Business Digital Marketing Internet Marketing

How Pandemics Reshape Advertising


Across the globe, nearly everyone in the world has been impacted by this developing pandemic. In three months, this virus has spread to nearly every country and impacted businesses in a huge way. Many people are working from home (WFH) and with restaurants and stores being closed, consumers have changed their behavior. Some businesses have been negatively impacted, but others have seen growth during this time.

Last month, some brands experienced record revenue months while some have experienced significant loss. Some have not reported any negative impacts, yet. This situation is rapidly evolving, and we are making decisions by the day or week. Many brands have added special offers to their ads and website, but it is good to avoid messaging possibly perceived as taking advantage of a crisis.

One brand that experienced a record month sells a DIY product for your home. Due to the higher average order value of this product, I questioned if their revenue would suffer. They also offered an extended spring promotion for their customers. The reason for increased revenue could be as simple as customers are home with extra time on their hands.

DIY Industry Revenue Trends

During this time, do not assume you should reduce paid media budgets; let the data shape your decision. Another factor to consider is if you reduce your brand’s visibility too much it may have unintended consequences. It is likely business will not return to “normal” right away and we may see a “new normal”. Another factor to consider is healthy budgets can indicate having a healthy company.

You should also consider that your message matters. Consumer behaviors are changing as countries take measures to respond to this rapidly evolving situation. An ad that might work today could become socially inappropriate tomorrow. Geico received some backlash from Twitter users who were upset due to the perception company was not “social distancing”.

In the UK and Ireland, KFC put out a video in early March that was ‘finger lickin’ good and quickly suspended it as a result of negative feedback. It was obviously the wrong time for this ad messaging.

Many businesses are trying to carry on and want to keep their business going. However, a certain degree of sensitivity is required during this time. In addition to posting images that are against “physical distancing” or “personal hygiene” should be considered carefully. Any messaging that suggests a person visit your store, lick your fingers, or give high fives may not be received well by consumers.

People are turning to the internet for news and information. This can be a great time to let your customers know you care about them or are supporting them during this difficult time. Just keep in mind, the networks have created some strict policies around the use of ‘coronavirus’ and ‘COVID 19’ terms. It makes sense because they do not have the resources to determine who is taking advantage and who is not. Learn how Accessory Junkie shifted its strategy to focus on top-of-funnel engagement.

I thought it might be interesting to look back in history and see how advertisers reacted during past pandemics. It is interesting to see some of the ads published during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. It does not mean you cannot be creative or humorous during this time just as long as it is in good taste.

During this time, it seems like advertisements that are useful may be better received than ones that are just taboo. For example, during the Diamond Princess fiasco, it was annoying to see cruise ships offering deep discounts. You could not have paid me to get on a cruise at that time or now for that matter.

Since so many of us are quarantined inside our houses it has really increased the need for some services. For example, AdAge reports that Instacart drastically increased its ad budget last month. This makes perfect sense because people are less likely to venture out. This makes grocery and other delivery services desirable.

Closing Thoughts

It is very possible that this current situation may end up reshaping consumer behavior long term. Companies may discover their employees can work from home, and they save on overhead costs. BusinessInsider wrote” There’s no doubt the coronavirus pandemic will dramatically change the world as we know it. And while it’s too early to say definitively how, the advertising world is no exception.” While none of us can say for sure how this will reshape the world, it does seem like there may be permanent changes in consumer behavior and advertising as a result of this global pandemic. Sign up for the webinar Ask the Experts: How to Approach Your Paid Media During COVID-19.

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