Authentic advertising during lockdown

30 April 2020


Our mobility is down, but our media consumption is up across the board. We have a captive audience, but authentic messaging has never been more important.

Our AU MD Stuart Jamieson discusses how brands should be speaking to consumers amidst the pandemic; spoiler alert: now is not the time to go off air.

"We are consuming media at unprecedented levels"

For the last six weeks Australians have effectively been isolating at home. Our mobility is down, but our media consumption is up across the board. As we grapple with not leaving our homes unless absolutely necessary, we are consuming media at unprecedented levels to keep us entertained, to stay informed, connect with friends and family, and also to distract ourselves from the doom and gloom of the news cycle. 

According to a worldwide media consumption survey by Statista amidst the pandemic, streaming services and broadcast TV have seen the biggest channel growth during lockdown. Video on demand services surge as people catch up on all the shows they may have been too busy to watch in the past. In Australia, 7Plus reported a 60% increase in streaming hours year-on-year. However, binging endless hours of Tiger King, Ozark or Too Hot to Handle might not be for all of us. Given all of the changes to our everyday lives, perhaps traditional TV might be a welcome bite-sized and pre-programmed environment some of us need to regain a sense of control. We are spending a lot more time on social media too, keeping up with the news commentary to benchmark our own isolated reactions against those of friends and family.

"To advertise, or not to advertise? (That is not the question)"

Globally, marketers continue to debate whether their brand exposure should be 'business as usual'? Should we maintain, increase or decrease our advertising during the pandemic? Yes, we're concerned whether our messaging will meet sympathetic eyes and ears, but the answer is simple: BrandZ found evidence to show that after the 2008/09 financial crash, stronger brands recovered up to nine times faster in terms of stock market value than others. 

Now is indeed not a time to shy away from our consumers. A recent study by Unruly showed that only 4% of Australians felt that brands should stop advertising. Almost half want ads to inform them and a third want brands to make them feel happier. 

The most successful adverts resonate with consumers in a relevant manner by addressing the crisis head on, whilst remaining authentic to their brand.

"How do we strike an authentic tone?"

US firm Ace Metrix provides some great insight into this question. Contrary to what you might think, consumers can be very receptive to brands' COVID-19 marketing approaches. On average, COVID-19 ads scored 18% higher on relevance vs. industry norms, 11% higher on likeability and 12% higher on informational value. Isolation audiences are engaged and listening.

The study also found that consumers would specifically rather hear 'COVID-19' than some vague reference to “uncertain times”, “challenging times” or “unprecedented”. If you're still unsure whether this approach is a little 'close to the bone', try watching this COVID-19 cliche supercut without questioning how our industry sleeps at night. So if you are planning to address the pandemic, make sure you are direct to strike an authentic tone.

However, this doesn't mean we need to reference the pandemic at all. In fact, top scoring ads did not reference the virus whatsoever, they just stayed true to their brand and message. This is likely because the ads were strategic and specific with their messages, directly addressing how their business is adapting to “the times” for the betterment of their customers and employees.

A good example of an advertiser really understanding how to reach its audience in a way to assist them during lockdown is Coles with their “What’s for Dinner?” cooking segment on Channel 7. The segment airs during the 6 O’clock news and features some of Australia’s most well-known chefs and cooks to create affordable home cooked meals, filmed from their kitchens at home. A great combination of being relevant, informative and entertaining.

We are relying on our devices both static and mobile during this pandemic to inform, entertain and distract more than ever before, creating a huge opportunity for media companies and brands to engage a captive audience. Now is not the time to slow your brand messaging, however it may be time to re-evaluate the media channels that you are using. Remember that it would be disingenuous to not address COVID-19 in some way, but you must show you are human too, with emotions and compassion. 

Like this article?

If you'd like to hear more, subscribe to our Frame or live chat to the team right here on this page. Why not say hi to Stuart on LinkedIn too? 

Tags: Marketing Effectiveness, Lockdown, COVID19, Advertising, Authenticity, Australia