Digital Advertising During A Crisis

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A worldwide crisis can be a scary time for any business due to the uncertainty of the situation. A crisis isn’t planned and often comes with fast paced changes that require businesses to adapt their strategies quickly, often with new considerations or restrictions in place. 

As the world is currently dealing with the COVID-19 coronavirus, many businesses are trying to figure out how to react and adapt to changes daily. This crisis has caused some businesses to lose significant portions of revenue in a short amount of time.

The natural reaction to a loss of revenue is to reduce spending. Choosing where to cut spending is specific to each business’s unique situation and business model; however, in the past, we’ve seen that advertising is often one of the first areas businesses choose to trim their spending

Because digital advertising is flexible and easy to update, it is particularly susceptible to budget cuts in a time of crisis. 

With such uncertainty during a crisis is it reasonable to continue to use digital advertising? If so, how should you adapt your advertising to make the best of the situation?

Here we’ll cover why you should continue to use digital advertising during a crisis and practical tips you can employ today to get the best return on your advertising investment during a time of rapid change.

Why Continue Spending on Digital Advertising During a Crisis?

While there are numerous reasons to continue to invest in advertising during a crisis, here are several reasons to continue with digital advertising specifically. 

Digital Advertising is more flexible than other forms of advertising

With the uncertainty of a crisis, it can be hard to fathom planning your advertising. Will your message be out of date when your ad runs? Will the sporting events where you traditionally show ads even be played? Are you going to get the same benefit from a billboard ad if people aren’t driving the same distance a month from now?

All of these questions are valid and particularly true of traditional ad mediums such as print ads, outdoor ads, or tv ads where ad planning is done well in advance, and pricing is often related to viewership patterns. 

Using digital platforms to advertise, you have the ability to change your messaging quickly, adapt to changes in user behavior, and the price you pay is dependent on consumer action rather than historic models. This flexibility puts you in control and makes digital advertising a great platform particularly during times of uncertainty.

Lower Cost of Digital Advertising

Along with additional flexibility, digital advertising has a relatively lower cost compared to other marketing methods. A few reasons for this lower cost include the lower cost of production along with larger available volume of ad placements. 

You may have seen reports that consumers are spending more time online during this particular time period versus previous months. This has created an even larger volume of available placements, lowering the average cost per click and giving advertisers the ability to reach more consumers, more frequently.

In addition to increased volume, digital advertising costs are also declining as some businesses decide to cut or slow their ad spend, thus reducing competition. This opens up an opportunity for the businesses that continue to invest in advertising to see better results without increasing their advertising budget. 

Better Long Term Business Results

This one isn’t specific to digital advertising, it applies across the board with any investment in marketing. When you choose to advertise during a crisis while other businesses stop, your market share increases creating greater brand awareness, brand recall, and allowing your brand to stay top-of-mind. 

In the future, when consumers are ready to make a purchase decision, your business may now be part of a smaller consideration set giving you a greater chance of winning the business.

Now that you know why you should invest in digital advertising during a crisis, let’s take a look at our actionable tips on how to effectively advertise during challenging times.

Practical Tips for Digital Advertising During a Crisis

Once you’ve decided to continue your digital advertising, there are several key things you can do to put your advertising in a position to reach the right audience with the right message. To give your business the best opportunity to achieve the best possible performance, here are a our top recommendations:

Update Your Ad Copy

It’s important to stay up-to-date with current events to ensure that your messaging is relevant and helpful. While this is always important, it is even more important to create messaging that is sensitive to the nature of the situation. For example, you don’t want to spread information that could be misconstrued, display messaging that could be insensitive, or use terms that have been banned. You want to remain as helpful and accurate as possible for your customers.

Update Your Negative Keywords for Paid Search Campaigns

Along the same lines, if you aren’t using your messaging to promote something directly related to the crisis, searches with crisis related keywords may not be relevant. Add these as negative keywords to avoid appearing for any specific crisis related searches and protect your brand from any negative associations.

Recently we’ve expanded the negative keyword lists on our Google Ads accounts to include terms like “covid-19”, “coronavirus”, “pandemic”, and other similar terms to promote brand safety.

Implement More Frequent Monitoring & QA Checks 

With information and ad restrictions changing daily, it’s important to review ad accounts more regularly to ensure performance and spend are both on target. It’s also important to check that ads aren’t receiving negative interaction or being disapproved for sensitive content. Reviewing more frequently allows you to react more quickly to changes that can impact your business and proactively look for ways to improve.

Make Data-Driven Decisions

As you review your performance information more regularly (try week over week, instead of month over month), you will have more information to use to make smart advertising decisions. Use this information to help you decide what is working and what isn’t, based on actual data.

Stay On Top of Trends

Similar to staying up-to-date on the news during a time of crisis, it will also be beneficial to stay up-to-date on search trends. Use a tool like Google Trends for general trend information and recently trending topics. Right now, Google also has a specific dashboard for Coronavirus Search Trends. Knowing what consumers are searching can provide ideas on what topics to cover and products to promote, what to mention and what not to mention in your advertising campaigns.

Refine Your Advertising

Using performance data, act upon this information to refine your advertising to what is performing best toward your business goals. If you have high performing campaigns that have additional volume, reallocate your ad budget from lower performing campaigns. 

Focus on the products & services that matter most to your audience or your business during the crisis. You may find that certain products aren’t as practical or useful as they were prior to the crisis; conversely, there may be other products and services that have now become more important. Along the same lines, the reasons to use your products and services may have shifted. 

Cut anything that doesn’t make sense. Rework the strategy to highlight what matters most now or the future benefits. Reallocate your budget accordingly.


Although a crisis is never expected or desired, if you adapt your ad strategy and use these practical tips for digital advertising during a crisis, you can reach your audience with messaging that interests them in your business, earn both immediate and future consideration, and increase your share of voice. As John Wooden said, “Things work out best for those who make the best out of how things work out.” Our hope is that you can use our practical tips to help you make the best out of how things work out for your business during a crisis.

If you’d like assistance with your digital advertising, contact us for a free consultation or get a free review of your Google Ads account for specific recommendations on how you can improve your Google Ads performance today.

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