• Shaumik Saha

8 Digital Advertising Dos and Don'ts during Uncertain Times

Updated: Jun 4



Its effects continue to morph and evolve and its impacts can be seen in all aspects of our business and personal lives. At this point the unwelcome protagonist of this article has been covered in several previous articles and news world over; and I do not wish to harp on the same string in this one. I shall make one mention of it for context and continue on with my business.


The uncertainty we're referring to here, is of course that caused by Covid-19. This article shall address some critical digital advertising dos and don'ts in such times.


1. DO keep your digital advertising authentic:


Let us take a quick look at some stats.


According to the Kantar COVID-19 barometer report, 64% of consumers want brands to communicate their values through their messaging.


Another study by MediaScience found that advertisements related to COVID-19 often perform better when part of news programming, as this comes across as an authentic trustworthy source.


The overarching consumer demands here are that of trust and authenticity. Knowing this is incredibly important to create strong connections with your customers, especially if you are going to insert your brand into the often uncertain and controversial conversations of today.


The advertisers who will excel during this time are the ones who will remain true to their brand and values, and continue to reflect authenticity and trust.


Brands that prioritize helping the community, retaining their employees and supporting their clients in rough times, whilst temporarily de-prioritizing profit margins, senior employee benefits and solely monetary shareholder demands will be the ones that gain the most consumers' trust. The key here is of course efficiently conveying this via advertising.


2. DON'T be opportunistic in your digital advertising:


In our own conversations with clients and their insights we have specifically noticed a distaste among audiences for ads that may seem opportunistic. Avoid promoting products or services by making unrealistic promises that may seem exploitative of desperate times.


Don't promise more than what you can deliver. Sure you might score a few extra customers, but when they find out you've under-delivered they will never return to you again. A bad reputation is the exact opposite of what your advertising should help you accomplish.


A build measure learn feedback loop

3. DO follow a feedback loop to keep improving your ad content:

In March, Ford pulled down its planned advertisements and replaced them with ads about the carmaker’s Covid-19 car payment relief program and creative that reminded customers the company has responded to past disasters.


Honda came up with this brilliant advertisement earlier this year, that was not only extremely relatable to their customers but also helped soothe some of the ongoing tensions and uncertainty at the start of the quarantine.


That is the need of the hour. To watch, and amend ad messaging as necessary. We’re seeing many big name brands being nimble in making necessary changes.

Here’s a quick checklist to assess your creatives:

  • Is the ad well designed, appealing and intuitive?

  • Does the ad answer what you are doing to look out for your customers, employees and stakeholders during such times?

  • Does the ad share how you are helping or thinking about the larger communities that are affected?

  • Does the ad provide useful information for safety, prevention, health, or services?


4. DON’T fear monger or induce panic in your advertising:


The Kantar COVID-19 barometer report also found that over 70% of consumers believe that brands should not exploit the situation to promote their brand via fear mongering or inducing panic. There are two questions you need to ask:


  • Is it insensitive, exploitative or opportunistic? (for instance, ads for cleaning products or food that is short on supply and overpriced)

  • Does this ad induce panic or fear in users?


If you aren't sure about the answers to the above questions, it is best to conduct a survey internally; or among friends and family or a test group before making the advertisement public. Your other recourse would be to contact us regarding our advertising and design services.


In such times, it is all important to handle all public communications and messaging delicately.


5. DO consider segmentation and attunement to ensure more relevant messaging


Personalized, segmented and attuned messages are key.

In times of crisis, customer attunement is not just a best practice — it’s a must-have. If your audiences are broad today, come up with way of how you can segment further based on inputs like site behavior or psychographics to get the right message in front of the right person.

Closely monitor your web analytics and take note of what shifts in customer behavior are telling you. For example, you may notice that your customers are looking for answers and support rather than information or blog pages.


Take note of these preferences, segment your users accordingly, and adapt your strategy, messaging, and landing pages to provide the information customers are looking for, clearly and readily.


Not only is this critical from an advertising perspective, but also will dramatically improve user behavior on your website, applications, etc. Giving users what they want is fundamental to creating a good user experience which in turn is guaranteed to improve user behavior metrics (higher retention, longer dwell time, etc).


6. DON’T assume your audience preferences are still the same


Live events are cancelling, box offices have closed down and people are spending more time than ever at home. It would only be logical to assume that their content consumption preferences are changing.


Already short end user attention spans have been scurrying across more social media platforms than ever. New social media networks such as Snapchat, TikTok and IGTV are changing the preferred format of digital content.


Here are some insights from Adobe:

  • New peaks for connected TV (CTV) during the day on weekdays, which we haven’t seen before, auction volume is up 7% from 12-4 p.m., and 15% from 6-9 p.m.

  • Desktop video and display auction volume is up 7.3%, and 8% throughout the entire day.

  • 2.5% lift in mobile video and much more activity in the gaming category.


Be on top of such new changes and amend the content and distribution of your ad campaigns accordingly. If in doubt consult us.


7. DO choose the premium options for ad distribution and placement:

In a recent study from YouGov that surveyed 3,500 consumers, video ads on premium channels were considered 20-50% more credible versus non-premium inventory, such as user-generated content (UGC). This is a crucial takeaway as you plan your marketing mix during this time.


It is a knee-jerk reaction for consumers to turn to the most credible sources they know in such uncertain times, and therefore buying ad placements on such channels may be well worth their premiums as opposed to bidding for ad space on UGC.


8. DON’T blindly restrict your ad placements on sensitive content:

According to a recent report by Integral Ad Science, most people (78%) report that their sentiment would likely remain unchanged for general ads that appear near COVID-19 content.


Audiences are more vigilant than ever against advantageous advertising (both in terms of the content itself and its distribution). However, a lot of brands have misunderstood this sentiment and are restricting their ads almost entirely from appearing on Covid-19 content.


However, because of the considerable mindshare and unprecedented amount of coverage that such content has garnered, blocking ads on this content may lead to an inability to connect with your customers.


Furthermore, audiences and users are vigilant enough to tell the difference between an advantageously placed ad and one placed with caution and with responsibility of the current situation.


We firmly believe that as long as your messaging is apt, the distribution on sensitive content is a nonissue. We hope these “dos and don’ts” provide some actionable point to re-think your advertising strategy in such times. Until better days come our way, we will be committed to keeping you updated with the most relevant information on such topics.


Contact Strideplus for a consultation on your advertising campaign.

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