After spending the summer convincing consumers to take socially distanced breaks from grim reality, advertisers are now returning to the pandemic as the central focus in holiday shopping campaigns launching this month.

U.S. companies from carmakers to retailers are under pressure to make the shopping season a success after retail sales crashed 21% earlier this year as millions of Americans lost jobs and cut their budgets. They face the challenge of convincing consumers to open their wallets for the holidays even as the coronavirus pandemic rages anew across the United States and Europe.

As new campaigns roll out, brands feel it is their responsibility to inspire optimism for the coming year, but also empathize with “the hurt that people have,” said Jason Schragger, chief creative officer at ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

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