In January I wrote that Q1 is the best time for testing digital ads due to lower competition, cheaper ad inventory and the ability to test new messaging & targeting. The world has changed drastically since then, though, and has launched us into a world-wide pandemic that shifted how we go about our daily lives. That means that Q1 ad trends are likely to replay later this year, as marketing teams re-think budgets, priorities and plans.

Staying true to the times, last week my colleagues Renee Spurlin and Ben Cowles published ARPR’s second COVID-19-related webinar – examining current tech marketing trends, where we noticed a lot of similarities in the digital ads ecosystem to Q1. Key stats from their webinar that highlighted these similarities include:

  1. There has been a 20% decline in CPMs for digital ads across the board since mid-March, similar to what we typically see in early Q1 as marketers are still determining budgets and developing creative.
  2. 56% of marketers are either delaying or stopping digital campaigns, resulting in decreased competition.
  3. Due to major tech event cancellations, there has been a $1.1B economic loss. This leaves many marketers with uncertain/uncommitted budgets for the remainder of the year.

The major takeaway here is what I noted in Q1: fewer companies are advertising, in turn creating lower ad costs for more premium ad inventory, all with the ability to test out new messaging and targeting. This environment provides marketers with the ability to test ads right now to gain the upper hand in planning for the future. Considering the third statistic of major tech event cancellations, marketers may have some leftover budget from event marketing to test in the digital ad ecosystem – getting campaigns lined up now will help marketers test while pricing is low to go full-steam with the most effective messages once competition resumes to normal levels.

When evaluating any decision on investing in digital ads, marketers need to think about the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the way advertising is done.

In the short term, marketers need to take the following steps to ensure effective advertising during COVID-19: 

  • Double-check all current ad messaging concepts to ensure their tone is considerate of the ongoing pandemic and how people may be affected by it.
  • To the point above, hard sell ad copy is not working well right now. Conversion rates are down 21% since the start of the pandemic in the U.S. Shift messaging toward thought leadership and community building instead.
  • Building on thought leadership content, video ads may be more effective now than ever given people’s increased media consumption.

In the long term, digital advertisers should recognize that these short-term trends are here to stay for a while as we start an uphill economic battle coming out of the pandemic. Learning and testing during this time period will be the most important way for advertisers to grow coming out of COVID-19.

With all of this in mind, I’d recommend you check out Renee’s blog on tech marketing during our new norma to get more insights on how to shift your marketing priorities toward what’s going to work for you both now and in the future.

Patrick runs multi-channel digital marketing campaigns for ARPR by integrating SEO, PPC and Paid Social into measurable, results-driven efforts.

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