Blog
Apr 1, 2020

Update: The Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Advertising Strategy

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Numerator has been actively monitoring the shifts in U.S. consumer buying behavior caused by the impact of COVID-19 by leveraging data from Numerator Insights. Along with the shifts in buying behavior, we’ve been tracking changes in print and online promotions, and adjustments made in advertisers’ media spend and messaging. 

In Numerator’s early look at the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on advertising strategy, we examined advertising impact across four select categories: disinfectants, paper towels, cold cough & sinus, and personal cleansing. The impact of the pandemic has now stretched across nearly every category, interrupting the release of many brands' planned creative ad campaigns, and resulting in a freeze of new creatives and noticeably fewer breaking ads across all media types. 

As we enter the second week of social distancing and government-mandated shelter-in-place orders, Numerator is beginning to see a rise in new, breaking creatives, many with COVID-19 related messaging. These breaking ads span across categories such as automobiles, internet-related technology, retail, restaurants and wireless communications. 

Auto Companies Offer Flexibility and Benefits

As car companies look to maintain sales throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, many are offering deferred payments and interest-free financing in their latest advertisements. With many consumers understandably nervous about finances, the promise of deferred payments gives shoppers confidence when shopping for a new car. Some companies are offering additional benefits such as complimentary OnStar and Wifi, and complimentary pickup and delivery for online shopping. 

Internet-Related Technology Emphasizes Strong and Secure Connections

With many workers shifting to remote working, internet-related technology companies like NordVPN, Bluescape, Comcast, CenturyLink, and others are changing messaging to let you know they’ll be providing strong and secure internet connections for those new to working from home. With additional increased demand on home internet from children on spring break or extended leaves from school, the demand on in-home internet will be reaching new highs with work, streaming, online school work, and video games.  

Wireless Communications Assure Reliability

Similar to internet-related technology providers, the wireless communication category seems to be very aware of the changes prompted by working from home, being out of work, and extended school closures by assuring customers that their signal strength will remain strong. Several companies have also advertised their commitment to increase data usage allotment for customers free of charge. For those looking for a new phone or accessories, messaging is encouraging online shopping and offering free delivery for online purchases.

Retailers Take a Variety of Messaging Approaches

As one of our essential businesses during this time, retail stores are releasing new advertising offering a wide range of messaging following Coronavirus. Some stores have added messaging about new store hours, increased focus on cleanliness, and commitment to maintaining product supply. If there was one overarching theme to the latest messaging released from retail stores, it would simply be that they’re here for us, or as Walmart puts it in their latest ads, “We stand with you”. 

Restaurants Pivot to Takeout and Delivery Messaging

With several states prohibiting dining-in at restaurants and fast-food chains, and consumers all over the U.S. practicing social distancing, restaurants and quick-service restaurants have been quick to pivot their messaging to focus on delivery and takeout/pick-up options. A majority of restaurants have even gone so far as to waive delivery fees to make it even easier for consumers to continue enjoying the food they’re used to. Another theme consistent throughout the latest creatives has been an increased commitment to cleanliness and hygiene, with restaurants like Burger King and Little Caesars even advertising new contactless payment and pick-up options available in their drive-throughs and stores. 


These examples are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new messaging being introduced that references the Coronavirus or changes brought on by the pandemic. Other categories with new Coronavirus messaging include airlines, beer, casinos, furniture, insurance, travel and many more. 

To help you monitor shifts and messaging in ad spend, Numerator has developed a custom attribute tracking flag in our Ad Intel solution to automatically capture advertisements featuring Coronavirus content and messaging. We have also started identifying and collecting native advertising and branded content related to COVID-19 in our Branded Content Intel platform

We will continue to provide insights and updates into what we are seeing at a market level. Please work with your Numerator Representative for brand, category or media-specific detail, or reach out to us for more information about our data and solutions.

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