Media Unleashed

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Three Things Advertisers Should Do because of COVID-19

By: Raphael Rivilla    May 26, 2020

Due to lockdowns across the country, media consumption is at an all-time high. The latest MRI/Simmons report asked, “If you’re spending more time at home which of the following, if any, are/have you been doing to fill your time?” Highest on the list is TV viewing across different formats, followed by social media activity. As a media professional, nothing sounds better than this, at least on the surface. My TV buys will be more efficient ─ more eyeballs, lower CPMs. More eyeballs on TV also equates to more site visits and an increase in searches for my brand. More social media activity equates to more highly targetable social media impressions. This is a win-win across the board. Maybe there is a silver media lining in this COVID-19 world we’re currently locked in. But, wait a second. Before you subscribe to the silver lining, here are three things you should do as an advertiser, right now.

  1. Inspect Your Site Traffic: The fact that more people are watching TV at home has the potential to open your ads to a wider audience. Couple that with more time on our hands and a less-than-certain economic future, and you’ve got a potential recipe for performance decline. Worry not. Here is what you can do: Using Google Analytics, or whatever site tracking you subscribe to, review traffic performance down to the channel level. You will want to look at paid, organic and direct site traffic. Examine a handful of pre-COVID weeks (maybe start in January), and then look for its effect based on when COVID interest started spiking (you can use Google Trends, either locally or nationally). Nationally, interest started to climb slightly before the week of 2/28 and peaked 3/13. You will then want to look at lockdown weeks as well. With these three time periods, you will have a view into pre-COVID, COVID-pre-lockdown and COVID-lockdown. Obviously, you can also pull last year’s data. Here’s what to isolate for: users, new users, sessions, bounce rate, pages/session, average session duration and conversions/conversion rate. Here is what you should look for within each of these metrics:
    1. Users/New Users/Sessions: You will see this increasing as we get into lockdown, especially if you’re running TV and high reach media, including paid social.
    2. Bounce Rate: You will see this increasing as COVID interest starts climbing and as we get deeper into lockdown; an increase in bounce rate means you’re attracting the wrong audience, or at least an audience who is now, less qualified.
    3. Pages/Session: You will see this drop, which is a sign of unqualified traffic visiting your website and realizing right away that they are in the wrong place, or not ready to engage right now. More about how to find this out later.
    4. Session Duration: Depending on your product, you will see this either increase or decrease. If it decreases dramatically over your pre-COVID periods, then you know you’re attracting either less qualified buyers or buyers who may not be ready right now. If you see this slightly increasing, then you may have an audience who is taking a bit longer to do their research. Compare session duration with conversion rates.
    5. Conversions/Conversion Rate: You will see this drop and continue to drop as lockdown progresses and economic uncertainty increases. Compare the increase in site traffic (a) with the decline in conversion (e).

Another Tip: Look at direct site traffic as a proxy for TV’s impact on your website traffic.  Search channels are also heavily influenced by TV. If you’re buying multiple networks, use a platform like TVSquared to track site visits and conversions from TV, and weed out channels and programs that are driving high traffic but low conversions.

  1. Look under the Media Hood: Use the above data to review each paid media channel so you can see which channels are affected the most. Besides organic and paid search, you will probably notice performance issues with paid social. As mentioned earlier, more people are spending more time on social media during lockdown. This is causing an increase in social media impressions. The same situation can occur here ─ more eyeballs lends itself to less qualified audiences. Take a look at each placement, each audience target and each ad set if that’s how you’re targeting your paid social buys. Review increases in impressions and decreases in conversions, then optimize accordingly ─ whether that’s by daypart, day of the week or geography (remember, not all cities are in the same COVID curve, or are affected the same way). Tweak look-alikes to the top percent and revisit frequency, including retargeting frequency. CPMs are also not low across the board (even though Facebook would like you to think so): inspect placements and dayparts, and budget accordingly.
  2. Review Calls to Action and Give Options: No, we’re not telling you to jump into the feel-good wagon and abandon sales. That’s so COVID-Week-One and is an easy cop-out. You need to keep sales going. Think of COVID-specific offers. But don’t think everyone is ready to buy right now. Using retargeting, you can create and distribute pieces of content, content that keeps the un-ready consumer warm. Think of useful content, think of fun content, think of content that allows them to continue to play with your brand, if they’re not ready to purchase yet. Use engagement with this content to build cookie-pools, CRM lists, etc. Then, when the right time comes (based on content they’ve downloaded, continued visits to your site, maybe curves flattening, etc.), ask them if they’re ready.

Another Tip: Use cursor movements and cart-abandons to trigger surveys and offers. If you don’t know why your audience may not be ready to purchase, ask them a few questions. Reward answers with offers. Think strategically about which channels you want to distribute offers on. If paid search is performing, then save the offers for a higher-abandoning channel.

There is a silver lining. However, it takes a little bit of elbow grease to activate. Keep running your site traffic analysis; keep peeking under the hood. And in a few weeks, hopefully, you can use the data to gauge normalcy’s return ─ or at least little glimpses of improvement.