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Brand Spotlight: Reese’s – Should Your Halloween Advertising Address the Pandemic?

October 19, 2020

Halloween is creeping around the corner, and you can bet that candy & confectionery brands are ramping up their advertising, jockeying for position in consumers’ treat bowls. But with the global pandemic looming overhead like a full moon, many households are changing up their Spooky Season plans to adhere to COVID guidelines. Should the same go for Halloween candy advertising? We’re starting to see 2020 Halloween candy ads hit the airwaves and are keeping a close eye on how this year’s ads may adapt to the new normal.

A First Look

Reese’s Peanut Butter Candy, well known in recent years for their bold advertising paired with witty voiceover commentary, has emerged as the first candy brand to come out with new advertising that addresses the pandemic. Reese’s new ad for 2020, “Don’t Be Afraid,” while not explicitly mentioning COVID or the pandemic, does mention the fact that Halloween will look a little different this year. Did creating a voiceover that softly refers to the unusual circumstances this year pay off?

Using Phoenix Brand Effect, we looked at initial breakthrough results for this ad and it turns out that it is slightly more memorable than the other Reese’s ad in the rotation that does not mention the pandemic, a recycled ad from 2019 called “Celebrating Halloween Too Early”. This may suggest that the voiceover is more resonant with viewers this year and is helping to grab their attention.

However, once viewers engaged with the 2020 ad, there was a marked drop-off in performance. Both Branding and Persuasion, in particular, are lower relative to the reprised ad from 2019, perhaps suggesting that even though the ad may be more memorable, the tonality fails to connect viewers to the brand and drive them to purchase the product.

What Can We Expect Going Forward?

The new Reese’s ad speaking to the different circumstances this year may be more relevant, leading it to better engage viewers. However, the older ad is better branded and more persuasive, perhaps due to its more classic and upbeat creative approach. Will this pattern of shifted Halloween ads continue, especially as we get closer to the holiday? Which ad will be better suited to stand up to the competition, especially as the Halloween-themed ad clutter increases?

We expect to see more Halloween Candy advertising launch over the next couple of weeks, and our confectionary advertising experts at Phoenix will be closely monitoring how this year’s advertisers market themselves. Will we see other new creative strategies emerge over the next couple of weeks addressing the pandemic, or will brands stick to what they know with their standard ad strategies? And most importantly, which approach will pay off this year?

While the recycled Reese’s ads performed well without specifically addressing the pandemic, we do know that some consumers’ expectations have naturally changed since the beginning of the pandemic. It is important, as an advertiser, to keep a finger on the pulse of your target audience and understand what they expect from the brands they choose.


Stay up to date with our latest consumer sentiment & advertising learnings, make sure your messaging aligns with your campaign goals & consumer expectations, and test your ads before they air and once they are in-market.

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