In the wake of coronavirus, media planners have had the carpet pulled out from underneath them, suddenly and without warning.

With the world upside down, around 3 in 4 media buyers, planners, and brands believe coronavirus will have a bigger impact on advertising than the 2008 financial crisis, according to a recent survey from the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Wading through this new climate, fast action is needed. Media plans need to be reimagined; to better reflect – and be sympathetic to – new consumer shifts. 

If you know where to look, you’ll know what to do next. Our coronavirus research has tracked consumer attitudes, driving forces and behaviors, and it’s designed to help brands regain control during and post crisis.

Here’s how to ensure your media plan and all its components stand up to today’s reality.

Grasping the bigger picture

Consumers are susceptible to external circumstances – especially those they can’t control. Context is needed – here’s what’s happening at a global level:

  • A return to normal is front-of-mind. Many brands are understandably worried about changing consumer sentiment and coming off as opportunistic. But, from earlier research in May across 20 markets, 76% of consumers say that brands or businesses getting back to normal is extremely, very, or quite important to them. Done mindfully, consumers are actually very receptive toward advertising at this time.
  • Consumers welcome support from brands. When asked about their personal financial response to the coronavirus outbreak in wave 5 of our study conducted in July, over 90% are planning to change their behavior in some way, including cutting back on day-to-day purchases and reducing financial commitments. It’s no surprise then, that top brand responses consumers most approve of are financially-driven, with running promotions and offering flexible payment terms viewed highly by the majority. 
  • Various online and offline activities are likely to remain popular post-pandemic. The coronavirus has led to large-scale increases in online media usage. In spite of this, offline activities are also seeing an increase. When asked which activities they intend to carry on with after the pandemic is over, consumers say they’ll spend more time: socializing as a family (29%), watching more videos (24%) cooking (23%), watching more news coverage (23%), and watching more content on streaming services (23%). 
  • Concern about a second wave is pronounced. Two-thirds of consumers are extremely, very, or quite concerned about a second wave of the outbreak. Such a sentiment can be expected to influence behaviors and attitudes throughout 2020 – leading to a safety-first mindset.

With the acceleration to online, shopping habits are also worth keeping an eye on, as is the call for sustainability – which is now louder than ever.

Zeroing in: revisiting your audience

Crucially, assessing the impact on your audience is the only way to critique your media plan objectively and assess whether it still holds up. 

Question how your target persona is faring:

  • Has the virus influenced their mindset?
  • How do their lives look different?
  • Have their purchase drivers changed? 

These answers will reveal where the new opportunities are and how to pivot most efficiently. 

WIth a portfolio that includes the likes of Tinder, OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, Hinge and Match.com, it’s something dating titans, Match Media Group, can attest to. During lockdown, the behaviors and attitudes of singles globally was something their research teams needed to keep a close eye on

Shifting their attention to our ongoing research into the impact of coronavirus on the global consumer landscape, they used it to apply their own audiences and brands, pinpointing the changes that were happening

One obvious trend they needed to keep a close eye on with their audiences in lockdown globally was video dating, or ‘dating from home’. Research revealed 31% of their audience on one platform was up for taking part in a shared activity – such as playing a trivia game or cooking together – during these video calls. 

“We look for trends that will affect the story we’re telling”, says Vicki Shapiro, Vice President of Marketing. Once the team found that a shared activity was a top preference, it gave them licence to engage with relevant advertising partners for collaboration. 

Understanding what their users were looking for and pitching to advertisers that work in that space has been fundamental in helping Match Media best serve their audiences in uncertain times.  

Persona spotlight: U.S. car buyers

To see how this works in action, we’re going to hone in on U.S. consumers who say they plan on purchasing a car by applying this audience to our coronavirus study and establishing the key facts to know. 

Since the outbreak, for example, at least 1 in 3 have been listening to more streaming services, watching more videos (e.g. on YouTube) and TV broadcast channels, while over 2 in 5 are spending longer on social media. 

But what else can we learn about how to resonate with this audience? 

Here’s a quick guide on doing it with our platform.

Step one: apply your audiences to the coronavirus study.

In ‘Chart Builder’, select ‘Coronavirus multi-market study’ from our custom research section. Then choose ‘Wave 5’ to view data from our most recent wave of research.

Click on ‘Audiences’ to search for and apply an audience. We’re applying our U.S. car buyers audience here. 

Audience

Step two: piece together their perspective.

Concern

Navigate to ‘Levels of Concern’ and ‘Own country’. This shows 58% in the U.S. planning to purchase a car are either very or extremely concerned about the coronavirus pandemic in their own country.

Concern

Levels of approval: brand activities 

This section asks various questions around consumer attitudes toward brands’ behavior during coronavirus. 

Under ‘Levels Of Approval – Brand Activities’, click ‘Running Promotions / Offers / Loyalty perks’ to know what percentage somewhat or strongly approve of brands running promotions, offers or loyalty perks for customers during this time. In this case, it’s 84% of car buyers who say this.

Levels of approval

Sustainability 

Select ‘Post Outbreak Sustainability Attitudes’ and under this, ‘Companies Behaving Sustainability’.

Here, we can see that because of the outbreak, companies behaving sustainably and in eco-friendly ways has become a lot more important to approximately 1 in 3 of this group.

Sustainability

Step three: see how their behaviors have changed. 

Activities they’re doing more of they’ll likely keep up

Having selected ‘Behavioral Changes’, choose ‘In Home And Media Consumption: Permanent Changes Expected’ to find out which activities U.S. car buyers are likely to carry on doing once the outbreak is over.

As you can see, it’s a tie between watching more news coverage and spending more time cooking (24%) followed by watching more shows/films on streaming services (21%).

Post covid behaviors

Financial response

Make your way to ‘Personal Financial Response’.

Here we can see that because of the outbreak, 39% are cutting back on the day-to-day things they buy, and 37% are waiting for products to be on promotion.

Though 80% are currently delaying large purchases because of the outbreak, this doesn’t necessarily mean that car manufacturers should go silent. More-so, the focus should be on getting this audience acquainted with and excited about the prospect of purchasing a particular model car when they feel ready. 

Financial impact

Data in action: U.S. car buyers’ habits, touchpoints and drivers

  • They typically find out about new brands and products via ads seen on TV (37%) and search engines (34%).
  • In the last month, 60% have visited a brand’s website, while 27% have read an email or watched a video by a brand. 
  • They’re more likely than the average U.S. consumer to follow brands they like on social media (38% vs 33%). The top three platforms visited by this audience in the past month are YouTube (88%), Facebook (79%) and Instagram (69%). 
  • The top three attributes they want brands to embody are being reliable (62%), smart (53%) and authentic (52%). What’s more, they want brands to listen to their feedback (47%), make them feel valued (44%), and be socially responsible (43%).

Good media planning is about avoiding a lapse in your research.

What this pandemic has taught us is that greater flexibility is needed in the roles of planners and marketers alike. Media plans should be optimized more frequently to avoid the risk of wasting spend and going off course when things change, because they can change fast. 

A mix of the right channels, messaging and formats will help keep brands front of mind, in a respectful way.

Whether there’s a need to pause activity on one channel and move it to another, or an opportunity to explore a new creative format for promotion, the right consumer insights will help steer you in the right direction. 

Refining your media plan: what to remember 

  • A macro view of global trends is vital. Without knowing more about consumers’ personal circumstances and how they got to be where they are, it’s near impossible to influence someone.
  • Question all prongs of your strategy. Can your messaging, creative, placement and tactics get any more aligned with your audience’s needs, desires and attitudes, knowing what you know now? 
  • Listen first, act second. Be sensitive to the challenges facing your audience at any given moment. Ignorance on the part of brands can easily undermine a media plan as it’s being executed: consumers these days are more inclined to boycott brands who appear at odds with reality.
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