4 Ways the Pandemic is Changing Advertising—and What to Do About It

 In Archives, Insights & News

By Gellena Lukats

As I sit here, working from home, tenaciously pausing campaigns that took months to optimize across our paid media channels, it’s hard not to feel the impact of COVID-19, especially when each day we are frantically halting spend, relaunching, and ceaselessly shifting strategy. It feels like a standstill, and I hesitate to think long term, at a time where it appears short-term thinking is the universal norm for the industry.

But how do we weather this storm? There is not a one-stop-shop solution here, but I do have some advice you can cater to your own brand/industry based on my own experience.

Consumers need something to do with the seemingly limitless hours online, and they now more than ever before have the time to research your brand and product. Here are my four best tips for brands in this new normal:

1. Don’t be Swayed by Common Misconceptions

Misconception1: “I should pause all social media and run nothing”

Users are constantly on social networks, like Facebook, as they use these platforms to connect with friends/family they’re social distancing from, or actively following tweets for news content.

On LinkedIn alone, there was a 2017% growth in engagement from February 1 to March 17.

So now is not the time to pause, but rather focus on a new phase in the funnel: awareness and research. As more users are actively online, now is the time to share thought leadership and gain trust and reliability to be top-of-mind in the post-recovery period. Let the end user know you’re here when they’re ready to enroll in your school, or pivot towards online solutions like webinars or your e-commerce program. Topics like #remotework, and learning new skills are trending, so adapt and make yourself heard in a time when more users are online. Every user has tons of marketing emails from companies they gave their PII data to, and you don’t want to get lost in this over saturated market.

Misconception2: “It’s business as usual”

By ignoring the crisis, and not shifting your strategy, you run the risk of appearing tone deaf and self-promotional. Instead, be in the market, but provide a soft approach – focus on long-term success and pools you can remarket to at a later point. Push webinars and digital events, optimize the upper funnel and focus on reach vs. lower-funnel success metrics, and showcase your corporate responsibility initiatives. Now is not the time to look at cost metrics, but focus on your business objectives and brand positioning. Reduce spend as you pause conversion campaigns for products/services that aren’t applicable. For virtual consultations, use the appointment booking tool on Facebook, use messenger and lead gen for webinars, and be sure to let existing users know of any upcoming webinars or reminders with CRM lists. Nurture the end user to drive the last touch point action and focus on higher funnel actions during this time. Organically use Facebook and Instagram Live, and connect with your end user in the online medium they’re using. A lot of budget should still be focused on holiday spending – now is not the time to spend all your dollars, but to be mindful of how to use your tools for a greater purpose.

2. Be relevant

Instead of fighting against coronavirus, fuel your ad creative with content that is personalized to the social climate. Ikea has produced a Stay Home Ad, focusing on all the great memories that take place at home with consumers as the focal point. Ikea is not mentioned until the last frame, showcasing the brand’s commitment to providing value to consumers rather than promoting their company with a PRODUCT-focused unit. Their site also shows a commitment to home inspiration and safety information, while showcasing the online store and safe home experience. This strategic shift should apply beyond creative. There is an increase in buying online and delivery. Even older customers, who are most susceptible, will avoid stores and will now have to shop online. Think about messaging to cater to this new user in-market, and be prepared even in industries like travel. Even though the bottom line is affected now, great brand positioning will help fuel a strong recovery later.

3. Tailor your product/offering if you can

Google Duo has raised its video chat limit, Netflix has a party feature that lets users chat in real-time with friends, Apple has made video and music software free, and Snapchat has launched a discover section for coronavirus information, as well as an in-app mental health feature. It’s time to relate to your user, show them you care, and find a way to make your product relevant in this difficult climate. Not all brands can be Slack or e-commerce, but each brand has a place in this ecosystem. If you can tailor your product or offerings – now’s the time. There are segments from Freckle, which brings first-party data into segments you can push on many paid social channels from location-based data they have acquired. They have segments of users likely to be working from home, users that have been seen at big box retailers, and users known to dine at restaurants with segments that can be pushed to DSP, social, and SEM. This brings in-store offline attribution to a brand that typically works with foot traffic. Corona, on the other hand, just made an ad focusing on the beverage coming ashore. A poorly timed ad in this time frame, will slowly turn viral. The brand spokesman, Maggie Bowman, told Business Insider: “Our advertising with Corona is consistent with the campaign we have been running for the last 30 years and is based off strong consumer sentiment.” Sorry, Maggie, you need to tailor that ad and be relevant, but still be appropriate.

4. Showcase important information and announcements

Be transparent and visible by being at the forefront of the pandemic. Speak to the new routine checks and changes you are making to your programs, whether it’s updating packing procedures for online purchases, reassuring guests that your facility will reopen, or noting which precautions have been taken to allow for a safe hotel experience. Pin these measures to the top of your feed, and make sure to have the holistic message and announcements visible on your pages. Have an open forum of communication and respond to as many customer inquiries as you can – make your users feel safe, but PLEASE do not turn off your media now.

Consumers need something to do with the seemingly limitless hours online, and they now more than ever before have the time to research your brand and product.

Interested in learning more? Please contact us anytime for immediate assistance.

Gellena Lukats is the Associate Director of Paid Social at Acronym. She has over 10 years of experience in social both client and agency side, with a heavy focus on the CPG, travel, education and eCommerce verticals. She works across a variety of clients for successful campaign strategy and execution, adding to the cross-channel business solution at Acronym.