Face Coverings & Digital Advertising – What Resonates?

By Phalen Kuckuck

Mask wearing in public has been a constant topic of conversation this year. While scientists and medical professionals did not initially recommend it for the general public, it’s now widely scientifically accepted that wearing a mask reduces virus transmission. But as most of 2020 has been dominated by the pandemic, are digital ads featuring individuals in face coverings still reaching users at scale?

PLUS undertook robust testing across a dedicated ad campaign to demonstrate which creatives received sustained levels of engagement, and in turn the lowest costs to deliver messages to target audiences and obtain new advocates.

It should go without saying that industry and objectives matter in all marketing and advertising, as does geography. Whether or not your campaign’s creatives include face coverings should first be determined by audience and goals, and the reality is that many efforts may likely include a mix of individuals with and without masks.

But with all else equal, the outcome of our testing points to a need for advertisers to shake up their tactics and take into account evolving public sentiment.


Our team ran an A/B test with creatives that juxtaposed people wearing masks and people not wearing masks. Keeping other variables even, we saw an initial performance spike on ads that showcased face coverings. This was true across several ad sets in the acquisition campaign – designs with masks performed the strongest.

This engagement peak, however, was contained to the first few months of the pandemic. Throughout the summer, lead volume slowed while costs on the mask-wearing ad units rose, and results shifted as we saw creatives without masks begin pacing more evenly and with a superior cost-per-acquisition.

When our campaign recently concluded, we obtained more leads off of the variants with masks, but a lower overall cost-per-acquisition on variants without masks.

Takeaways & Considerations:

As the pandemic moved from spring into summer and now the fall, our metrics indicate that the emotional response face coverings generated – whether positive or negative – faded as masks took their spot alongside everyday accessories.

If our client’s advertising needs had extended, the campaign likely would have seen a pivot to intense lead volume from mask-less variants that would catch up and surpass the masked creatives. But, as with all advertising, where there are no metrics there are no conclusions to draw. Test, learn, optimize – actively listen to your audience and performance will improve.

Again – first let your goals and audience determine your creative. Health care-oriented efforts will continue to show full PPE and mask use, while campaigns in verticals like energy or agriculture may begin tests that demonstrate the need for a full or partial transition back to creatives that do not always include face coverings.

Overall, mask usage in digital advertising is a topic of conversation, with comments on Facebook ads applauding or condemning. While this lowers costs and generates discussion, nuance does not necessarily follow increased engagement – use caution and monitor sentiment closely.

Brands need to remain agile and nimble in their advertising strategy to best relate to the current environment. Vaccine news, virus spikes and a plethora of unforeseen headlines alter public opinion daily, if not hourly.

Learn how our digital team can help your advertising campaign succeed today.


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