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Why & How to Leverage Video Ads in the Wake of COVID-19

Haven’t leveraged video ads in the past? Now might be the right time to do so. Here's why and how video ads can be more impactful now more than ever.

Why & How Advertisers Should Leverage Video Ads in the Wake of Covid-19

COVID-19 has created unique challenges for consumers and businesses alike.

Businesses are looking for inexpensive ways to tap into sales.

Consumers are seeking out content, now more than ever – for various reasons.

Video just might be the intersection where those worlds collide.

If you’re a brand or an agency, and you haven’t leveraged video in the past – now might be the right time to give it a whirl.

Let’s talk about why and how video can be more impactful now than ever.

People Are Seeking Connection, Which Is Driving Them to Video Content

The pandemic has left many folks in their home with limited contact with friends and family, or just people in general, aside from phone calls, messages, and video chats.

As a result, people seem to be turning toward social media and video content in various forms as a source of entertainment, education, and (potentially) as a source of human connection.

Bloomberg reported that toward the end of March, YouTube started streaming in Standard Definition (instead of HD) to help preserve bandwidth worldwide.

This decision was made after they were asked by regulators in the EU – along with other social and streaming sites – because of increased usage.

Think with Google offered a few examples of ways that video creators can connect with audiences.

Some quick searches on Google Trends (filtering for YouTube searches) can also help you look at trends and interests relevant to your business.

Here are just a few examples of YouTube search trends that have spiked since the onset of social distancing.

Searches Around Problems & Challenges That Have Been Presented as a Result of the Pandemic

google trends youtube searches covid challenges

Searches for Content on New Hobbies, How to Do Things One’s Self & Ways to Pass the Time

google trends youtube searches covid pass the time

google trends youtube searches covid learning

What Does This Mean for Advertisers?

Consumers are turning toward video content for various topics.

There’s a good chance that your audience is on social media, consuming video content.

Taking a look at Google Trends can give you a sense of whether your audience is turning to YouTube and, more specifically, what content topics they are looking for.

Inventory Is Less Competitive: CPVs & CPMs Are Low

Clients of mine that have continued to run YouTube ads throughout the pandemic have seen increasingly lower CPVs, which have led to lower CPLs.

While conversion rates will vary by industry and advertiser, the decrease in CPVs would indicate that other advertisers are pulling out of YouTube.

Sure, this is anecdotal but Emarketer’s recent survey would seem to validate these assumptions.

The results indicated digital video has experienced some of the highest advertiser fallout of all channels, while YouTube video views have continued to increase.

(For more insights into the Emarketer studies and other marketers’ takes on COVID-19 trends and results, check out Susan Wenograd’s article, What’s Happening to Paid Media Performance During COVID-19.)

covid emarketer study

It isn’t just YouTube, though.

Advertisers are pulling out of Facebook and Instagram, as well, which are also really strong channels for promoting video.

Advertisers that I’m working with have seen 30% and greater decreases in CPM across their Facebook campaigns, leading to more exposure for less cost and, more importantly, substantial drops in CPL.

What Does That Mean for You?

If you’ve considered testing video creative in the past but shied away for fear of cost, now could be the right time.

Ad inventory is arguably cheaper than it has been in quite some time.

You have opportunities to run tests and gather data at a lower budget than it would typically require.

Creative Dos & Don’ts

There are some unique dos and don’ts that should be considered under current circumstances.

For one, nearly everyone is feeling some major changes in some, if not all, aspects of their life.

Consumers are adjusting to a new normal and learning new ways to do things.

They are dealing with the side effects of a pandemic which could include income changes, lack of social interaction, and concern for their own health as well as their loved ones’.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to be really careful with your message.

Creative Dos

Do Stay on Brand

You should revisit creatives that were running before the pandemic if you haven’t already – because the same message may not be applicable.

That said, keeping consistent with your brand tone is still important in the long term.

Do Be Empathetic

But don’t go overboard.

Be genuine.

Watch Your Tone

Things you may have said in ads before may not be the right fit, right now.

I saw an ad that mentioned a “killer event strategy.”



Even if it worked before, doublecheck your tone.

Solve a Problem

This is just good practice whether in the midst of a pandemic or not.

Let your ad show how you can help.

Creative Don’ts

Don’t Try Too Hard to Pull on the Heart Strings

Many people are using social as a way to entertain themselves and take a break from the news.

Plus, it could come off as disingenuous.

This satirical commercial shared by AdAge is a tongue-in-cheek reminder that consumers see through this type of tactic.

Don’t Use the Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt (FUD) as a Motivator

There’s enough of that going around without the help of advertisers.

Plus, recent studies have shown that viewers are seeking uplifting content.

Don’t Be Too Salesy or Capitalistic

There can be heightened sensitivity to tactics such as this, especially in times like these.

Don’t Use COVID-19 as a Promotion Strategy

Just don’t.

I saw an underwear retailer using a promotion where each pair purchased would also contribute one pair to be donated to healthcare workers on the front lines.

It was a very thinly veiled attempt to use the pandemic to push their product.

I don’t know about you but underwear isn’t something I’ve heard of doctors and nurses requesting donations of, so it also came off as disjointed and, honestly, just strange.

Worrying About Content Production? Don’t Let That Stop You

Amateur-grade content production isn’t only acceptable – it’s relatable.

I would say this almost anytime, anyway, but it is especially true right now.

There’s something about a homemade video that can come off as authentic no matter when it is produced… but right now, with so many people telecommuting, including the hosts of national talk shows, rough video content is the norm.

Still not comfortable?

YouTube recently launched a new video builder, which might be more your speed.

There are also several video production tools online that allow you to build animated videos or videos with your own existing images and B-roll.

What Does This Mean for You?

If video production has been your obstacle – don’t let that be your barrier to entry right now.

Most Importantly: Video Ads Can Work Really Well

If you can get in front of the right audience, video ads can work really well.

To keep a pulse on how your video ads are doing, monitor the performance of your video campaigns as last touch campaigns but also be sure to:

  • Create audiences of video viewers and monitor their performance.
  • Remarket video viewers that haven’t converted.
  • Monitor video campaigns’ view-through conversions.
  • Monitor branded search lift following your investment in video campaigns.

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, April 2020

Amy Bishop Owner & Marketing Consultant at Cultivative, LLC

Amy has built and implemented multichannel digital strategies for a variety of companies of all sizes from start-ups and small ...

Why & How to Leverage Video Ads in the Wake of COVID-19

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