3 Insights on Advertising Right Now (For Brands)

The Advertising “Situation”

The economy shut down just months ago, and there has been a severe impact on every industry. While the local shutdown may end soon, it has certainly impacted the advertising industry. This article covers three insights on advertising right now, from our team, clients, and partners.

Before getting into the details, we feel it’s important to express gratitude for the fortunate position we are in. Thankfully, we have not laid-off any team-members, and while we were obviously impacted, it could have been much worse. Thanks to those involved in making Periphery a success through COVID-19’s impact, especially to our amazing clients.

The 3 Insights on Advertising

Insight 1: Content “gets old” faster than it used to

With consumption growing as much as it is, it’s only natural for people to become tired of repeated ideas, creatives, and copy. Content’s shelf-life isn’t as long as it used to be. Why? Because absorbing more content every day makes content-patterns shared by different brands more obvious to the consumers.

Now that brands follow a similar formula, and get noticed doing so, much sooner than before, it gets boring for the audience. The goal is to be fast and inventive instead of slow and safe.

Does this sound familiar?

  • Stock footage/photos on a slide-show (maybe with slow-pans across the images).
  • Somber, almost sad music.
  • Slowly fading in/out on-screen text.
  • Thanks for staying home, and what the company is doing about the situation.
  • An intimate, and well-spoken message from someone recording on their phone in their home.
  • Fade-to-black with the company’s logo and (maybe) a call to action to do something.

That list, give or take a few details, summarizes the template brands are now following.Using a template is not an inherently “bad” practice, by the way. Some brands make it work and stand out because of some exceptional talent on their teams, which we have highlighted in a separate article about our team’s favourite COVID-19 campaigns.

This approach worked exceptionally well for the first brands who shared new, relevant content (again, fast and inventive). But the first-mover advantage to start talking about COVID-19 is long gone. Now, brands repeating this template are just following someone else’s formula (and it’s obvious).

As audiences re-enter the market, will your brand be the first to publish relevant content, or will you still be talking about how we are in a new normal? (the subtle irony is not lost on us).

The fear of making a decision is a reflection of being out of touch with an audience or not trusting teams. It’s normal to feel paralyzed in such a situation. But, if you want to win, you’ll have to do something and being “perfect” doesn’t mean anything anymore.

Insight 2: Holding off on Advertising Will Cost Brands Market Share (and more)

Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping a clock to save time.

Henry Ford

Losing market share is the more obvious threat when you stop advertising. The risk is not just the existing competitors taking your clients. Historically, recessions are a time when new players emerge. For example, here’s a list of some tech companies founded during the Great Recession:

  • WhatsApp
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Slack
  • Uber
  • Square
  • Venmo

These are just tech companies during the last recession.

Take note: Disney was launched at the start of The Great Depression. Hewlett-Packard was launched at the end (1939). The list goes on, but this makes our point. Current market conditions are ripe for new players to enter the market, and perhaps disrupt industries.

Let’s use an agency business model as an example.

Many agencies, especially smaller ones, have to worry about their existing competitors, and the new competitors sure to enter the market. Who are these new competitors? Recently laid off staff from Canada’s major agencies. They’re talented, which is why they got the job in the first place. They also (presumably) have little real business overhead (it’s not like they’ll be renting out office space).

Suddenly, there is a talented competitor who is small and quick to make decisions competing with the existing agencies. Moreover, since their overheads are low, they can enter the market with a lower price-point that makes them appealing to many businesses in the current market environment.

It’s a serious business threat most small agencies should be evaluating right now. The ones that are not advertising are especially susceptible to losing market share. Their share of voice, even locally, just isn’t growing.

Brands could get away with not posting about COVID-19 and completely turtling. There were not many buyers on the market anyway. It was a safe move (provided there was enough cash in the bank). Unfortunately, what most did was lay-off staff to bring down expenses and attempt to “ride it out”.

Now that many markets are on the verge of opening again, will you be in a position to compete? Do you have a plan?

Insight 3: COVID-19 Support was Amazing: The real advertising opportunity is what’s next (are you prepared for it?)

The Last Marketing & Advertising Opportunity

We have written about this before in our weekly email. The best thing any company could do at the start of the pandemic was revert to their values, audit their content, and quickly share relevant communications. Clients who continued advertising with us, as one example, have seen the benefits already compared to their slow-to-move competitors. 

Some companies did this well by leading their audience into the “new normal”, and sharing what they did to help customers and clients. They were first, before even some elected leaders. 

Some companies made major changes, but most did not. Even now: many are still trying to figure out what’s “safe to say,” as if there’s a magic bullet. Then and now, there is no magic bullet; just move on and make sure you don’t miss the next opportunity. 

Being true to your company values; however, is one guidepost to keep yourself and your content on the right track. Apply those values to how people feel now, instead of how they felt at the start of the shutdown.

The Next Marketing & Advertising Opportunity

There is a brief window now where the floodgates haven’t opened quite yet. Ad-rates and media bookings have been priced low for a while. It’s what happens when the majority of brands stop their advertising at the same time. The environment becomes less competitive, and the groups still running ads are paying less to be seen by a bigger audience.

The next opportunity is to create a relevant campaign before the market becomes hyper-competitive (when the floodgates open). No brand wants to be fighting for scraps after realizing it’s their last chance to save their market share before existing and new competitors take over.

How to Make the Most of This Opportunity

Create content and advertising that leverages your audience’s new daily life (especially if you weren’t already). Instead of communicating what the new normal is and how you’re responding, talk to them about the new normal in the context of their daily life.

Here’s the best example we’ve found so far: Wealth Simple – Animal Crossing Economy

Animal Crossing fits the age-range, habits, and overall persona of the WealthSimple target audience. The game is being played more because of isolation orders, which means the ad’s got an even higher chance of sticking right now. The details will feel genuinely interesting to them because of how much time players are investing (if only you knew…).

Players are also, typically, at an age where they are considering saving, investing, and building wealth for the first time (the target audience). They’ve also made good use of the Instagram Channel, because of all the Animal-Crossing memes we can find on Instagram right now. 

Lastly, the game and console are approximately $500-$600, which suggests the audience might have a little disposable income to open up a savings account.

Final Words

The winning brands are the ones who understand how COVID-19 is influencing the culture of their target audience. Except now they’ve moved past just telling people about COVID-19 and are leveraging the changing trends (like the rise of a popular video game), to create new, and relevant content.

These brands take risks (that are not really risks), to remain top-of-mind. As we move into The Recovery and the floodgates open, the rewards for staying top of mind will be obvious.

It’s never a risk to share your company values and beliefs in a relevant, and appropriate manner. Your audience will likely care (that’s why you have their attention).

We hope these insights on advertising were useful. For more, you can subscribe to our email newsletter, or contact us directly.