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Advertising technology helps brands adapt in uncertain times


Victoria Usher

Published On:

April 21, 2020

Published In:

Advertising & Marketing | Business

Advertising technology helps brands adapt in uncertain times

There’s no denying the outbreak of Covid-19 is impacting the advertising industry with brands showing understandable caution in allocating ad spend. But as studies prove time and again, brands that invest in advertising – as well as PR and marketing – during times of crisis come out stronger on the other side. As Campaign’s recent love letter to the advertising industry so eloquently explains, “advertising and communications are a vital energy force that improves lives – by driving growth, building brands, generating emotion and changing behaviour.” And at this uncertain time advertising technology can help marketers make their budgets work harder to achieve brand goals.

Consumers don’t want brands to cease their marketing campaigns. In a global Kantar study only 8% of consumers thought brands should stop advertising altogether during this period. But they do expect brands to be sensitive to the current state of affairs and adapt their tone and messaging, perhaps finding new ways to help customers or support relevant initiatives while staying true to their brand values and not exploiting the situation.

Brands adapting marketing strategy to the state of play

There are plenty of examples of brands successfully adapting their marketing strategy and messaging to the changing situation, and the supermarkets are leading the way. With early panic buying leaving supermarket shelves empty, Aldi pivoted its marketing effort to highlight a strong supply chain, with ads featuring trucks travelling across the country to replenish stock. Supermarket fulfilment is something shoppers rarely think about, and largely take for granted, but in this environment the message was welcome and reassuring, helping to build Aldi’s reputation for reliability.

Sainsbury’s, took a different approach and changed its marketing strategy to publicise altered in-store shopping hours, which provide specific time slots for elderly and vulnerable shoppers as well as NHS staff and carers. This strategy positions the brand as caring and helpful at this worrying time, while also helping other customers make practical decisions about when to shop.

Travel brands are inevitably some of the worst hit by the restrictions introduced to combat Coronavirus, and many are currently focussed on providing strong customer service, helping those who have booked holidays to cancel or delay their trips. But some have also adapted their marketing to push a positive message. Many are taking an inspirational approach and encouraging consumers to think about places they’d like to visit once the situation improves and life returns to normal. Switzerland’s tourist board is running a campaign using the strapline ‘Dream now – travel later’ to show consumers what is waiting for them when they can travel again.

Even clothing brands are adapting their approach, and finding that Simon Wolfson, CEO of Next might not be entirely right in suggesting “people do not buy a new outfit to stay at home.” When the shutdown began many brands pivoted campaigns away from spring and summer ranges towards the kind of comfortable clothing people want to wear in isolation. Pyjamas proved a particularly popular purchase, with Australian retailers seeing sales increase by as much as 225% compared with the same time last year.

The Drum recently highlighted a number of creative brand campaigns emerging from the lockdown. From Apple’s ‘Creativity goes on’ montage that shows the different ways people are using its tech, to Porsche’s ads urging drivers not to be tempted by the empty roads but to keep the car at home, these campaigns all speak to the current situation in a way consumers can relate to.

Advertising technology enables agility

Thirty years ago, instantly reacting to external world events and immediately adapting marketing campaigns in response to a continually evolving situation would have been unthinkable. But with the innovative advertising technology solutions available to brands today it becomes far more achievable.

Innovative new ad formats that capture user attention and drive engagement without intruding on or disrupting the user experience are vital at a time when consumers are naturally more anxious or on edge than usual. Programmatic advertising technology automates digital media buying across multiple channels, from display advertising to audio, enabling brands to reach large audiences with highly targeted messaging and continuously optimise campaigns to their own specific KPIs.

Dynamic creative technology allows ads to be personalised to the individual, instantly combining different creative elements to create the version that is most appropriate for the user’s immediate context or needs and therefore most likely to engage or convert. Brands can produce just a handful of new creative elements relating to the current situation and dynamic creative technology can use them to deliver hundreds of ad versions.

Advances in measurement such as multi-touch attribution allow brands to quickly test different advertising strategies, channels and messages, and instantly determine which are resonating with consumers and which are not. This insight enables them to optimise an advertising campaign in-flight, reallocating budget toward the best performing channels or creatives and minimise wasted spend. Innovative brand safety and suitability tools are available to support advertising technology, ensuring brand ads are placed in environments that will reinforce and amplify their message, and keeping ads away from unsuitable or damaging content that might negatively impact brand reputation.

Few industries are immune to the impact of the Covid-19 situation, the advertising industry included, but brands mustn’t stop advertising. Those that make effective use of advertising technology to adapt their marketing strategy to the current situation in a sensitive and appropriate way, will come out the other side in a far stronger position.

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