Should You Block Coronavirus Content?

Should You Block Coronavirus Content?

Agencies, brands, and platform analysts alike started blacklisting “coronavirus” and related keywords en masse – but is that the right move? 

Why block coronavirus content

We get it. Coronavirus content is not positive right now. In this already nerve wracking, dire, and uncertain time, the last thing you want is for a consumer to notice your brand’s ad next to a news story about new reported cases, the latest unemployment rate, or worse (and there is worse).  And with demand-side platforms (including Bidtellect) able to block based on keyword or even sentiment (negative), it is possible to eliminate that possibility. 

Coronavirus news is everywhere

But it’s a daunting task: there are probably more than 15 billion or so web pages per month talking about COVID-19. It’s taken over every news site, from current events (The New York Times waved subscription pricing for coronavirus coverage) to fashion (one of Marie Claire’s headline stories today is “Top Beauty Products to Try in Isolation”).

82% are actively seeking out Coronavirus news and content online, according to IAS, and 87% are consuming more news generally because of the evolving Coronavirus situation. “Coronavirus content” is ubiquitous and its readers are ravenous. As this pandemic continues to march across the world, citizens will continue to consume information at a rate their lives literally depend on. 

And yet..The great irony of the coronavirus crisis is its driven massive growth in news consumption, but publishers are unable to monetize it. News publishers are twice as likely to be blacklisted vs. others. 98% of sell-side respondents say they are expecting a decrease in revenue in 2020, according to new IAB findings.

IAB: ‘save lives’

IAB published a rallying cry: save the industry, save lives: do not block coronavirus content. “We ask all brands, agencies, ad verification firms, and other companies in the digital advertising supply chain not to block the news… Don’t block them. Don’t block them at all.” Every dollar spent on a publisher’s site enables them to continue publishing news, spreading information, and saving lives. 

According to Bidtellect’s platform data, we have seen a 23% increase in traffic on News-related sites since the coronavirus outbreak started.

Increase in news traffic + decrease in impression costs

So here’s the current situation: coronavirus news is everywhere. Period. If you prevent your ads from appearing next to coronavirus content, where will it end up? You are severely limiting your reach and frequency, and limiting your audience potential

According to our platform, we have seen on average a 32% increase in traffic on Business/finance related sites we are attributing to coronavirus, 23% increase in traffic on News-related sites, and a 27% increase in traffic on Health-related sites. Meanwhile, we’ve tracked a 17.1% decrease in average impression costs from January 2020 to March 2020. In Managed Service offerings, we saw a 33% drop in CPM from February 1 to March 31, and a 31% drop in CPC. 

Overall the increase in traffic on News should indicate that this is an area advertisers should look to spend more budget and be less concerned around coronavirus-related brand safety. If you are aggressive in keyword blocks, you are likely missing out on a lot of eyeballs. With impression costs lower, it’s a “buyers market.” Hello ROI.

Does an ad next to coronavirus content really matter?

It’s normal to want to keep a brand’s ads and logos away from inappropriate content, but there’s nothing normal about today’s current global health crisis. Over half of consumers have reported some level of concern around brands advertising on COVID-19 content, according to Integral Ad Science. 78% of US internet users said their view of a brand whose ad was adjacent to coronavirus coverage would be unchanged (IAS). Only a mere 16% says they are NOT likely to engage with an ad adjacent to Coronavirus content (Integral Ad Science).

It’s not all damaging; especially if you do your creatives right.

Many publishers provide high-quality content in a premium environment to a highly engaged audience. Instead of blanket blocking, ask yourself where you might be able to “lean in” to content that is currently online (IAS). With so much information out there, make sure to cut through the noise: communicate your message in your creatives clearly. Consider offering support, promotions or ways to help consumers save, and even a break from the somber tone. Refresh your ad creatives to flourish and bring hope.

Don’t block coronavirus content. It will hurt your advertising efforts more than it will help.

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This Week in Digital Advertising: April 24th

This Week in Digital Advertising: April 24th

Hello Bidtellectuals. Here’s the latest in the digital advertising industry.

Don’t feel like reading? Watch here or below.

Bidtellect hosted its first ever Zoom Trivia Game! It was intense! (It was fun.) Congrats to winner Yeni Gordillo!! Haters will say it’s rigged but it’s not. TY as always to Zoom for holding us up. (That’s not sponsored; Bidtellect pays for Zoom, but still. We’re loyal.) Are you getting tired after Zoom calls? Apparently ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a thing. So give yourself a break! 

Other things happening. So many things happening! Bidtellect was named a best tech startup in Delray Beach by The Tech Tribune. We’re honored to be recognized! MediaPost reported that the ad market fell 10.8% in March, but that’s ok we’re not going to think about that. Two weeks ago, The Trade Desk asked exchanges to stop sending duplicate bid requests for the same ad impression after seeing a recent spike in duplicative supply. “The industry continues to shift towards ‘fewer and better,’” offered TripleLift Chief Strategy Officer Ari Lewine.

Are coronavirus ads getting, like, super somber and stale? It’s been a month and everyone is feeling the pain of this pandemic; we need some connection, some new life, some hope! Refresh your creative copy and images based on what’s working this week – thanks [b]+studio! As we thank essential workers for braving the frontline each day, check out this case study of a regional grocer who wanted to reach more customers more efficiently utilizing contextual targeting – a tactic to try now. For a good overview of programmatic trends now, check out this PMG piece.

Live sports. Remember those? Here’s a major yikes: with live sports cancelled AT&T lost 900,000 subscribers in Q1 and total pay TV revenue was down $10.5 billion or 7.2% – and they’re expecting more! Meanwhile Netflix is like “Ha! we have high quality content like Tiger King and Love Island!” and racked up 16 million new paid subscribers in Q1 (they didn’t say that and they do have amazing content. I’m just bitter they ditched Friends in my time of need).  But there’s hope: the NFL draft is already garnering massive interest from fans and advertisers alike who are chomping at the bit; more than 100 brands are lined up for the three-day NFL Draft production that started yesterday.

And finally, is it time to cut your hair? Confession: I cut mine two days ago and it did not go well. I’ll be wearing a ponytail for a while!!!! But here are fun tutorials by celebrity hair stylist and entrepreneur Jen Atkin for long hair and short hair, and one for bangs in The New York Times by Sanam Yar. You’re welcome! But don’t do it. 

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It’s Been a Month. How to Refresh Your Coronavirus Ads to Connect With Consumers and Bring Hope

It’s Been a Month. How to Refresh Your Coronavirus Ads to Connect With Consumers and Bring Hope

Consumers want to hear from brands, but are your ads alienating rather than connecting with them? Are they just… impossibly stale and generic? Below are best-practices from [b]+studio to refresh your creative assets to (dare we say it?) bring a smile to their faces.

It’s been over a month of self quarantine and consumers are getting restless

Notice how every advertisement now starts with “We are here for you…” followed by tug-at-your-heartstring b-roll, slow music, and sad faces…. Every email starts with “Hope you’re healthy” or “Crazy times!” or “In this uncertain climate…”  It’s all starting to look and sound the same. Are your ads making your audience uncomfortable or excited? 

We need to find ways to connect and build trust with our audiences in spite of this pandemic. Terms like “covid-19”, “coronavirus”, “pandemic” etc., are doing the opposite: they’re creating distance and alienating consumers, not building an emotional connection with the brand. How can you speak to your audience during a global pandemic without sounding robotic and somber?  

Last month was the month of empathy. Now, more than ever – it’s about value. 

Consumers want to be uplifted, they want to $ave, and they want to smile again. Let’s instead re-direct messaging to stay positive during such an unprecedented time. Why not (tactfully) calm the nerves of your audience with comfort and reassurance? Connecting and even evoking a smile in such unpredictable times is a powerful gift. 

People are loyal and safe with familiarity but with the right tools, your advertising campaigns can flourish and attract new consumers. Bidtellect’s in-house creative team, [b]+studio has been testing and measuring the shift in creative in real-time. Here’s what’s working this week.

Polish up with this new set of best practices:

1. Reposition your creative with witty and trendy adjectives; use abbreviations such as “WFH” or “QuaranQueen” to make light of the situation (tactfully, of course). There are ways to remind us of our current situation without making us sad about it.  

2. If you have a loyalty program, announce it. Audiences are more likely to purchase if there are loyalty incentives.

3. SALES! DISCOUNT CODES! FREE SHIPPING! With the uncertainty of an economic turmoil, consumers are responding to sales. Brand loyalists are going for a less expensive product and it’s all happening online. Besides, who doesn’t love a sale? Build their trust and your audience will $ave. 

4. Try to focus not on selling but helping your audience with a solution. For example: How Long Has Your Dip Nail Polish Been On? You’re ready for a new color. Try XYZ. (This creative is letting the audience know it’s been a while since we’ve all been to the nail salon and offering a solution to give the audience comfort).

5. Imagery is always important in creative. Bright colors, pleasing images, and happy people as the main focal point always perform well. Cinemagraphs and .gifs draw attention against the parallel somber images on a webpage.

6. Drive it home with positive and compassionate content, including relevant hashtags: #StayHome

The wave of somber advertising is gently passing and while we are headed into the unknown, one thing is for certain: people want to smile again – even if it’s for a brief moment. Your messaging can easily be tested and updated within minutes on our platform. Between our sophisticated optimization technology and creative refreshes, we are working diligently to put to your campaigns to work and get the best results possible. 

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This Week: April 17th

This Week: April 17th

Hello Bidtellectuals. Here’s the latest in the digital advertising industry. It’s April 17th. 

Don’t feel like reading? Watch here or below. 

Let’s talk retail. This week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that total U.S. retail and food sales fell 8.7 percent from the previous month. But thanks to e-commerce, retail is gaining traction and numbers are rising. Read more in our piece “Retail gains traction during coronavirus crisis thanks to e-commerce.”

Adobe Analytics reported a 25% boost in average U.S. daily online sales March 13-15 compared with March 1-11 (so that’s in just one week). In North America, the number of online orders for web-only online retailers were up 52% year over year March 22 through April 4, according to Emarsys and GoodData. More notable, YoY revenue growth numbers in mid-April (+68%) surpassed those of early January (+49%). And – no surprise here – NetElixir reported that online food sales surged 183% between March 1 and 25, vs. the same period last year. Also surging: online orders for health and fitness products, such as kettlebells, dumbbells and treadmills, which have increased 55% March 11-15 compared with March 1-10, according to Adobe Analytics.

Retail brands especially should provide help and value during this time (more on brand messaging here).  83% of respondents want compassionate connection, including brand messaging that communicates empathy and support with the struggles they face, according to an Edelman Survey. The biggest piece of advice: don’t go dark. In times where our security is threatened, people are hardwired to seek clarity and calm, according to Econsultancy. Brands that stay in touch now will benefit later.

And according to a Mediapost survey, the No. 1 thing ad executives said media could do to help them through the crisis is to “be flexible,” especially in terms of ad commitments, budgets, campaign timing and media costs, but also creatives – re-purposing assets, for example. On the plus side, marketers like Heineken that normally spend a significant part of their marketing budgets on sports sponsorships and other live events, are reallocating some of that money back into advertising, according to Ron Amram, Heinekan USA’s global media lead.

Cities like New York are requiring masks to go outside. Here are instructions to sew your own. Speaking of New York, if you want to feel your ears bleed (or for those like me, hear the sweet sound of home), check out New York Times “Best New York Accent” competition. 

Speaking of self-care: suffering from a sore neck, back, or shoulders from your new work-from-home set up and the general stress of pandemic-life? Valid. We compiled some tips to try at home, from foam rolling and stretching to Theragun and CBD cream. For more self-care advice, might we suggest Harvard’s 6 self-care steps for a pandemic. And to keep your blood pumping, these free online workout classes are perfect to try now. 

Last but certainly not least, we made a video to brighten your day: Bidtellectuals share what they are grateful for. We are certainly grateful for you today. 

Stay safe.

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Retail gains traction during coronavirus crisis thanks to e-commerce

Retail gains traction during coronavirus crisis thanks to e-commerce

The retail sector is gaining traction during the coronavirus thanks to e-commerce. Empathetic brand messaging, digital advertising, and shifting to changing consumer needs will help retail grow online sales through the coronavirus crisis.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced that total U.S. retail and food sales fell 8.7 percent from the previous month. But there is light: the worst hit may be over and ecommerce continues to rise. According to experts on eMarketer’s recent podcast Sizing Up COVID-19’s Impact on Retail, a huge portion of retail may be completely shut down, but it’s those businesses who depend completely on brick and mortar locations for sales with limited to no ecommerce initiative. In order to survive, retail brands should shift messaging to empathy and helpfulness, drive traffic to their sites, adapt shipping capabilities, and above all: don’t go dark. Be prepared to bounce back once this is all over.

Retail is Shifting to E-Commerce 

Boost in online orders: Adobe Analytics reported a 25% boost in average U.S. daily online sales March 13-15 compared with March 1-11. In North America, the number of online orders for web-only online retailers were up 52% year over year in the United States and Canada for the 2 weeks of March 22 through April 4, according to an online tracker from marketing platform Emarsys and analytics platform GoodData. Revenue for web-only retailers in the U.S. and Canada was up 30% year over year for the period. This could indicate that rapid and massive efforts of retail businesses to shift their operations online as well as aggressive promotional campaigns started to pay off (“Retail sector is getting more traction”). 

Use digital advertising to drive traffic to e-commerce sites: Pubmatic reported an 8% increase in ad spend in the shopping vertical and a 3% increase in style & fashion in March comparing the pre- vs. post-global impact of the coronavirus. Everyone is online: Verizon reported huge spikes in device and internet usage thanks to home office work and social isolation. Between the weeks of 3/12 to 3/19, it saw web and internet traffic climb 20% (CNET)

Slow Delivery Times, New Product Pivots – Does It Matter?

It’s a good time to take risks, according to eMarketer: “‘Everyone is navigating new territory,’” Stacey Thomson, vice president of eBusiness and ecommerce at agile agency Scrum50 said. “‘Retailers can test and learn new ways to sell inventory and quickly meet new demands. It’s a forgiving time to take some risks.’”  

Even Amazon is going back on its two-day delivery promise for nonessential items: “Sharp, unexpected growth in demand for Amazon is resulting in tough choices of how to manage the supply of in-bound products and available last-mile delivery capacity.” (eMarketer)

Lasting brand damage? People will be pretty understanding of the changing reality, says eMarketer in their podcast “Sizing Up COVID-19’s Impact on Retail.”

What’s Doing Well:

Online Grocery: NetElixir reported that online food sales surged 183% between March 1 and 25, vs. the same period last year. Millions of first-time online grocery buyers are materializing, and millions of infrequent buyers are now doing so on a weekly basis, vs. over multiple weeks or months (eMarketer). 

Amazon: The top 10 US ecommerce companies—led by Amazon at 38.7%—will represent about 60% of ecommerce sales in 2020 (eMarketer), thanks in part to their online grocery delivery that is thriving during the coronavirus crisis. One example: “On Amazon, our clients in household goods and fitness are selling more than three times as much as usual” Buy Box Experts’ Thomson said. “Overall, sales are up at least 30% higher than what we would expect for this time of year.” (eMarketer)

The new “essential” items: What may have been considered nonessential are now the new necessities, including sweatpants, self-care items, and electronics to make working from home more effective. As more gyms and fitness centers close to the public, shoppers have increased their spending for at-home fitness equipment. Online orders for products, such as kettlebells, dumbbells and treadmills have increased 55% March 11-15 compared with March 1-10, according to Adobe Analytics.

Get creative: A number of retailers have shifted to makeshift delivery options and click and collect options. Forbes wrote about a number of small businesses like Faire, who traditionally sold candles, stationary, and beauty, but has shifted gears to more urgent inventory during the coronavirus crisis. The platform’s top-seller is now disinfectant and it’s added more household essentials like hand soap. Necessity is the mother of invention, reiterates eMarketer in their podcast.

Brand Messaging in Response to the Crisis Matters

Provide value: Think outside yourself. Let empathy and service lead your messaging, your efforts, and next steps.  According to Brit Bulla on Mediapost, three distinct types of brand messaging have emerged during the coronavirus crisis: “All About Me,”“Helpful,” and “The Friend in Need.”  Can you guess which is the most unappealing? Sharing all of your brand’s current news and how great you’re doing isn’t appealing to customers at the moment. Empathy and offering ways to help make their lives easier is. 

To put this into perspective, 83% of respondents want compassionate connection, including brand messaging that communicates empathy and support with the struggles they face, according to an Edelman Survey. 29% of Americans have already begun using a brand due to the innovative or compassionate way they’ve responded to the COVID-19 crisis. (Edelman) According to another study, 75% of respondents said that the way a brand responds to the crisis will affect future buying decisions (eMarketer).

Cater to frugal spending: We’re in the middle of an economic crisis. Chuck Grom at Gordon Haskett says it could take a couple of years for consumers to recover, he says, especially if the virus returns in the fall. He favors stores that cater to frugality. (Barrons)

Here’s what doesn’t work: Not addressing the crisis at all or continuing with thoughtless and potentially offensive messaging is damaging. 57% want brands to stop any advertising or marketing that is humorous or light-hearted. (Edelman).

The Biggest Piece of Advice: Don’t Go Dark

While sales and traffic may be down, do not go dark during the coronavirus crisis. Brands need to provide certainty and purpose. It’s important for retailers to be very responsive on social media and digital platforms, says eMarketer. And taken a step further, 84% of customers want brand social channels to facilitate a sense of community and offer support to those in need (Edelman).  In times where our security is threatened, people are hardwired to seek clarity and calm, according to Econsultancy

No crisis lasts forever. There is light at the end of this. The post-COVID-19 period will be used by many as a time of rebirth, and many will be motivated by aspirational behaviours, writes Richard Storey for Econsultancy. “The best action for brands is to forecast the emotional state and behavioural changes required of everybody to re-start…In order for a brand to be there in the positive moment of a new beginning, it needs to stay active in darker times.” 

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