The unexpected advertising opportunities of COVID-19

An unexpected window of opportunity has opened for small advertisers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many large advertisers have pulled back their spend, afraid to run ads next to negative content, leaving room for smaller brands to buy ads at a lower cost and acquire new customers.

Mike Schanbacher, head of growth at Hawthorne, and Abigail Mallick, online marketing manager at Penguin Random House, have experienced these changes first-hand. They shared their insights in a recent Real Time Banter webinar on the challenges of marketing during COVID-19.

Here’s how they’re adapting to sudden shifts in the advertising landscape.

Experiment with new channels

The time is right to try out new advertising channels as inventory is open and CPMs are low.

At Hawthorne, Schanbacher is seeing opportunities in OTT as large advertisers are pulling out. Twitch is also driving a lot of engagement with people streaming musical performances and video-game play from home. And more people are using the Nextdoor app for neighborhood social networking.

Over at Penguin Random House, Mallick is also leaning into new platforms. She’s looking into video and live-streaming, which the brand hasn’t used in the past, and working with publishers who are willing to be flexible.

Mallick says, “We’ve really benefited from leaning into partners by, for example, temporarily bringing down minimum buys for campaigns or adding extra perks in there as they’re trying to make things work.”

Invest in desktop and tablet spend

Desktop and tablet engagement are growing as people are sheltering in place and using their home offices to access news and information. In fact, LiveIntent has seen a 16% increase in desktop engagement across its email ad network.

That’s why, more than ever, Penguin Random House is making sure its ads look good across devices, especially for smaller ads and banner ads. Mallick’s best practices for this include using high-quality photos, bold coloring, and concise copy that encourages people to learn more by clicking through to your website or landing page.

“Nothing can kill a mobile or banner ad more than a ton of copy,” she says.

Launch email acquisition campaigns

Even if people aren’t willing to make a purchase right now, they’re willing to sign up for email. LiveIntent found that it’s taking 24% fewer impressions to drive an email signup than it was prior to social distancing.

So it’s great time to run those email acquisition campaigns and keep building subscription lists. If you can get people in the top of the funnel now, when we emerge from this pandemic, they may be more likely to make a purchase and continue engaging with your brand.