How Digital Advertising Can Successfully Navigate Today’s Pandemic Business World

by Michele Marzan, MainAd

Michele Marzan, Chief Strategy Officer at MainAd, explains how digital advertising can help overcome business downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are all well versed in the power of digital marketing; we have seen this through years of digital transformation across businesses of all sizes and shapes. However, in the midst of the hardest socioeconomic environment our generation has ever faced, budgets and resources are tight and the need to prove real ROI is greater than even before.

Societies the world over have changed in the blink of an eye, and as we look to rebuild our communities, we will have to lean on and rely on businesses and services to come together. Companies that can successfully combine social and business purpose with true customer engagement will thrive.

As we look to successfully exit this lockdown era, why should marketers prioritise digital advertising that focuses on performance, and how can they make meaningful changes to their digital advertising strategy?

Why advertise now?

There is an age-old argument that advertising through a recession or time of crisis can make or break a brand. Certainly companies like Amazon, P&G, and Unilever are doubling down on advertising by either increasing or maintaining budgets.

Similarly, a recent Business Impact Survey from Marketing Week and eConsultancy reported that whilst 50 per cent of brands revealed they are planning to cut marketing budgets altogether, seven per cent of UK brands are currently investing more in marketing during this pandemic, while 29 per cent of respondents intend to keep budgets at a steady level.

The positive takeaway: 36 per cent of respondents plan to invest more or maintain current marketing budgets in an effort to see through the crisis and come out stronger.

In fact, we have seen this sentiment translated in our own work at MainAd. Our advertiser activity across APAC and the EU markets, where COVID-19 recovery efforts have already begun, report positive growth. For example, only 19 per cent of our active clients decided to pause efforts during the peak of the pandemic in March and April, with just over 40 per cent of active clients actually increasing sales between the first week of February and first week of April.

The human connection – why loyal customers must be prioritised in the post-pandemic world

It is clear that consumers do not expect brands to cease advertising but rather that brands need to revisit their strategy. Simply optimising the same old tactics from the era pre-COVID-19 is just not enough – today’s savvy marketers will need to look to performance-focused initiatives that can deliver measurable results.

Brands are always looking for ways to better engage with consumers, and those that can crack this common challenge will be those that can find a way to relate their products and services to the mood of the industry, market, and country as a whole. Rather than sell, marketers need to reignite that human connection – that need to bond; mimicking how consumers interact with their local communities and the sentiment that surrounds those interactions through highly customised outreach.

Of course, this could be one of the advantages digital marketing brings. The ability to hyper-target audiences with these campaigns also enables brand marketers to keep in touch with loyal customers to directly target them with positive messages and customer care in safe transparent environments.

Successful digital advertising done right

In order for marketers to make this human connection with customers using digital advertising, the focus of digital advertising also needs to take a human approach. An emphasis on meaningful objectives and relevant KPIs, including service levels and conversion in the right environments, is crucial for the success of any campaign, and that has become increasingly more critical in today’s environment.

Traditionally, marketers have had to rely on eCPMs (effective cost per thousand impressions) and incrementality to measure a campaign’s success. Not only can these methods cause a disconnect between teams but the accuracy of the results can be questionable. Water-tight service levels provide accountability for everyone involved in the campaign, and ensure that the campaign’s results are measured accurately. Long established methods such as eCPMs, which whilst providing information on the number of clicks a digital advert receives, actually deliver little context. Similarly using incrementality data, or calculating the likelihood of a click to convert, can be easily skewed or misinterpreted.

Why performance marketing tech is essential

Having successfully identified a target audience and put the right service levels in place, how do marketers run a successful campaign? This is where the power of performance marketing and robust digital tech become essential.

If marketers shift budgets from traditional advertising to more flexible, performance-based marketing, like programmatic and performance marketing channels, the return on investment can be more clearly defined. Platforms that use customer journey data and machine learning to calculate the optimal value of digital advertising placements are the last vital piece in the puzzle.

Marketers that can connect to their audiences effectively, ensuring their brand stays top of mind as consumers begin adapting to life in the “new normal” will be able to increase conversion rates in a cost-effective and efficient manner, impacting not only campaign ROI but also contributing to the overall bottom line that will be closely scrutinised over the coming months for most businesses.