How do you solve a problem like... making the case for advertising during a pandemic?

The Drum 12 Jan 2021 08:30
How can agencies, creatives and marketers persuade brands to stick their neck out in the current climate?

Each week, we ask readers of The Drum, from brands, agencies and everything in between, for their advice on real problems facing today’s marketing practitioners. This week, they tell us how they're persuading clients to keep communicating to consumers during the pandemic crisis.

With a historic economic crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’s no surprise to hear that many advertisers have pulled back spend over the last 12 months. Once again it’s up to those in the advertising industry to sing for their supper and make the case to clients to keep spending, keep talking and keep advertising their wares.

But with conditions far harsher than even a ’normal’ recession, they’ll need to be more persuasive than ever before.

How do you make the case for advertising during a pandemic?

When Covid-19 hit, it left a long-lasting dent in consumer confidence and spending across a range of sectors, which translated into more cautious advertising investment. But agencies can achieve the desired business outcomes for brands with fewer resources through a more robust approach to measurement.

In this unstable economic climate, it’s no wonder the idea of spending on something as ethereal as ‘brand’ may be an anathema to some. Our job when the clients are under this kind of commercial pressure is to gently remind them (or more often, their stakeholders) that investing in the brand is not a luxury.

To make the case for advertising is to make the case for creativity. Creativity is what creates cultural relevance for brands – creating impact and business growth.  Impactful creativity has the powerful ability to position brands at the forefront of both culture and consumers' minds and is what sets them apart from the rest – it is the only variable. 

The long-received wisdom is that its potentially easier and more cost effective to capture market share in times of downturn. With new ‘full lockdown’ measures introduced, it would be easy to discount the use of OOH, but I would argue that for some sectors OOH is a really good place to capture that share.

After a bleak year with uncertainty lying ahead, it’s unsurprising YouGov reports that optimism amongst Brits has plummeted to a dismal 16%. Now more than ever people want stories that make them believe that something better is possible.

’Never waste a good crisis’, they say and while there’s almost nothing good about this one, it does offer opportunities to ambitious marketers and their agencies. Increasing the emotional engagement of consumers with your brand during the pandemic takes deep knowledge, skill, pinpoint accuracy and considerable courage.

In December 2020, we launched our first-ever TV advert, targeting small businesses. Throughout the pandemic, we have supported our partners through Shutterstock Studios, and created a Covid-19 hub for access to free content during restrictions. Making a case for our first TV ad was simple – at Shutterstock, we have all of the assets and skills required to make the advert in-house and understood the power and breadth TV provides in reaching our key audiences. Just as we helped our clients shift their communications strategies to cultivate creativity in the time of quarantine, the same applied to us.

In short, data. Data provides the insights needed to truly understand the value of a brand’s investment and, when used correctly, will speak the boardroom’s language in terms of the clear ROI and growth needed to persuade even the most cautious chief finance officer. Optimal media planning benefits from the rigorous application of marketing analytics, including techniques such as market mix modelling, rigorous testing, and brand equity modelling.

Today, consumers are suffering from digital fatigue as online media consumption and screen time have soared across the globe. As a consequence, their tolerance for ’buy-this-now’ type of ads is close to zero. Consumers are completely disengaging from annoying ‘hard sell’ advertising.

Covid-19 has had a profound effect on the way we shop, commute, and live our everyday lives. Yet, device-level data is showing that on certain formats such as roadside and POS, audiences remain robust – with 19 million still travelling to work daily, to supermarkets and click and collect retail outlets. OOH remains a vital channel for relevant, real-time and reactive messaging at this time. And as we move towards a return to real life in Q2/Q3, OOH will have a huge role to play in future-proofing brands publicly, building confidence and trust while driving physical and online behaviours. No other media channel delivers the universal and inclusive reach that OOH does and will continue to offer to brands and businesses.

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Jenny KirbyGroupM
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