Digital advertising and coronavirus: how to face a changing landscape

Amid the evolving coronavirus situation, the digital advertising industry continues to seek guidance on how to best navigate these unprecedented circumstances. Advertisers have been quick to make adjustments: the “coronavirus” is now the most blocked keyword in the world. However, it is important to remember that in the digital environment, brand suitability requires a nuanced and strategic approach for campaigns to be effective. A planning not focused exclusively on a massive blocking of ads that appear next to a certain word, since there is not always a direct cause-effect relationship between the blocked word, coronavirus, in this case, with content detrimental to brand suitability. Where to put the focus to hit? The infallible and always accurate answer is the consumer. Their opinion and behavior will be the spearheads that guide advertisers on how to direct their advertising strategy.

To shed some light on the matter, I would like to show some data from a study conducted in the United States to 1,120 users on information related to COVID-19 and digital impressions. On the one hand, it is observed that the consumption of information has increased since March, since 75% of the respondents indicate that this activity of consulting news has increased in the indicated month. This in general terms, but how is the situation regarding the coronavirus? 65% of them confess to proactively seeking information about the pandemic.

As for how it affects an ad being on a page where there is information about COVID-19 and your interaction with it, consumers are divided. However, most of them (75%) consider that viewing ads with content about the coronavirus does not change their opinion of the brand. Furthermore, only 22% indicate that the contents on COVID-19 are not an adequate place for brands to advertise. At the same time, there are 41% who believe that this depends on the brand in question that is advertised and 38% think that they are suitable environments for advertisers.

Another key factor is the quality of the support that provides information about the coronavirus. That is, if they are news portals from the media or from prestigious publishing groups. At this point there is a clear majority opinion, since 90% of consumers prefer to consume news about COVID-19 on sites with these characteristics. In addition, 41% are more willing to interact with the ads served on pages with content related to news portal coronavirus of this type.

Along with all this, it is also interesting to analyze what effect the tone of the COVID-19 news has in relation to how consumers react to an advertisement that is inserted along with such information. At this point there are clearly three aspects: positive, neutral or negative news. In the first case, positive information such as, “Spain and Italy applaud the toilets”, 31% of consumers have a more favorable feeling for the brand and 11% less favorable. If it is neutral information, of the type; “Tips for managing loneliness and anxiety in times of social estrangement during coronavirus,” the percentages are quite similar to the positive news. Thus 28% is more favorable to the brand and 14% less favorable. However, where a big flip occurs is when users see an ad on a page with negative news about COVID-19. In information on characteristics such as “The Coronavirus could lead to the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression”, only 10% of consumers maintain a more favorable sentiment for the brand and 31% less favorable. Finally, a very positive reaction is seen when the ads help people in an informative way. And so, in the face of this type of advertising, 44% of consumers have a more favorable feeling for the brand and 11% less favorable.

All this set of data and statistics are very valuable to build an adequate digital strategy in these times. Along these lines, from my point of view, the best recommendation that could be given to advertisers would be not to focus on a one-way approach. That is, taking into account the same and only solution for all advertising planning, such as for example the keywords and an excessive use of them. Because a single digital marketing policy would provide a myopic view of the situation and would not help optimize investment. The proposal to be effective involves combining several systems. Among them I consider that contextual semantic technology should not be missing. Since, on the one hand, it provides greater precision on the control of the content next to which the ads appear. The sametime, on the other, it is capable of giving an adequate and segmented response in relation to information about the coronavirus and avoiding the insertion of advertising together with COVID-19 content with a negative feeling.