Advertising During the Pandemic

advertising during pandemic

We live in a world full of surprises, and sometimes they they are not as pleasant as we wish to. The coronavirus outbreak has affected everyone, no matter who and where you are. Small and medium-sized businesses all over the world have been trying to handle the situation for almost three months. Even some big international corporations are on the verge of bankruptcy. So it is clear that the pandemic impact will be strong for most of companies, and the global crisis 2020 will be inevitable. 

Besides the fact that all brick-and-mortar businesses, except pharmacy and groceries, are closed due to the lockdown, a considerable demand decrease is already observed. Moving online is great, but what to do if clients’ paying capacity is also going down? 

Executives review costs and in most cases advertising budgets are the first to be cut. Unfortunately, usually marketing is considered as a low priority activity. When it comes to a crisis, companies choose to minimize marketing budgets or refuse advertising at all to cover the losses. Let’s find out what consequences these can bring to the brand.

Short-Term Consequences

Studies show that going dark on TV for a couple of months does not have an immediate impact on brand recognition. A spend decrease on such advertising type is not critical in a short-term despite losing the share of voice. Brands still make sales and bring new customers. Overall brand loyalty does not suffer. However, it works only for a few months - longer periods of silence can bring serious consequences for a company. 

Long-Term Consequences

The same report says that the longer period without advertising can considerably weaken the brand health. The brand recognition decreases in several times, after the companies stop to appear in the traditional media. Consumers simply start replacing one brand with another. This leads to breaking of a brand’s bond with its customers. It’s a measure of brand loyalty, which includes such metrics as popularity, affinity, difference, price and leadership. An engagement rate with the brand also drops as it stops to communicate with the audience. Moreover, brand reputation is also at a gunpoint. A business is considered to be failing when it stops advertising. Such rumors tend to spread very quickly. So you should keep in mind the following, while deciding on advertising during the pandemic:

  • brand awareness;
  • customers’ bond;
  • brand reputation;
  • positions on the market.

Besides, even reducing marketing costs for a long time can bring a negative effect. A market share for silent brands gets much lower as for those which were advertising actively. To regain positions in the market after you stop advertising is harder and more expensive than to maintain wise advertising during a crisis. Even large post-crisis marketing investments can’t promise you a quick recovery.

What Advertising Strategy to Choose During the Crisis?

We are on the cusp of a new recession, and the global economy has been already impacted by coronavirus. Everyone is preparing for the worst scenarios, but there are still some ways to support your business during these difficult times. There is no right path, but try to stick to one common expression: “When times are good you should advertise, when times are bad you must advertise.” Let’s look through some possible advertising strategies during the pandemic.

Increase Advertising Costs 

Learning from the brands’ experience from the previous recessions, some companies choose not only to refuse advertising cuts, but even to ‘double down’ on marketing during the COVID-2019 lockdown. Focusing on staying in touch with customers and their demand is the main point for P&G now.

There are more examples of driving marketing investments during slowdowns and profiting from it. For instance, American cereal brand Kellogg managed to maintain a leading position on the market during the Great Depression a hundred years ago. In contrary to their main competitor Post, Kellogg doubled the budget for radio advertising and even presented a new product. Its profit grew by 30%, and the brand remains dominant nowadays. 

Amazon did the same in 2009, continuing to create new products, which helped to grow market share. The most notable offer was new low-cost ebooks, which boomed in Christmastime. People preferred purchasing cheaper ebooks to buying paper ones for gifts or for themselves. As a result, the company was perceived as innovative in consumers’ minds, and it still keeps leading positions today.

Communicate About Values

People expect support and help from companies in their daily lives, not exploiting the situation. Health is of the first priority and you should create a respective tone and right values. Change the message and show the consumers the importance of governments and health organizations recommendations. Adapting to the situation is also a way of supporting your brand during the crisis. Transform your business for current demand, if possible, but keep the balance. Maybe you will be surprised, but only 8% of consumers think companies should stop advertising during the pandemic.

Use Price Incentives

It is clear that not every company can develop and present new products during a recession. Another possible strategy for them is to use some price incentives. For example, it can be a free delivery, coupons, specials, demos - something that would motivate customers to buy your products or services. You will be surprised, but even the most diverse things appear to be useful during the lockdown. Reduced prices won’t bring you great profits, but they will help you to boost sales and keep the market share. 

Choose Low-Cost Advertising

If a reduction of a marketing budget is inevitable, move to more affordable advertising strategies. You can drive your online presence with programmatic advertising. CPMs are getting lower due to declining demand. The overall decrease is already 5%, in some segments prices can be reduced up to 20%. It is a great opportunity to buy ad slots on premium inventory through DSP for the optimal price. Remind about your company via classic banner ads or increase engagement rate with video ads. Native format is an effective decision as well. Programmatic advertising does not require high costs at a time. Set up the balance you can afford and try different creatives. Thanks to real-time reporting you can see what works well for your brand and what requires changes.


To sum it up, there are enough reasons not to stop advertising during the economic slowdown. Before deciding “going dark” or considerably cutting advertising budgets during the crisis remember:

  • competitors can also cut their budgets - bring up the “noise level” to your business category with your brand;
  • you can protect your brand image by communication with consumers during challenging times;
  • you can strengthen your brand’s position on the market and even become a leader in the field by choosing to stay in sight;
  • advertising industry is also affected by demand decrease, so you will definitely find an optimal advertising channel for your business.

In some cases, a crisis even opens new growth opportunities. The main thing is not to exploit the situation, but use it wisely.

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