Advertising in the Age of Coronavirus

Advertising in the Age of Coronavirus — Things Advertisers Need to Consider

The Novel Coronavirus has quickly impacted American life as we know it across industries — and advertising is no exception. This crisis has already begun to impact how brands and marketers prioritize their advertising dollars, forcing us to re-evaluate where we are placing advertising now and into the future.

While the population’s attention has rightly re-focused itself on social distancing and ways to mitigate the outbreak of COVID-19, we must also consider the economic repercussions and find ways to keep businesses healthy during this critical time. Small businesses, entire industries, and specific products continue to be in demand, albeit in different ways.

It is our job as advertisers to understand the changing consumer mindset and adapt to meet them there.

Take the restaurant category, for example, where a necessary shift in consumer behavior has meant more takeout and delivery. Restaurants who don’t typically offer these options have scrappily built new business models, using technologies like UberEats and Grubhub to facilitate distribution, or even creating their own distribution channels. Delivery technologies themselves have adapted, offering fee-free delivery, new premium options and rewards programs to incentivize adoption. Nearly every industry has been or will be affected in some way.

Seeing how other industries have adapted to this challenging time, advertisers must ask themselves two core questions:

1) How must we change our own operations or services to adapt?

2) In what ways can we help our clients reach their audiences in this disrupted environment?

To answer the first question, agencies need to look hard in the mirror, and ask themselves if they’ve built their business to best meet the needs of their clients, or simply to place ad dollars.

Norbella has intentionally built a nimble enterprise so that we can easily shift dollars and strategies to meet the needs of changing audiences, performance, or objectives. Our stated mission is “Always sensitive to marketers’ increasing challenges, we provide an effective consultative approach by asking smart questions, providing rigor around research and data, and pushing for creative and strategic outputs that drive results in an ever-changing media landscape.​” Now more than ever, the principles here should be our guiding force, as we continue to think about how the landscape is changing, how consumers’ needs have shifted, and what that means for our business partners.

The most successful agencies should be asking clients what they need to succeed in the current climate, and how their businesses will be impacted, so that advertising strategies can pro-actively adjust. Advertisers must be willing to drastically restructure campaigns based on consumer behaviors that have been turned upside down. This means quickly removing ads, pausing campaigns that don’t make sense or won’t reach the right audiences, and pivoting dollars to where it will have the greatest impact.

This brings us to question number two…

To reach audiences in this new climate, we must re-evaluate the daily lives of consumers — how they engage with media, their anxieties and motivations, and their purchasing behaviors. We cannot afford to be delusional about how the impact on certain industries like travel or events, which should realistically reconsider their in-market and forthcoming advertising due to the disruption in real-time purchasing behaviors; so they can then be ready with a new plan and messaging for as soon as the time is right. Any good agency partner should be willing to work with their clients to support these types of decisions, and work to rebuild a strategy for reactivation to make the strongest impact possible once the market picks back up.

Industries that have had to adapt their models in real-time should quickly adjust messaging to focus on opportunities that exist now. That means swapping out messaging, changing goals, and reallocating budgets. It would be short-sighted for these businesses to completely remove advertising where there may be opportunity to maintain or even grow. Agencies should be asking their clients about changes to their services, or if there are different product focuses during this crisis that would be better suited for advertising.

Ad placements and channels themselves need to be re-prioritized for a quarantined world. Advertisers who are looking to stay top of mind may want to evaluate their channel mix, with new messaging and a framework to test ad formats, refresh creative, and monitor engagement/feedback, to reach an audience that is spending most of their time at home.

Finally, it is incumbent on advertisers and businesses to understand that this will likely be a relatively short-term crisis, but one that will affect families, businesses and individuals globally. Thoughtful and considerate messaging and targeting, adjusted expectations, and an understanding that as strategic consultative partners, our job is to continue to help clients, especially in difficult times. The best course of action is to recognize the ways in which consumer behaviors and the marketplace itself have shifted and consider how to effectively and thoughtfully help our business partners succeed, both in the immediate term and in the long run.

- Phil Decoteau — Director, Platform and Digital Media

Phil is a 12-year veteran in the digital media and marketing space. When he’s not thinking about Digital Media, Phil is hanging with his family, playing on one of many intramural sports teams, or making a cocktail (perhaps all of those at once).

Ongoing questions & confessions of a modern-day media agency.

Ongoing questions & confessions of a modern-day media agency.