Marketers know to expect the unexpected. After all, adaptability is a vital marketing skill and is described by Harvard Business Review as ‘the new competitive advantage.’
But the curve ball thrown by the Covid-19 pandemic goes beyond unexpected and is compelling marketers to adjust with exceptional speed to unparalleled changes in the way consumers live their lives. For marketers, many of the changing consumer trends offer opportunities to communicate key messages, with over two-thirds of UK adults consuming more media than prior to the lockdown, and the majority paying more or as much attention to advertising as they did before. Yet marketers require deep insight into consumer moods, behaviours and expectations to respond to these changes and adapt TV advertising in a way that will resonate at this extraordinary time.
Understanding TV and video consumption
TV viewing has spiked during lockdown, with viewing increasing 21% year-on-year. But TV advertising is no longer just about commercials on linear or broadcast TV. It encompasses a wide range of platforms, so marketers need to understand where best to reach their audiences. In the UK, video consumption during the pandemic has been split fairly equally between platforms: linear TV is still most likely to be cited as a consumer’s first choice of platform, while catch-up TV is most likely to come in second place.
Marketers can use different platforms to reach different demographics. But as TV becomes more addressable, marketers can also use targeted audience segments, reaching the right viewers no matter what platform they are using or what type of content they are consuming.
Responding to the consumer mood
Since the lockdown began, the noticeable theme running through many TV ads has been togetherness at a time of immense change. This approach works well for food and grocery – the sector UK consumers most want to see ads for – as consumers want grocery advertising to move them and to create an emotional connection. This is reflected in reassuring TV ads for well-known food brands such as Birds Eye. Supermarkets also understand this need – such as Co-op creating a poignant campaign – and TV ad spend is high in this sector with Asda and Aldi spending £3.7 million and £3 million respectively on TV advertising in March.
But the same approach won’t necessarily work across all sectors. High-tech has been the second most popular vertical for lockdown advertising, and consumers want ads for these products to focus on special offers and promotions; so shifting the focus to value or discounts may be a better way to resonate and differentiate at this time. The recent Apple iPhone SE ad keeps this in mind, by delivering a simple creative to communicate the model’s value proposition.
Travel is the third most popular sector, with housebound holidaymakers imagining the adventures they can have once restrictions are lifted. In this case consumers want ads that make them dream, such as the Sandals Resorts campaign which reminds viewers of what is waiting for them when they can travel once more. One trend that traverses all sectors is humour – with 58% of UK consumers wanting to see ads that make them laugh during this period – so marketers shouldn’t be afraid to bring a little light-heartedness to their TV campaigns.
Navigating consumer perceptions
Knowing how consumers perceive advertising at this unusual time will help marketers determine TV advertising strategies.
One major decision for marketers is whether to link their ad campaigns to the current Covid-19 context or whether to avoid association with a potentially controversial subject. For UK consumers the answer is clear – three-quarters believe brands should reference the pandemic and integrate it into TV ad campaigns. When a situation is so central to consumer lives and everyday experiences, marketers risk limiting campaign relevance by ignoring it. Consumers are especially open to brands referencing Covid-19 in their campaigns if they are actively involved in it or if they are using their messaging to support preventative messaging. Channel 4, for instance, ran an Easter campaign featuring celebrities doing mundane household tasks to support public health advice for people to stay at home.
These may be unparalleled times, with consumer behaviours and perceptions changing in extraordinary ways, but marketers are adaptable and are used to expecting the unexpected. With in-depth insight into the consumer mood and changing expectations, marketers can create cross-platform TV campaigns that resonate as the country emerges from lockdown to continue to reach audiences with effective and engaging messaging.