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How to Re-Think Your Creative and Ad Placements

Part II of the Actionable Marketing Strategies During a Pandemic series.

By Joel Cox, Strategus Co-Founder, EVP Strategy & Innovation

As the pandemic rolls on, we continue to see digital streaming OTT viewership reaching all-time highs. Ad budgets are flowing in this direction as well, and advertisers are adjusting their creative and their placement choices to suit the times. And, according to a recent survey by PR week viewers want to hear from brands more than ever. And, they want to be comforted by brands. A Harvard Business Review article posted after the 2008 downturn said this:

“Worried consumers – even in the comfortably well-off and live-for-today segments – see familiar, trusted brands and products as a safe and comforting choice in trying times. Reassuring messages that reinforce an emotional connection with the brand and demonstrate empathy (for example, by conveying a sense that “we’re going to get through this together”) are vital.”

Though brand safety has always been a priority, media buyers need to quickly up their game to the next level in this new environment. A couple of months ago we never would have thought that ads showing people in social settings would compromise our brand’s reputation. Yet, we’re still seeing ads like this that were obviously made before this new era of social distancing. Similarly, “happy” ads placed alongside depressing news content feel out of place, and brands that keep doing it appear more tone deaf to the times.

Make Creative Adjustments

Now more than ever, it is important that your messages are relevant and in line with the public’s state of mind. Empathy and understanding are paramount, and you need to adjust your approach to what will resonate with the consumer during these difficult times.

Three maxims to keep in mind when updating creative:

  • Empathy – Sympathy shows sensitivity and caring; empathy recognizes and understands the situation. Without these emotional foundations, messages will appear out of touch. Here’s an example of how Lexus approached creative with empathy in mind.
  • Social norms – happy group and public settings are no longer recognized as normal life situations; “people” visuals need to be more intimate showing families, couples and individuals, not crowds.
  • New business realties – we’ll certainly be moving back to the new normal at some point, but inspiring consumers to engage online or via delivery vs. in-person makes more sense for the time being. 
  • Hope – Not everyone has a product or service that can be sold online. Millions of jobs depend on tourism, hospitality and physical retail. Las Vegas has a campaign that assures viewers that there is hope, and that they will be there when this is all over.

Content Placement Pointers

Re-thinking where your ads appear can matter as much as adjusting your creative look and feel. Americans are struggling with news fatigue and the lack of sports has driven  viewers to explore new programming. Serving more empathetic creative into family, travel, drama and movie venues will have more impact, and help to maintain positive brand perception. 

Here are a few strategies to consider around content placement: 

  • “Happy content” – Strategus can assist in the custom creation and ad placement strategies that whitelist the right inventory. 
  • Blacklist news inventory – Happy days may come again, but for now, people are burning out on news. Strategus can help control inventory targeting around negative content, including programming specific to COVID-19.
  • Geographic targeting – Coastal states have the highest COVID-19 restrictions, and carry correspondingly higher media consumption.

Lastly, sports languish in the biggest programming void in history. Good news for OTT/CTV advertising is that some professional sports leagues are pivoting to E-sports:

People want to break away from the bad news, and in doing so, are exploring and discovering new horizons in the world of digital streaming content. It’s rough sailing, but the environment is perfect for updating your programmatic OTT/CTV strategies. Strategus can work with you to develop a digital profile customized to your audience, and help you adjust your content targeting to leverage the new normal to achieve your goals.

Andy Dixon is a seasoned Content Writing Specialist at Strategus, renowned for his expertise in creating engaging and impactful digital content. With over a decade of experience in content creation, Andy has honed his skills in a variety of niches, ranging from technology and marketing to education.

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