Digital Marketing, Thought Leaders

How To Approach Online Advertising During a Crisis

November 24, 2020

by Adelina Karpenkova

Content Marketer, Joinative

You have probably seen statistics about the amount of time people have spent online during the pandemic. This has made it much easier for you to catch your audience’s attention; the following is how you can accomplish it.

To advertise, or not to advertise, that is the question. When a crisis strikes, companies inevitably start looking for ways to reduce costs. And if they run marketing and advertising campaigns, these are usually the first to be affected.

But you don’t want to lose your business to panic, do you? The crisis brought changes in consumer behavior but didn’t blow your customers away. 

Although the pandemic measures are being eased in many countries now, the new trends in customers’ behavior will remain relevant for quite a long time.

How can you adapt your messaging to fit your audience’s needs? The COVID-19 pandemic had a more negative effect on the global economy than anticipated. There’s no denying that many people have lower purchasing power, and a hard-sell approach will be the worst way to go. 

To answer this question, let’s look at the statistics, figure out how things stand with different niches, and build a go-to strategy for developing online ads in a crisis.

How to Approach Online Advertising in a Crisis: 

  1. How advertising has been affected by the pandemic
  2. The situation from the consumers' point of view
  3. Tips on adapting your advertising strategy

How Advertising Has Been Affected by the Pandemic

In March, companies started to significantly cut or reduce their advertising costs. On one hand, it affected publishers — advertising channels and news outlets reported falls in ad revenue during the first two quarters of 2020.

On the other hand, we noticed that advertisers who managed to adjust and kept running their campaigns took advantage of decreased CPCs. They used a less competitive environment to boost their marketing efforts, launch new tests, and gain new audiences.

This is exactly how the Coda marketing team managed to benefit from maintaining their campaigns when the quarantine was announced. Bilal Zaidi, a paid acquisition specialist at Coda said, “Given the rapidly changing climate amid COVID-19 and shelter-in-place, we’ve been deliberate in reviewing our creatives as well as our landing pages and promoted docs to ensure they’re still relevant.” 

He continued, “For example, before shelter-in-place began, we might have promoted a guide to in-person team off-sites. Now, we’re focused on delivering helpful content that’s directly actionable, like our ‘remote work starter kit’ and our founder’s ‘guide to distributed teams’.”

Eventually, the demand for online advertising and CPCs bounced back. What’s most interesting is that online advertising spend is taking over pre-pandemic numbers. 

According to the IAB report, most buyers will increase digital advertising spend in the second half of 2020, compared to 2019. It’s expected that it will be 13% higher than it was in 2019.

2020 Ad Spend Changes by Digital Channel

eMarketer also predicts growth in digital ad spending in the U.S., but at a way less rapid pace — they forecast just a 1.7% growth.

How Has the Forecast for Digital Ad 
Numbers show that advertisers are way more careful with advertising budget allocation these days. But at the same time, an increase in online activity makes brands more concerned about their online presence than ever before. 

A well-thought-out online advertising strategy is vital now more than ever. Let’s move on to highlighting users’ attitudes toward brand advertising in a crisis.

The Situation From the Consumers' Point of View

65% of consumers agree that their likelihood to buy from a brand in the future depends on how well it responded to a crisis. Consumers don’t want brands to target them with aggressive ad campaigns (and they never did). However, stats show that they do want to hear from brands and interact with them. 

What’s shocking is that 75% of surveyed Americans claimed they tried new shopping behaviors during the pandemic crisis, including new brands and places; and they intend to stick with them in the long-term. 

This means that today’s world is indeed a world of new opportunities. And these aren’t empty words. Today might be the right time for you to win new audiences and build long-term relationships with them.

Tips on Adapting Your Advertising Strategy

If you look back at the recessions of previous years, you’ll see many examples of brands that benefited from keeping their advertising campaigns at the same pace or even increasing their ad budgets. But it doesn’t mean you don’t need to adapt or even pivot your advertising strategy.

What's Your Niche?

Your approach to marketing and advertising in crisis times highly depends on your niche. 

While the crisis hurt many, there are a few industries that have been thriving since the pandemic started. Pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, e-commerce, online services, and tech platforms – these verticals will be seeing growth for a long time. 

If you’re in the hard-hit sector, recommendations to ‘pivot and thrive’ must be driving you mad. 

If your company prioritizes survival for obvious reasons (read: your sales dropped), and there’s literally nothing you can do (read: you can’t quickly pitch and implement an idea that will boost your sales), revisiting your goals, for the time being, will be the right way to go.

Revisit Your Goals

Is your company thriving now? Skip this section.

Is your company in survival mode? Shift your goals to more realistic ones.

The situation has caused brands of all sizes to consider switching to different types of campaign types. Lead generation has been the main goal for many of our agency clients since the coronavirus outbreak. 

We saw that sales might fail to be as effective as they used to be in pre-pandemic times and decided to use this time to reach new consumers. This meant broader targeting, different landing pages, adapted messaging — and we are ready to go.

Focus on the Long Term

Today’s campaigns will have a significant impact on how your audience treats your brand in the future. You can either prepare for the surge in future sales interest by building your audience today or sit and wait for your competition to take it all.

If you shift from sales to lead generation campaigns, make sure you know why you need these leads. It can be that you come up with the most engaging idea somehow related to your niche, collect thousands of email addresses, but never turn these leads into paying customers. 

This may happen only when an advertiser doesn’t consider the sales funnel when crafting campaigns. So, after you revisit your goals and come up with new approaches to advertising for the next few months, think of how your new campaigns will contribute to reaching your business goals. 

Identify Your Audience’s Needs

No one else but you understands what your target audience wants to see right now. Is it the right time to educate them? Or do you think entertaining content will work better? 

To have a better understanding of your customers’ interests and needs in the changing environment, take one or both of the following steps:

  • Review traffic insights. This is already an integral part of your daily or weekly routine. Go deeper now. Compare the data for Q1, Q2, and Q3 — how was user behavior changing? Was it changing at all? Use these insights to develop sought-after content.
  • Talk to your audience. Ask your sales department, host a survey, or do anything that will help you learn what your audience expects from you.

Revisit Channels

Facebook ads aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

To reduce advertising costs and run more cost-effective campaigns, we recommend you revisit your advertising channels. It’s very likely you’ve never looked beyond anything like Facebook or Google Ads. 

In fact, there are way more options today that have even higher potential for advertisers. Depending on what goals you set, you might see better results from turning to native advertising, TikTok, Pinterest ads, and other alternatives.

Let’s take a closer look at native advertising. In light of recent events, big brands and small businesses started to shift their budgets to native ads. What’s behind it?

Costs on advertising inside of the well-known duopoly are growing steadily, with no sign of slowing down. The average CPC across all verticals on Facebook has reached $1.72. Meanwhile, native ad platforms, such as Taboola or MGID charge on average 35¢ per click.

Moreover, news outlets and online magazines might be a better place to display your ads when the demand for content is at such high levels.

Don't Try To Speculate on the Topic

Whatever niche you’re in, you shouldn’t try to profit from your customers’ problems. Increasing costs on consumer goods or running aggressive ad campaigns won’t do any good for your brand in the long run.

Newsjacking is another problem when unforeseen events happen. We’ve already seen many brands trying to take advantage of high-volume headlines without offering any value to their audiences. In most cases, this doesn’t result in anything but criticism. 

Adjust Your Creatives and Landing Pages

All the previous steps imply a change in your messaging. New goals, channels, and content need new creatives. Test variables that you have never used before, create new landing pages, leverage trending keywords, and get more creative. 

8fit Try this 15 minute workout at home

This is one of the landing pages 8fit has been promoting recently.

Opt for images taken indoors and avoid thumbnails with groups of people or overcrowded places. Don’t use the ‘coronavirus’ or ‘COVID-19’ keywords — they take the second position in the list of keywords blocked by publishers.

If you start running ads on new platforms, analyze existing campaigns first. You can either use ad spy tools to export all the up-to-date campaigns in your niche or conduct manual research. 

As a result of your investigation, you’ll have useful insights that can be used to build more effective and appealing campaigns.

It’s Time for Testing

The world is changing. Instead of denying it and waiting for things to settle down, advertisers should be using their creative minds to the maximum capacity. 

To run truly effective campaigns, keep track of your campaign performance, evaluate early performance signs, such as time on page and scroll depth, and optimize in real-time.

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