Television ads from The Hershey Company (HSY -0.22%) and Molson Coors (TAP -0.15%) have been pulled in recent days as the companies fear the spots may be misconstrued as making light of the coronavirus outbreak or project images of behavior that could lead to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Hershey's ad showed people giving handshakes and hugs after receiving a chocolate bar as a gift, a potential problem as the contagion is spread through person-to-person contact. The brewer's ad touted its Coors Light beer as being the "Official Beer of Working Remotely," a reference it fears viewers might associate with individuals who self-quarantine.

Both companies replaced the ads with spots that focused solely on the product.

A pice of Hershey's chocolate.

Image source: The Hershey Company.

Better safe than sorry

Hershey CMO Jill Baskin told AdAge, "Sadly, we have decided to temporarily replace two of our ads that feature human interaction, that include hugging and handshakes, due to the current sensitivities surrounding the COVID-19 virus. At this time, our ads have been replaced with product-centric spots."

Molson's CMO Michelle St. Jacques advised its distributors, "The last thing we want is for our communication to seem insensitive or be misinterpreted." It also asked them to pull drink coasters and banners the brewer distributed to bars and restaurants.

The concern is not unwarranted. Constellation Brands (STZ 0.58%) has seen some confusion over its Corona beer and the virus, and it received criticism for marketing its new Corona Seltzer with the tag line "coming ashore soon," which some thought insensitive.

While that is likely an overreaction, companies like Hershey and Molson Coors undoubtedly believe it's better to avoid potential controversy altogether.