Although we’re in a global health crisis, some advertisers have found ways to leverage digital advertising to set their business up for success now or in the future. For all of those brands who are running or considering launching campaigns, take note of these do’s and don’ts for advertising during the current climate.

If you’re still deciding whether or not your company could or should run campaigns right now, check out our blog post “The State of Digital Advertising: Is It Smart to Advertise During a Global Health Crisis?” to learn more about the state of digital advertising now, and why brands are choosing to start, stop or continue running their digital advertising campaigns. 

Digital Advertising What to Do During a Health Crisis:


Be visible when and where your products or services are needed. 

    • If your prospective clients and customers are searching for your products or services, you should ensure that they’re seeing your name and not your competitors. Many companies are keeping their paid search investment in place, which SearchEngine Journal says is “logical, given that search is heavier on demand-side, versus other channels that lean more toward top or mid-funnel efforts.”

    • If you have a pay-per-click (PPC) model, then you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, so there’s no risk of paying for people who aren’t engaging. Ensure your keyword targets are relevant to your business and solutions and review all ad copy to ensure that the information is still correct and tone-appropriate in the current climate.

    • Similarly, your brand can leverage other ad devices, like LinkedIn, to reach specific audiences that can benefit from your product or services at the moment. For example, many virtual learning and telecommunications providers are using such platforms to communicate their benefits and offers to prospective customers who need or want them more than ever.

Invest in brand awareness on social media now to benefit you in the future.

    • Unless you’re selling the hottest products of the moment, like cough and cold products (+535%), long-lasting foodstuffs like soup (+397%) and dried rice (+386%), weight training equipment (+307%) or dishwashing supplies (+275%), driving sales could prove incredibly difficult at the moment. (A new study out of the UK suggests 52% of consumers expect to be in isolation for up to 3 months, and shopping is not the first thing they want to do after isolation is over.)

    • Use this time to build up your brand awareness and cement your positioning in the market. Ensure that when your prospective customers are ready to buy again, they know who you are and have no doubts that they want to work with you or buy your service.

    • Depending on your key target audiences, consider LinkedIn sponsored content, YouTube video ads, or Facebook, Instagram or Twitter ads for building community and brand awareness. Each social channel provides the opportunity for you to target niche audiences, set up A/B testing, and measure results through robust analytics. Now may be the time to dive deep into testing digital ads and measuring performance to inform your social strategy. Just be sure to always measure your progress and be ready to pivot as needed.    

    • And, you can get in front of more of your target audience for less money: Facebook has reported that in countries hit hardest by the virus, messaging is up 50%, voice and video calling has more than doubled, and views of Facebook and Instagram livestreams had doubled, too. YouTube watch time is up from 5 to 20x, and video uploads are up more than 50% year-over-year.

Prioritize low-commitment conversions like downloads, subscriptions and social media follows.

    • Your prospects might not be ready to buy right now, but if you give them something valuable or interesting, they might download something or sign up for your mailing list or newsletter. This gives your marketing team the opportunity to nurture them over time and ensure you’re top of mind when the situation changes and they’re in the market for your products or services.

    • If you’ve got an app to promote, it could be a great time to get in front of your key audiences and take advantage of higher impressions at lower costs per click to drive app downloads. Of course, consider your specific app and audience to determine whether this is an effective tactic for you at this time.

Focus on the marketing funnel, and use ads for testing to determine what content is best at moving prospects through the buyer journey.

    • You might not be able to drive bottom-of-funnel conversions right now, but you could work on building up your database and doing testing to determine which messages, touchpoints and tactics are most effective for driving movement through the funnel. (Digital ads are a great mechanism for testing messages and graphics with your target audience). Use this time to develop, test and refine your marketing efforts so that you can get more wins when we get through these challenging times. 

Think outside the box (of core digital advertising platforms.)

    • With events canceled, associations are looking for new ways to connect their members and sponsors and provide resources and tools for adapting and moving the business forward.

    • Now could be a great time to sponsor or contribute content (blogs, whitepapers, webinars) to relevant associations, and/or pay to get placement on digital banners or key sections of their website or newsletter.





Digital Advertising What Not to Do During a Health Crisis:

Don’t use content or visuals that can be misperceived.

    • For digital ad campaigns that are currently running or that you are planning, closely vet your copy and images to ensure they don’t depict a lack of social distancing, large crowds or situations that can be perceived as unsanitary in the current times. Your audiences may be immediately turned off—or worse, they will associate with your brand negatively

    • Content and conversations online are changing fast. Keep up with the news and trends and evaluate your content and visuals frequently to ensure your ads can’t be taken out of context, perceived as insensitive or come off as a lack of awareness like these brands did. 

Don’t waste money pushing sales only.

    • You may have a 2020 strategy with sales goals your organization set to reach. If you haven’t already, now is the time to reprioritize your goals for the year—and it may be time to update that strategic plan. Don’t spend money on digital advertising just to meet your “old” sales goals. You may waste money promoting your products or services in spaces where people don’t have the budgets to buy right now, in turn, damaging your credibility and brand image. Rather, focus on how you can shift your resources to do something that is helpful for your audiences. For example, instead of pushing a digital ad about your product, promote how your organization is giving back, helping employees, and creating safe work environments, or share content that is of some value to your audience now (i.e. proprietary research).

    • IAB’s study survey of over 400 ad buy decisions makers found that the majority (63%) of advertisers have already changed the messages they are touting in-market, increasing their focus on mission-based marketing (+42%) and cause-related marketing (+41%).

Don’t deliver digital ads to the wrong audience.

    • Creating an ad campaign with a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t an effective use of resources. More than a third (35%) of advertisers surveyed in IAB’s study have adjusted their in-market tactics and are increasing audience targeting (+38%) and OTT / CTV device targeting (+35%).

    • During this time especially, it’s important to be hyper-focused in targeting key audiences for your brand. Avoid wasting money by delivering ads to irrelevant audiences who aren’t prospective customers and who may see your ads as disingenuous. Prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to selecting your target audiences as you build out your campaign specs. 

Don’t overpromise and underdeliver.

    • Online promotions or contests can be a great way to engage with your audience during this time but only if you are providing something that is helpful and valuable to the end user. Authenticity is crucial now more than ever. Building a relationship with your consumers with trust and honesty as the foundation now will help your brand stand the test of time.

    • And be sure you can deliver on the brand promises you make. Otherwise, trust will be lost, even if your intentions are good. For example, Reese Witherspoon’s fashion line Draper James offered a promotion for “free dresses for teachers” earlier this month; however, they only had 250 dresses to give away. After the news of the free dresses was featured on NBC’s “Today” show, the promotion spread like wildfire to thousands of teachers across the country. The result: a PR disaster from an online promotion gone wrong. With nearly a million applications (nearly 7x the number of dresses sold total in the previous year), a lot of teachers felt they had been lied to. Draper James attempted to turn things around by sharing that they would be donating to a charity, but the damage had already been done. 

Don’t Use COVID-19 as part of your campaign theme.

    • It’s in poor taste to attempt to capitalize on the current situation. While it’s good to be helpful to consumers and provide them with tools, products and services to help them get through these times, it’s not a good idea to try to piggyback off of the attention COVID-19 is getting by trying to unnaturally interject your brand into the conversation. The exception to the rule is if you actually offer a product or service that fills a need or provides help in the current situationbut even then, it should be handled with sensitivity and care. (We’re helping clients navigate some scenarios like this now – reach out if you are in this situation).

    • Twitter, Facebook and Google have been updating their ad policies to address their automated ad rules in the wake of the pandemic. Twitter updated their policy for ad campaigns to prohibit the use of target keywords related to COVID-19 and to prohibit referencing the coronavirus and COVID-19 in ad material unless they are created by managed advertisers. But even then, they can only reference the health crisis if it’s related to a change in business practices or provides support for their customers or employees during this time. 

    • Additionally, Facebook removed the goal of sending people to stores from their ad targeting options, and Google has implemented tighter ad filters (banning all use of COVID-19 related terms in keyword targets). While the policies are being reviewed and updated frequently as things change, it’s still a best practice to not associate your brand with the pandemic in a way that is misleading or tries to get you access to more people. 


Don’t forget to set up blacklisting capabilities or keyword exclusions.

    • When setting up a digital campaign at any time, it’s important to consider keyword exclusions and blacklisting content that you don’t want your digital ads to be displayed near or your brand associated with. It’s important to consider including the coronavirus and COVID-19 as exclusionsmany platforms are already doing this by lumping the coronavirus into a natural disasters blacklist category. Moreover, not refining your positive and negative keywords can result in wasted ad spend by using up your budget by serving ads in locations that don’t align with your brand, or potentially setting yourself up for platform suspensions for breaching terms of use.



Final Thoughts

If it makes sense to start or continue digital advertising for your brand during this time, be sure to evaluate your content, images and campaign specifications as well as external trends frequently. This isn’t the time when a new campaign should be created quickly and left to “run its course” without measuring its progress regularly. The state of the world is so everchanging right now that even something that may have worked last week might not make sense next week. 

Do your due diligence in determining what is best for your brand, employees and customers based on your organization’s values and be ready to pivot quickly. If you need assistance managing this process and determining the best next steps for your digital advertising strategy, reach out to us. The ClearEdge team is here to support you. We’re #InThisTogether.