Managing digital advertising during COVID-19

03/31 By IAS team

Many marketing and publishing professionals are understandably seeking guidance on how to appropriately navigate today’s unprecedented situation that is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For those questioning, “what should I do?”, remember, there is no ‘right’ answer here – each business will have its own unique perspective and parameters. However, there are actions both advertisers and publishers can take to ensure their approach is both safe and suitable.

IAS recently undertook research to determine consumer perceptions concerning Covid-19 content in the UK. We wanted to understand how – and indeed, if – consumers are changing their online content consumption habits in this current climate. The data showed that the Coronavirus situation is shifting content consumption patterns, with 73% changing the types of content they consume online. There was, however, a mixed response in relation to ads adjacent to Coronavirus content.

So – what do brands need to know? 

Key stats for advertisers to know…

  • 82% are actively seeking out Coronavirus news and content online
  • 87% are consuming more news generally because of the evolving Coronavirus situation
  • 31% say that the suitability of a brand appearing near Coronavirus content “depends on the brand”

Advice for advertisers:

  • Remember, not all COVID-19 stories are damaging for your brand. An all-or-nothing perspective on either “don’t block coronavirus content” or “do block that content” will not necessarily be an effective approach. Many publishers provide high-quality content in a premium environment to a highly engaged audience. Instead of blanket blocking, ask yourself where you might be able to “lean in” to content that is currently online.
  • Re-look at your brand safety and suitability strategy. We encourage advertisers to consider refining the precision of their brand safety and suitability strategies to adapt to the dynamic nature of the unfolding situation. This situation is not one where either ‘more’ or ‘less’ keyword blocking should be universally adopted – the only protective measure is one that highlights the need for precision in guiding a given brand either toward or away from content corresponding with that specific brand’s values and identity. Revisit your keyword lists and update them frequently
  • Ask what news sites you may appear against. Brands can leverage the granular controls provided within the IAS Brand Safety categories to determine where they do and do not want their brand to appear. IAS Context Control solution classifies content at scale with precision, providing advertisers the confidence to know the kinds of content they will appear next to online. 

Key stats for publishers to know…

  • 73% say that the Coronavirus situation is changing the types of content they consumer online
  • Only a mere 16% says they are NOT likely to engage with an ad adjacent to Coronavirus content
  • Food/Beverage and Travel brands top the list of verticals that consumers don’t want to see adjacent to Coronavirus content, whilst consumers do want to see Health/Pharma and Government organizations adjacent to Covid-19 content

Advice for publishers:

  • Collaborate with advertisers. Now is a good time for publishers to work with advertisers directly on their strategy, so advertisers can align with stories that are suitable for their specific brand. Transparency at this time is key – communicate with your partners and those you work with across the industry to ensure you are aligned in your approach in the immediate future. 
  • Use contextual intelligence technology. Publishers should make use of contextual solutions to continue to serve advertisements with confidence, especially during these uncertain times. By employing third-party tools to optimize site performance and maximize yield, publishers can focus on continuing to create quality content. Through the use of IAS’s cutting-edge Context Control solution, publishers are able to gain greater control over their inventory.
  • Adopt the appropriate optimization tools. In addition to verification tools, leverage a brand safety/suitability solution that will ensure that publishers only serve ads in environments that their advertisers have deemed to be appropriate for their brand. Fewer blocked impressions mean maximized revenue and stronger buyer-seller relationships.

And finally, advice for everyone:

  • Reallocate your budget. With events postponed and in-person meetings shifted to later this year, businesses should consider reallocating budget towards digital advertising efforts. With a highly engaged audience online at the moment, brands should consider how they can appropriately advertise online. But remember…
  • …be clear in what you are communicating. There is a LOT of content being posted at present, with many businesses helping to keep consumers informed, educated, as well as entertained, at a time when many are staying at home. For a higher chance of cutting through the noise, ensure whatever you communicate, from copy to content to creative, is communicated clearly. 
  • Stay in the know with the latest IAS Research visit the UK Coronavirus Ad Adjacency Research in full here, and for more information, please reach out to your IAS representative or contact us here


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