April 6, 2020
April 6, 2020

Advertising in the era of COVID-19: Instead of trying to get attention, show that you’re paying attention

Casey Saran
Co-Founder & CEO

Advertising post-9/11 taught brands and advertisers valuable lessons (These Are The 10 Worst Ads Exploiting OR  OPINION: WHAT 9/11 CAN TEACH US ABOUT MARKETING IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS) -- or should have: instead of trying to exploit a tragedy or crisis, put yourselves in your users’ shoes: Be human. Listen. Be responsive.  

But now we find ourselves in completely unknown territory: there’s no map or primer for a crisis that threatens to last for months.

With the economy on the line, commerce and marketing can’t just… stop.

Business around the world is changing by the day, dealing with supply chains, emergency measures, uncertainty, social distancing, and confusion. Many retail stores have already closed or are announcing closings, encouraging customers to engage via e-commerce. Traditional and Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) brands have announced free delivery options. Marketers and brands are trying to cope as well. Pause? Change... messages, tactics, channels?

It’s worth a reminder: now is the time to stay (or become) responsive to your customers and offer value beyond a sales pitch.

Social Channels Can Guide Your Work

When social media first emerged, it offered brands an opportunity to rise above the noise by providing a channel that helped brands seem more like people. Brands learned the value of joining the conversation: it turns out that relevant and dynamic content strategies are rewarded with unprecedented levels of attention.

But now is a good time to ask, why is this human approach still stuck within the walled gardens of the social platforms? We are all being reminded daily of our shared humanity in our current global crisis; and, tactically, it’s now business-critical to provide customers with relevant and dynamic updates via all channels of communication.

Brands must make their paid media efforts relevant to the current climate, and address what is on their audiences’ minds. Continuing to run only the usual banners during these not-usual times may potentially even be a negative -- your brand may be perceived as out of touch or tone deaf.

So in this crisis, instead of just trying to get attention… show that you’re paying attention.

Take a cue from your brand’s social feeds. Social messaging is typically more responsive to current events than banner ads. Your social teams know the consequences of posting irrelevant content because they have a clear signal: users simply unfollow them.  But there are still consequences for brands running irrelevant content even in environments where users can’t unfollow them.

Leveraging the learnings of social acknowledges the implicit contract between you and your audience -- it’s relationship-first, not KPI first; but those KPIs are much more likely to be met in the long run, when you deliver content that your audience finds valuable.

Whether you’re using social ads already or not, the blueprint is useful: stay true to your brand, but be responsive to the forces and events shaping your customers’ perceptions. Use your ad space to bring value.  If the content is valuable, your message will be shared.

We’ve all heard that brands shouldn’t communicate for display ads the way they do for social -- “display is more corporate, social is more human.”  But this crisis highlights that -- as in nearly every other arena -- old assumptions may not serve marketers or their audiences right now.

Maybe, in a world where we are quite literally starved for human connection, it will serve you better to deliver a human connection, a familiar experience, and valuable, relatable content.

Media Strategy

Create Social Display ads for programmatic.

Get started today making better banner ads.
Request a DemoRequest a Demo