On December 31, 2019, a “pneumonia of unknown cause,” first detected in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, China, was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).1

Fast forward three months, and the words “coronavirus” and “COVID-19” have become a regular part of household conversations in nearly every country around the globe.

At the time of this report, the global number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 1.3 million, with almost 80,000 deaths worldwide.2 In the last week of March, the United States topped the list of confirmed cases, totaling nearly 400,000 as of early April--a number that could potentially be much higher, due the lack of widespread available testing.

The impact of this pandemic on Americans is only beginning to be felt:

  • Nearly 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks of March.3
  • In March alone, the stock market saw the three worst point drops in U.S. history (March 9, March 12, March 16).4
  • “Stay at home” orders have been rolled out statewide in 42 states, as well as in specific cities and counties of three additional states.5

As the outbreak has escalated, efforts from the Ad Council, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the White House, have been focused around a single message: Slow the Spread. Now that significant impacts of the virus are arising around the country, it’s time to address the urgent, varied needs of Americans triggered by this crisis.

Research Purpose

COVID-19 conversations across all social platforms are growing every hour as changes and disruptions challenge the norms of American life. In one week alone (March 27 - April 2), there were over 101 million mentions of COVID-19 on social platforms.6

Leaders from federal and local governments, issues experts and lead scientists are making daily appeals to the American public. But are the resources and reassurances they’re providing really meeting the nation’s needs? 

This research study is an ongoing exploration into the ever-changing conversations, questions, and fears around the pandemic. Through social listening analysis and a weekly survey (quantitative inquiry), this study seeks to discover what Americans really need—by directly asking them about those needs as well as identifying where they are getting information about COVID-19 to address their own mental, social and economic challenges.

The goals of this research are to:

  • Identify areas of greatest need as expressed in social media conversations/posts and as reported by a survey sample representing the American public;
  • Clarify the correlation and connection between social media conversations and the real needs of the American public;
  • Provide weekly guidance to issue experts, brands, foundations, the media and causes about the American public’s greatest needs;
  • Identify outlets, entities and influencers where the American public is getting their information regarding COVID-19; and
  • Provide insights to stakeholders in order to make strategic decisions regarding how and where to reach Americans with messages that address their needs and concerns.

April marks the beginning of a particularly difficult time for the American public. A record number of people are starting to deal with the hardships of unemployment and are struggling to make rent/mortgage payments, afford meals, and more. And as isolation orders continue, many more are struggling with mental health issues. Ultimately, the goal of this research is to identify the greatest needs of Americans, and to help those with the most resources—brands, foundations, the media and causes—make strategic decisions in their efforts to address the impact of COVID-19 on the American public.

Over the coming weeks, the Ad Council will release report briefs that highlight the top conversations/findings as they evolve during this time.

About the Ad Council

The Ad Council has a long history of creating life-saving public service communications in times of national crisis, starting in the organization's earliest days during World War II to September 11th and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Its deep relationships with media outlets, the creative community, issue experts and government leaders make the organization uniquely poised to quickly distribute life-saving information to millions of Americans.

The Ad Council is where creativity and causes converge. The non-profit organization brings together the most creative minds in advertising, media, technology and marketing to address many of the nation's most important causes. The Ad Council has created many of the most iconic campaigns in advertising history. Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk. Smokey Bear. Love Has No Labels.

The Ad Council's innovative social good campaigns raise awareness, inspire action and save lives.

This report was powered by C+R Research

C+R Research is an independent full-service marketing insights agency with 60 years of experience delivering great research, deep perspective and committed client service. C+R is nationally recognized for its best-in-class quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and expertise with specific populations, including shoppers, youth & family, multicultural consumers, business professionals, and global communities. C+R is privately held and headquartered in Chicago, IL. For additional information, please visit