Steering Your Media Through a Crisis – 3 Key Considerations

April 23, 2020

Few have escaped the impact of the novel coronavirus, as the disease has touched virtually all aspects of human life. Businesses are facing challenges they’ve never encountered at such a scale, and while some are achieving new levels of growth amidst changing consumer demands and behaviors, others struggle to find their footing. As many brands grapple with how, or even whether to advertise, it’s important to remember that marketing can play a critical role in maintaining a positive conversation with your customers. And from a media buying perspective, we see areas of potential efficiency that present opportunities for advertisers.

Currently, two major trends are shaping digital ad inventory. Consumers, in complying with social distancing measures, are spending more time indoors and on their devices. On the other side, many advertisers are pulling back or pausing media spend to weather financial or PR turbulence. Online activity is at its highest, but we also know behaviors are in constant flux. Now is the time to have a focused, data-backed media strategy to help solidify your business over the coming weeks and months.

We recommend that brands:

1. Take advantage of digital channels’ ability to activate quickly.

Several brands have paused media because their messaging has quickly become outdated; the worst thing a brand can do right now is to ignore the new reality. In a channel like direct mail, for instance, which often plans months ahead and has longer turnaround times associated with printing the mail, that can mean going dark for a while.

But pausing completely can have major consequences, and in fact, recent surveys have suggested that many people do not agree that brands should stop advertising. That’s where digital channels, nimble enough to change copy or creative on the fly, become more useful than ever before. An active creative team with streamlined approval and execution processes can support your efforts to get ROI back on the right track. Even in direct mail, brands have the option of going with a programmatic solution, where creative can be refreshed much quicker than traditionally.

2. Focus on lower cost channels.

While nearly every category, save for CPG, saw large dips in performance towards the beginning of March, many are normalizing. For example, online retail traffic is nearly back to 2019 levels, and categories like home improvement are currently exceeding comps to last year.

But while site traffic is starting to bounce back, ad inventory is slower to catch up. That means the same dollars can make an even wider reach and impact. Looking at recent trends in our agency’s performance data across a range of client verticals, a couple channels stand out as presenting such opportunity. Search, social, programmatic display, and connected TV have seen the combination of decreased advertiser competition and increased user traffic, which has yielded notable shifts in media availability:

Channel Impression Trend Spend Trend CPM Trend CPC Trend
Search +34% -3% -28% -19%
Social -5% -20% -42% -36%
Display +17% +7% -8% -19%
Connected TV +31% +30% -1% N/A

Italics indicate projections based on available inventory
*Search data is US-based, from FP clients in Google, 2019 vs 2020 YoY spanning March 10 to April 10
*Social data is US-based, from FP clients, MoM Feb 2020 vs Mar 2020
*Display data is US-based, from FP clients in DV360, comparing the daily average of 1/1/20-3/15/20 to that of 3/16/20-4/16/20
*ConnectedTV data is US-based, from The Trade Desk, comparing the daily average of 2/1/20-3/15/20 to that of 3/16/20-3/31/30.
*Impression and Spend trends are projected amounts an advertiser could yield based on a 31% increase in available inventory

Even if the conversions don’t come until after the economy recovers more, now is the time to capture headspace and long-term loyalty.

3. Optimize, optimize, optimize.

Things change quickly in the coronavirus economy, with customer perceptions and behavior being no exception. The advertiser with traders that are vigilantly watching CPMs and making optimizations when performance starts to change has a better chance of pulling through, while the advertiser who lives by “set it and forget it” might find it tough.

Today especially, you need tactical campaign managers for each channel who react quickly to market trends, but also marketing managers who maintain coherence between channels. Display ads for example can drive incremental searches, but you have to be ready to capture that new demand.

Through these times, it is more important than ever to be nimble and adaptable. Strategies and especially tactics should be enabled and encouraged to change with the market. Brands who fail to keep the conversation going with their customers run the risk of being hit hardest in terms of revenue. Continuing the conversation by focusing on the right opportunities in digital channels gives marketers the best chance of bouncing back as this crisis begins to normalize.


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