Adjusting Digital Ad Strategy and Messaging in a Crisis

Whenever the world faces crisis situations, business owners are in the same position as many people find themselves, trying to get through day-to-day despite the uncertainty and worry. With the stability and security of their companies and employees depending upon them, they must consider not only how they individually, but also their businesses, can weather these times and continue to thrive beyond them. Marketers are in a difficult position of having to manage campaigns and communications in channels that become overwhelmed with content that is of vital importance but often tonally at odds with advertising.

There are several ways that you can help to support your company’s efforts while leaving space to be respectful and deferential to imperative current issues at hand. Whether you are managing your own brand in-house or working on behalf of many at an agency, it’s always important to keep in mind that your ads and messaging do not exist in a vacuum.

Watch Your Media Budget and Adjust

As you might expect, in times of crisis, the number of impressions on news channels do spike as users check them more and more frequently to stay informed. This doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where you want your ads to be served, however.

While traffic and impressions do increase, typically performance goes down. In times of uncertainty or instability, users are more engaged with the content of the channel itself – someone browsing a news site specifically seeking an article with the latest updates on a specific situation is far less likely to be interested in clicking out via a display ad, for instance.

This means a few things for marketers who are managing a media budget. First, it’s important to monitor your campaigns carefully to check where you’ve allocated your budget. You should ensure that you aren’t seeing an increase in impressions while engagements go down, hurting your performance and eating through your budget. You may consider reallocating your budget, and adjusting spend away from news outlets altogether.

Remember, too, that dedicated news outlets themselves aren’t the only channels that can be affected. While social media is more commonly lighthearted and considered entertainment, many users do see it as a primary source of news as well, and those users may also be less receptive to advertisements depending on the context of their feeds. In short, as always, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your performance and remain agile so you can make adjustments as needed.

Consider Contextual Targeting

Simply pulling your spend away from certain channels altogether isn’t the only way to deal with a difficult situation, of course. You can also make use of contextual targeting. This is a form of pre-bid targeting used in programmatic buying that employs machine learning and AI to analyze content and determine characteristics such as topic, tone, and genre. It isn’t only used to determine what content is most suitable for your ad buys, but also to identify content alongside which you’d prefer your ads not to be placed.

Through AUDIENCEX and our partnership with Peer39, it’s possible to leverage contextual targeting such as custom keywords and predetermined categories to avoid content that’s unsuitable for your brand or campaign. While you can always avoid certain types of outlets altogether, you can also use it to take a more refined approach and specifically prevent placement on certain types of individual content depending on the tone or subject matter.

Contextual targeting can make it possible to access increased traffic but avoid a placement where an ad could be disregarded alongside particularly intensive content or even seen as inappropriate in the context, potentially causing damage to brand perception. These tools aren’t only available for display ads placed on websites, but also mobile and even OTT (over-the-top)/CTV (connected TV) placements, so you can have an extensive degree of control over the context in which your ads are shown across numerous channels.

Examine Your Messaging

Contextual targeting is clearly helpful to ensure that your ads are not presented in an inappropriate placement, but it’s also important to stop and consider brand and campaign messaging in a much larger context. Certainly we all understand by now the importance of considering all angles of visuals and copy, and with that, how vital it is to gather feedback from people whose perspectives are different from your own. In the context of any crisis situation, it’s important to consider the perspectives of those who may be affected, and to recall that they may in fact include members of your audience.

That doesn’t just mean considering whether you’ve inadvertently caused offense, of course. If it’s authentic to your brand and values, it can be powerful to extend support. However, you should ensure that such a message isn’t an empty gesture. The average consumer is increasingly savvy and many see declarations of support or solidarity that aren’t backed by action as opportunistic. If you wish to convey meaningful support, it’s best to offer concrete aid. Donations, community initiatives, volunteering efforts, and specific partnerships with nonprofits are all examples of support that are backed by real action, which benefit others while helping you to express your authentic brand values to customers that increasingly expect this type of connection from the companies they support.

Reach Out

If you’re looking for any strategic support in navigating your brand, agency, or campaigns through a difficult time, please contact us and a member of our team would be happy to consult with you on your particular needs and concerns. We have also recently relaunched the $1,000,000 aX Growth Fund, which may be helpful. This fund is designed to help midmarket brands and agencies with value-adds on their campaigns, additional support and guidance to help us all navigate through uncertainty and grow beyond it.