Advertising in the time of uncertainty: how should marketers make every penny count?

thedrum | April 17, 2020

At a Glance:
  • COVID-19 has left advertisers uncertain about how to proceed and left to question whether they can plug business as usual.

  • Digital ad budgets have undeniably shrunk in response to the crisis so brands need to spend smarter.

  • Marketers should also focus on optimization, checking in on campaign details, and questioning the creative and publisher performance to make each impression count.
     

As COVID-19 continues to impact the world, brands and marketers have to adjust their approach to think more sensitively and in tune with their audiences. These unprecedented times have left advertisers uncertain about how to proceed and left to question whether they can plug business as usual. Integral Ad Science managing director, Northern Europe, Paul Nasse, spoke to The Drum associate editor, Sonoo Singh during The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival, to discuss techniques that brands can apply to help them navigate the pandemic.


Learn more: Advertising in the time of uncertainty


It’s an undoubtedly difficult and unpredictable time for the industry. Brand owners have expressed mixed feelings – with some marketing more responsibly and others erring on the side of caution around their campaign decisions. Is there a trend emerging?
 

“There’s nervousness around brand spend; marketers want to make sure that it’s working for them. We have seen some reductions on certain verticals in the last three to four weeks across EMEA, not just within the UK. But we've also seen certain verticals spending more money in this marketplace as areas like technology and entertainment have had to adapt based on the fact that we're home pretty much 24-7.”
 

Paul Nasse, Managing Director, Integral Ad Science, Northern Europe
 

How to spend smarter?


“It's important at this time to be accountable and to make sure that every single penny that's been spent is working hard,” he says. “Any wastage is going to directly impact the brand's ability to drive ROI,” Nasse suggests reworking and delivering valuable messages that resonate under the current context.


Digital ad budgets have undeniably shrunk in response to the crisis so brands need to spend smarter.
 

Learn more: Advertising companies took a downturn as coronavirus bangs on ad spend


Nasse points out that while most industries seem to be impacted, platforms such as premium newspapers and websites are still pulling in high online traffic – “which opens up great opportunities for brands.” He suggests that marketers think intelligently about where they make their ad investments.



Marketers should also focus on optimization, checking in on campaign details and questioning the creative and publisher performance to make each impression count. Platforms selling ad placements, meanwhile, should offer more flexible marketing bundles to benefit marketers, who may request altered terms to see them through this period of uncertainty.


It’s difficult to know exactly which metrics will count towards a campaign’s success, especially when so much has been impacted and consumer behavior isn’t functioning as usual. Nasse recommends that marketers reassess and get clear on their KPIs.


“It's incredibly important to make sure we're aligning those performance metrics with the objectives that the campaigns are setting out to do,” he says. “We need to take a step back and think about whether those KPIs are aligned and if the answer is no, then maybe we need to adapt those KPIs to ensure we're driving the right behaviors. Also, we need to be a bit more sensible about how we're placing our media at the moment and make sure we've got all the controls and tools in place to offer levels of protection when necessary.”


Technology and data prove vital at a time like now. Nasse suggests software such as Integral Ad Science that understands changing behaviors can help advertisers at this time.


“It’s a quick and immediate short-term measure that brands can take,” he concludes. “Publishers and the sell-side can also package up their inventory, their pages, and their contents and build some creative stories around that.” But he encourages marketers to continually check the effectiveness of their campaigns and constantly review the data. The new technologies can be a useful tool for informing brand safety, however, Nasse urges marketers not to overlook the importance of emotion and sentiment when making that analysis.

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