Actionable tips, community conversations, and marketing inspiration.

How Do Agencies Sell Advertising in a Post-COVID-19 World?

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

Topics Covered:

Getting brands to spend on advertising has always been a hard sell. Every ad dollar that agencies invest on behalf of their clients must be accounted for and ROI proven. Brand uplift, increased revenues — these are just some of the everyday demands on agencies' performance.

If all that isn’t enough, add a global pandemic to the mix. In 2020, agencies found themselves contending with a totally altered consumer landscape, seriously worried clients, slashed ad budgets, and confusion not seen since at least the 2008 recession.

What brands really want are creative solutions, innovative options, and positive advertising results to see them through the stormy post-COVID-19 era. Here are several ways that agencies can talk to their clients about advertising today, and get them to invest their ad spend successfully.

For more on how to position your ads during times of uncertainty:

Less Spend for Equal Exposure

Amid the economic fallout of the pandemic, businesses have closed and others reduced their advertising budgets, some drastically. This is definitely the case in hard-hit verticals, such as travel and automotive. However, it’s evident in almost all industries. During COVID-19, an astonishing 73% of advertisers held back on launching digital campaigns.  

At the same time, consumers are still active online, even more active than before. Overall, the time spent on digital media in the U.S. jumped 11.8% by April 2020, compared to 2019. 

Companies that pulled back on digital advertising during the crisis have vacated valuable ad space that other brands can use to reach huge, active, online audiences. And here’s the bonus — more available ad space translates to cheaper ad prices

Talking point: Brands who advertise now can spend less while getting the same (or even better) reach and exposure as before among their target audiences. 

Surf the Online Commerce Wave 

A huge repercussion of the pandemic has been the shift towards e-commerce. While the consumer experience has been trending more and more online in recent years, this has accelerated exponentially in just the past few months.

In the U.S., the number of people buying online for restaurant delivery, hygiene and cleaning products, and supermarket shopping increased between 25 to 30% by the end of May 2020. 

Businesses go where the customers are, so this has affected advertising trends, too. Ad budgets for traditional media are taking a hit. Ad costs for magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV are all expected to decrease by between 5.9% and 17% as advertisers move towards digital. Channels such as OTOH, linear TV, and OTT are typically planned five months in advance. Now that has reduced to just three months as brands act more cautiously. Simply put, brands have no choice but to keep up with the move to online commerce, and that includes ad spend.

Talking point: The mass consumer shift to online commerce is happening fast. Digital advertising is now a much bigger piece of the puzzle than ever before. For advertisers, it’s the place to be.

For a list of e-commerce tools to use:

Gear Up for Ad Spend in H2 

During COVID-19, brands were understandably cautious and a little confused about how to advertise, what message to convey to customers, and where to focus their ad budgets. Is it wise to cut ad spend drastically to save money now? Or will this lead to reduced brand awareness and customer engagement, which can only damage sales in the future? Many companies have been doing “scenario planning” in an attempt to figure out the answer.

Brands that naturally cut back on ads during the lockdowns are aiming to increase ad spend towards the end of the second quarter of 2020, in anticipation of consumer demand as the economy recovers and markets open up more fully.

Talking point: Brands that put their ad budgets on hold should now be looking at how to strategize their ad spend towards 2H2020 as consumers resume pre-COVID-19 activities.

Boost Revenue Fast

Digital marketing is a fast-moving industry, and that comes with definite challenges. Building an effective long-term strategy is difficult, and advertisers must adjust their goals and tactics daily to suit market changes. But there is also an upside.

The consumer experience with online ads is much more dynamic and interactive than traditional ads, and that means that brands can get results quickly. 

People today are constantly exposed to online ads wherever they are, on a desktop computer or on-the-go with their mobile phones. With the advent of even more sophisticated advertising tools, such as programmatic and advanced analytics capabilities, advertisers can optimize their ad campaigns — almost in real-time — to get the most from their advertising spend. In fact, in recent years, digital advertising has enabled brands to double their marketing ROI. If there was ever a time that brands need a fast ROI from their advertising spend, it’s during the uncertainty of the post-pandemic period.

Talking point: Unlike traditional channels, digital ads can provide a rapid direct-response revenue boost, which is something that all brands can benefit from.

Opportunity to Push Ahead of Competitors

When it comes to gaining market share, customer engagement is the name of the game. Brands across all industries use the power of their online presence to engage potential customers online and drive them down the marketing funnel, whether it be with ads, blogs, email marketing, or other types of digital lead generation activities. Even before the pandemic hit, getting those conversions was a tough game. But the post-COVID-19 reality has changed the rules, and savvy brands can use them to their advantage.

As many companies wind down their marketing operations or leave the marketplace altogether, there are fewer competitors on the horizon. This gives companies an opportunity to think outside the box, get focused on their post-pandemic advertising and marketing tactics, and push hard for market share. Adversity breeds change, and the pandemic has given brands the incentive to push past the comfort zone of their advertising and try new things. Combined with decreased overall ad rates, brands now have a lot more freedom to experiment with formats and messaging. 

Talking point: For brands that are willing to be creative and innovative with their ad messaging and strategy, post-COVID-19 is a unique moment in time to aim for higher market share.

Check out an industry that's getting innovative with their ad strategy:

Be Aggressive Where It Counts

In an interview with SF Weekly, Scott Levy from Boston digital marketing agency Fuel Online describes how marketing is often the first place that companies cut budgets when faced with a financial crisis. However, that can be counterintuitive as it only causes the brand to lose traction and empty out the sales funnel in the longer term.

The effects of the pandemic on the economy will not last forever. Brands should be looking to boost their advertising and marketing strategies now to build up momentum as the recovery sets in. The time is ripe to be more aggressive with advertising tactics, focusing on the digital channels that offer the most promise for ROI in the post-COVID-19 era, such as paid ads and social media.

Talking point: While brands have acted cautiously in the past few months, it’s time to change gears and get proactive about boosting digital advertising activity in time for the recovery. 

Digital Sells in a Post-Pandemic World

A few short months ago, “typical” flew out the window, and brands were facing a different kind of consumer market. As the engine driving the advertising industry, agencies were at the frontline, helping their clients navigate these choppy waters.

Now as the world tentatively enters the recovery stage, it’s the agencies once again that must lead their clients into the unknown. With the above strategies at hand, agencies can help brands get back into the advertising swing and turn digital ads into revenue dollars.

Explore Next

Topics Covered: