide as a principal leading the sales tracking and market share audits for a broad range of retail and service establishments both domestically and internationally. Following the acquisition of Audits & Surveys by GfK, JJ joined Roper Starch as Executive Director, reporting directly to the Chairman.

Creation and Development of Ocucom™ and ABX™

In 2004, as he continued his industry visionary travels, all of JJ’s experience came together as he tackled new solutions for market research in the Internet age. He and four partners founded Ocucom™ and invented a research-proven, respondent-oriented Ocular™ approach to internet sampling and multi-modal interviewing methodology. For the first time, respondents could answer text-based questions within a visual communication world where the computer screen was the interviewer/communicator. Inventions continued such as Ocucom’s PreCast™, the first long-form video viewing solution in the industry.

Also, during this time, JJ’s early leadership in internet research methodology caught the eye of top-tier global research competitors. He ended up designing methodologies for their online survey capabilities.

Then, in early 2012, he formed ABX™ as an outgrowth of Ocucom. JJ had conceived the idea for ABX some 15 years prior but had to wait for internet maturation and online panel/sampling companies to evolve. ABX partners focused on JJ’s ABX concept and methodology by building an infrastructure and a 5-year formative database before opening to the market in 2018. The new company offered the first high-quality Ocular research system for all ads in all media types with detailed, never-before analytics; the first syndicated, all-media type ad effectiveness platform; results in 24-to-48 hours on dashboard, and significantly lower costs. At ABX, as at Ocucom, inventions have continued such as the expansion of the ABX syndicated program into the first-ever global solution, and the first Gender Equality Index™. Solutions have expanded to include creative measurement for ESG, Diversity & Inclusion, Ethnicities (in and out of country), Product Placement/Integration, Brand Fit, Gaming, Audio, and more.

A Career Devoted to Validity and Reliability in Market Research

JJ’s background brings together an extremely unique blend of extensive experience in designing and developing global and regional longitudinal research programs. His accomplishments include the design and initiation of programs and methods that produce more valid and reliable information. They also include contributions to the market research profession through association membership, speaking, writing, and presenting.

Like Nielsen for TV, Arbitron for Radio, and MRI for Magazine, JJ’s original design for the newspaper program continues as the Scarborough Report ratings standard for Newspaper.  Today, JJ leads ABX as a syndicated and custom research service for ad effectiveness and gender equality, which have quickly become the gold standards of their own.

Angela Jeffrey, APR

Vice President, Brand Management

National Award-Winning Veteran of Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing

Angela is an internationally known speaker and national award-winning veteran of public relations, advertising and marketing.  She has been a teacher and leader in the use of metrics to measure communications impact for over 20 years, especially at the intersection of PR and Advertising.

Angela is primarily responsible for all ABX marketing efforts, and for projects that involve PR or social media measurement. She is the primary driver of our collaboration with the prestigious Institute for Public Relations as we develop methods to measure the impact of PR and social media on advertising effectiveness.

Prior to joining ABX, Angela was Strategy Director at Salience Insight, (now CARMA), a global provider of PR effectiveness measurement. Previously, she was a Vice President at Surveillance Data, Inc., an international analytics powerhouse that specializes in predictive modeling. Angela continued as a key leader upon the sale of her division to VMS and helped develop Vantage, with Gary Getto, the first platform to measure the combined impact of PR and Advertising.

Angela graduated summa cum laude from Southern Methodist University with a BFA in Journalism and BBA in Marketing.



Diane Light Waight

Vice President, Business Development

Diane Light Waight handles Sales, Business Development, and Marketing for ABX

Diane has 20+ years of experience helping Marketing, Advertising, and PR decision-makers at global brands, media companies, and agencies increase their ROI by connecting and authentically engaging their target customers through Sales, Business Development. MarTech, AdTech, Big Data, Market Research, SaaS, eCommerce, and Integrated Marketing.

She is passionate about her family, entertainment, health & wellness, empowering women, and environmental sustainability.