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Executive Vice President at Veritone One, leader for the agency’s strategy, organization, and growth.
Ah, 2020, the year that has altered our lives in ways we never could have imagined — possibly forever. One thing on which we can probably all agree is that the media industry may never be the same, and we’re experiencing a sea change both in how content is produced and consumed. In light of the difficulty traveling and setting up shoots, and production effectively being shut down, smart advertisers are stepping up and adjusting to the quickly evolving times.
My, How The Times Have Changed
Over the last 15 years in the advertising industry, I have seen many changes and fads come and go. So-called appointment TV has gone out the window. Viewers are cord-cutting in droves.
However, people are still watching TV. In fact, they’re watching more TV than ever. They’re just doing it differently. Viewers have been scouring Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube and other over-the-top platforms in search of something — anything — to watch during the pandemic. A recent survey by market research company Invoke found that 75% of respondents have been watching more streaming content since the pandemic started. Meanwhile, the global streaming market, worth $42.6 billion in 2019, is expected to grow more than 20% per year to reach $184.2 billion by 2027, according to Grand View Research.
With film and television production largely on hiatus, consumers also have turned to social media and podcasts to fill the gap for new content. Audio programming of all kinds is up, and so is viewing of user-generated content (UGC) on social media. At the beginning of the pandemic, user-generated quarantine videos were registering 146% higher engagement and 209% higher positive sentiment compared to average platform benchmarks.
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How Advertisers Are Responding — And How They Should Be
It probably comes as no surprise that advertising spending has dropped considerably this year — overall, it’s expected to be down 20% compared to 2019. The pandemic will likely have a greater negative impact on the advertising industry than the financial crisis of 2008.
However, considering the changes discussed above, you probably shouldn’t be cutting advertising right now. Advertising pioneer Bruce Barton once said, “In good times people want to advertise; in bad times they have to.” To put it another way, there’s never been a more captive audience in recent history than now, and it’s made up of viewers who are willing to watch just about anything to take their minds off of the dumpster fire that is 2020.
To meet the challenges of the time, don’t shy away from spending. Instead, strategically reallocate your advertising dollars. It’s more important than ever to stay in front of audiences and find new ways to reach them with relevant messages that speak to their current challenges.
Digital platforms hold the key. As mentioned above, in-home media usage has been on the upswing and digital consumption has increased even more.
And then there’s the influencer factor. Messages delivered by relatable personalities often get better traction than those on brands’ owned and operated channels. A Nielsen study found that podcast ads read by hosts are “significantly more likely to be described as authentic and believable and 2x less likely to be perceived as forced.”
Given the explosion in podcast consumption and user-generated content, unique new opportunities for advertisers to connect with audiences are opening up. So more organic advertising on mediums such as podcasts can be highly effective.
But when it comes to video-based advertising, how can you create ads that connect with people in meaningful ways? That’s where I think brands like Nike have the right idea. In its powerful “You Can’t Stop Us” ad, athletes from different sports and of different ages, eras and ethnicities stand in side-by-side shots that highlight our similarities and ingenuity in the face of adversity. Somehow, it manages to speak to the times perfectly without being cloying or seeming opportunistic. Even more amazing: It was created completely with repurposed content after sifting through more than 4,000 pieces of footage.
In another recent example, Vaseline created a powerful ad that speaks to racial disparity in our country and manages to remain hopeful in tone while touting the company’s work toward equity in skin care. That’s not an easy feat, and it was done entirely with images accompanied by a voiceover from the talented Regina King.
These ads lay out some best practices for advertisers when working with licensed content: Be creative with it, as in Nike’s case. Don’t overstep your boundaries by declaring that your product will save the world; instead, show humility and support, as Vaseline did. Repetition of related imagery in both of these advertisements worked well. And while both of these ads spoke to long-standing issues, you can still be effective by being lighthearted with funny or lightly touching moments. Practices such as these will help ensure that your advertisements come across as authentic, which will ultimately make them more effective.
Purchasing content can help you get around the obstacles of filming during a pandemic. Licensed footage from before the pandemic can also help you reach consumers tired of seeing ads with people wearing masks. Instead, viewers can see their sports heroes and exotic locales, and let themselves dream of what they’ll see and do after the pandemic ends.
To get started, visualize your creative and search the archives of companies that provide licensed footage, or you can consult with those companies to find the content that best fits your creative needs. You can license footage that matches virtually any tone or messaging that’s conducive to your campaign.
During these difficult and uncertain times, it’s critical to stay connected with your current and potential customers and continue to shore up the brand equity you’ve built, sometimes over many years. The brands that are able to deliver a thoughtful, authentic and self-aware message, show empathy for their audiences and reach audiences where they are — by taking advantage of emerging and digital mediums — are the ones that will likely be best-positioned for ongoing success once things start to return to some type of normal.
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