By on March 31st, 2020

Best Practices for Running Digital Ads During COVID-19

Should I Run Ads During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

In a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized nearly every aspect of everyday life.

Digital advertising is no exception. Brands and marketers across all industries have found themselves grappling with wild swings in budget, tectonic shifts in audience behavior, mass closures, supply chain upheaval, and new normals in customs of communication. Some ad channels have disappeared virtually overnight, while others have opened up with unexpected opportunities. And nobody knows what things are going to look like a month from now.

The present situation is enough to leave anyone reeling—and has done exactly that for most people. We hope our guide to navigating digital advertising in a time of crisis provides some insight for anyone currently working to adapt to these new realities.

Rethink Your Marketing Strategy—As a Whole

By all informed estimates, this pandemic will last for months. That means just pushing your campaign launch date back a few weeks might not be a complete solution. Review your marketing plans through the remainder of the calendar year, then have an honest dialogue with key team members about what your customers are likely to need, want, and care about in the coming months.

It’s tough to predict or control short-term outcomes right now, so if possible, shift your marketing focus to the longer term. Don't dump your entire budget into COVID-related content and communications; instead, prioritize the marketing efforts most likely to help you grow months and years into the future, and consider tackling internal projects you've been putting off because you haven't had the time. Revamping your website now, for instance, may lead to improved ad conversions, a fruitful PR campaign, and ongoing SEO benefits later on.

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Reach Customers Where They Are Now

Many potential customers who were walking past your store windows, driving by your billboards, or planning to attend your industry’s upcoming trade shows are now spending their full days at home. Much of that time is spent online, which is where your marketing efforts will have impact right now. ACCORDING TO NIELSEN, Americans are already spending about 12 hours per day on media platforms, and 75% of them are currently broadening their media consumption across new and varied digital platforms. ACCORDING TO FORBES, digital marketing may be what separates businesses that weather the storm from those that do not.

Audit Your Channels

Conduct an audit of your current advertising channels to determine potential options for resource reallocation: Then communicate adjustments (and their goals) transparently to your employees and hit pause on any initiatives that no longer use your resources wisely. A few things to consider:

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Say Something Helpful

Your audience has an unprecedented amount of information coming at them right now, and a lot of it will have serious implications for their jobs, communities, and lives. If you’re making the effort to reach them in the middle of it all, make sure you really have something to say—something that’s helpful to them, not just you. Asking them to double their spend on your services might not be something they’re willing or even able to consider right now; instead, offering a discount for online orders with a code like InThisTogether may provide value (and a small but invaluable dose of positivity, too).

Learn As You Go

Nobody knows exactly how the next several months will unfold, and there's no one-size-fits-all advice for every brand (though studies have suggested it’s generally unwise to discontinue advertising during a recession). Now more than ever, it’s important to learn from and optimize your campaigns as a means of ensuring your marketing dollars have the greatest possible impact. A few ideas:

  • If you’re unsure which advertising messages will resonate with your audience right now, run an A/B test and use the metrics to help determine the best way forward.
  • Broaden your KPIs to include more than just sales conversions—like brands, many consumers have adjusted their spending for now, but metrics like engagement could signal whether consumers will have your brand top of mind when daily life begins to return to normal.
  • Review your metrics dashboard daily: Audience behavior and ad channel stats are evolving rapidly as the crisis does.
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Reworking your marketing plan in the face of a pandemic is neither fun nor easy, but it’s necessary in order to stay afloat through trying times. For everyone out there working to do so, we really are in this together—and we’ll get past it together, too.

Brett Konen is PrograMetrix's marketing manager. She is generally based in Seattle.

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