We’ve talked about how different media is being affected by COVID-19 – but what messaging should you be putting out and should you even be advertising right now?


The short answer for the latter is ‘yes’. 


Easy for an ad agency to say, right? Well, we’ve got good reason.


Loads of brands have already created content (or repurposed it) to get lockdown/coronavirus linked messages out there.


Guinness has released some stay at home messaging – as creative, clean and simple as always:



You may have seen Virgin Media’s new advert focussing on ‘keeping people connected’ while also tipping a hat to frontline workers.

Even the gaming industry is getting involved with games like Candy Crush and Dirt Rally hosting ‘stay at home’ messages.



What can you say?


Firstly, it’s important to work within the realms of your current brand, no need to try and be super light and funny all of a sudden if that’s not you, or to be overly serious if that’s not you either.


The core tone to aim for (and it’s a good one to keep in mind in general) is honesty, openness and support. 


Reminding audiences you’re still here can be of real value. If you’re an essential service provider like Virgin Media that’s really important (how would we all work from home or share weird TikTok videos if internet providers went away??!). People need to know their broadband will stay connected. And this kind of reassurance will provide an uplift in brand affinity long after the lockdown has ended.


Add Value


But for others it may be a case of reaching out to already loyal audiences with engaging content – giving them something to do, to share, to experience in a time when they’re, at worst, frightened and, at best, bored. Loads of brands are creating content to get their audiences engaged, food brands doing cooking classes, sports brands providing exercise tips, beer brands providing pub quizzes. On-brand content. Giving back to the consumers who support them. Good for your audience, great for brand uplift and advocacy now and in the future.


Be There


Sometimes, just continuing as normal is a comfort. If all of the adverts on TV stopped all of a sudden there’d be more of a panic at the change than if you just continued your regularly scheduled ads as if it were any other day. 


That being said, it is and will not be, any other day for a little while. So be mindful of what your current messaging connotes in the current climate. If it’s not insensitive to people being stuck at home (holiday adverts, property, tourism etc.) then it’s probably a good time to run it, particularly if you’re using a media platform seeing an uplift at this time.


The point is, it’s not the end of days for your marketing plan, you just need to be dynamic. Able to react to a shifting landscape. But brands have a responsibility at this time too, to help uplift audiences, be a comfort, be socially responsible and be honest.


Opportunity for you and your audience


Some organisations will pull their media spend or suspend any marketing activity, some will do so without a choice (airlines and cruise companies for two), but others will stop because they’re running scared, unable to adjust to the changing times. This could ultimately be damaging to the brand if you weren’t there through the tough times like you were in the good and it could also be (at the risk of sounding callous) a missed opportunity.


The global audience is largely captive across a range of media platforms right now and it’s a great time to deliver the right brand messaging for most organisations and even a good time for direct sales for others (takeaway, anyone?).


This moment is an opportunity. A chance to be there for your customers, your followers and to be remembered for the positivity you delivered during this time. It will serve your brand now and in the future when we get back to whatever the new normal may be.


What to plan for


And that new normal will come. This will end, the skies will clear and you better believe that everyone will be clamoring for media space then as they attempt to relaunch their brands (another good reason to keep activity going now).


What this furore will also mean is that as demand skyrockets, so too will prices, particularly for outdoor media as out of home media owners try to recoup some of their losses during the lock-down.


So, it’s time to plan.


It’s important not to wait for the all clear or the signs from the daily corona-briefing that the lockdown is coming to an end because you’ll be left behind.


Now is the time to plan, messaging, artwork and media (in that order) ready for that moment. 




What message will your post-corona ‘relaunch’ take? Will it be celebratory, calm and supportive, excited? What do you want to achieve with the campaign? What’s the key result?




Your artwork be it video, imagery or audio (or all of them) needs to clearly, concisely and compellingly tell your story and underscore your messaging at a time it will be hard to cut through the noise of other brands shouting similar things. 


If you can keep it simple and, again, be honest, you’re much more likely to grab the attention of your key audience.




And media as we’ve said – it will be a tricky time for the media owners. Costs will be all over the place for the first few months after the lockdown ends before stabilizing and some may change permanently. 


Certain areas will be flooded with new content and others may be quieter again (radio and digital will likely see a drop in audience numbers as people head back outside and get back into their offices).


So there will be opportunities as well as challenges.


The key thing is to plan.


Speak with your agencies as soon as possible, when you know who you want to reach and why, so they can start figuring out a media plan that can be launched as quickly as possible when restrictions are lifted.


Planning early may also secure certain media types at a lower cost than we’ll see post-lockdown – particularly for out of home.


Keep going


Ultimately our advice is to not sit on your hands, be proactive now. Deliver content and messaging to your audiences now in a way that suits your brand and reminds people you’re still around and are there for them. And start planning for the future and the new normal – the earlier you adapt your marketing strategy the stronger your brand will be when all this is over. And, yes, keep advertising.


If you have any questions or need some advice give us a shout at support@hellostarling.com