Advertising in the Time of COVID-19

We may slowly be finding our way back to normality but it will be a new normality with profound shifts in how we live. Changes in priorities, interests and behaviours that occur over years have happened in weeks. These changes will impact where, how, and what you advertise.

Our study looks at how we have been affected by COVID-19 and how brands can adapt their message to have a strategic consumer centric approach.

We are less positive about brands advertising against a COVID-19 backdrop

Advertisers who rely on a strong brand presence need to be cautious of advertising against COVID-19 content with the association leading to less positive sentiment (20%) about the brand when compared to advertising on general content (30%). There is a small but significant shift in negative sentiment towards brands who advertise against COVID-19 content (10% versus 6% for general content). There is no significant shift in people ignoring/not noticing ads on COVID-19 content versus general content suggesting brands can still cut through . Overall there is still a large proportion of people who remain neutral about advertising on COVID-19 content (53%) . Brands need to decide how to balance the opportunity of increased news media consumption and their long term brand equity.

We want to live well but with less money

Brands need to be cognisant that the ultimate priorities of consumers have shifted. Understandably people are putting their health, physically and mentally, of their family and themselves first with 60% of people mentioning it as a priority. Due to the uncertainty of the current economy and employment market, people are making more effort to save and earn money (16%). They are trying to make sure that their families & kids are happy and to stay positive. Parents in particular indicated that they are trying to homeschool their children. Stocking essentials is also a priority. In the US, whilst respondents who are over 64 also put "being healthy" as their first priority, with less of a financial burden the retired care less about saving money or work.

Of those surveyed in our study 13% had lost their job as a result of the pandemic and 44% had reduced pay or hours. Overall around 50% of households had less disposable income.

But we do have more time to try new things

The pandemic does offer opportunities in terms of reaching consumers. Consumers are spending more time with almost all mediums with 68% of people watching more TV, 64% of people using phones and tablets more and 62% of people using their computers more. Interests have dramatically shifted with people being more interested in Local News (63%) and World News (46%). Interest in Lifestyle content has shifted with 29% being more interested in Food and 30% being more interested in Health and Fitness. There is a shift away from Travel and Fashion as people focus on their immediate needs. In terms of culture and entertainment these interests have also generally shifted in a positive direction with the exception of Sports.

Dramatic shifts in behaviour were also seen in our study with many people spending more time reading (48%) and watching online content (46%), engaging with social mediums, playing games (46% of under 44 year olds) and listening to music (39%) and podcasts (34% of under 44 year olds).

What you can do

Behind each of these stats are real people, facing real hardship and uncertainty. At this time, the tone of your message matters. Human Made Machine are paying particular attention to open end feedback where we have seen explicit references to COVID questioning messaging relevance. Ask yourself if your creative:

  • Evokes a positive emotional response
  • Taps into the shift in interests and priorities that the lock down has caused. Does it support physical wellbeing, emotional wellbeing or support them with practical help?
  • Is it appropriate against a backdrop of COVID-19 content? Proceed (or not) with balanced caution, it is not likely to support building brand equity efficiently but overall many consumers don't mind.
  • Is it practical - people are struggling to make ends meet and thinking hard about what they need to do to get through this time. Make sure your advertising is relevant and appropriate if focusing on sales.

As always the safest way to assess your creative and protect your media investment is with rigorous testing. Get in touch with us and see how we can help. [email protected]

Show Comments