The future of advertising

It’s safe to say that of the many industries affected by the coronavirus crisis, advertising has taken a hefty hit. Spends are down 9% across Europe, while it’s predicted that the Covid-19 could have a more significant impact on advertising than the 2008 recession.


The result? With brands spending less, some significant agencies have had to cull large numbers of staff. One report suggested 70% of agencies were considering down-sizing, while how the industry operates has been forced into question. Also, creative has been limited, shoots have been delayed, cancelled or hampered by restrictions and the days of big budgets (and flashy locations!) are long-gone for the moment.


This means that how ads are executed and where the money is spent is more important than ever. But what are the most effective ways to advertise, now?


Make sure you read the room

If there is one thing that consumers want now more than ever, it’s to be understood. Get it wrong, and it could be social media suicide. Take for example the recent ‘Keep Protecting,’ campaign from Dettol, the campaign was designed to encourage people to think about the things they’d missed during lockdown while encouraging them to stay protected as they went back to work, their commute or to school.

But cheesy copy referencing ‘watercooler conversations,’ and referring to colleagues as, ‘your second family,’ missed the mark and the mood of the moment, leading to the campaign being widely shared, but widely ridiculed on social media.

For everyone retweeting this, you may be interested to know it’s an ad for Dettol, whose manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser said just four weeks ago it was “too early to say” when its own staff would go back to the office https://t.co/1bYlLAATab

— Tom Hourigan (@TomHourigan) September 3, 2020

Because consumers want brands to feel human

The reason the Dettol campaign flopped so dramatically was that it failed to take in how people were *really* feeling about going back to work – or how they even felt about it in the first place. And this ties into the bigger picture of how consumers want brands to speak to them – as they know them.

Research shows that not only do consumers place high importance on brands sharing their values, but they also want them to feel human. Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice president and principal analyst from Forrester previously noted to The Drum, ‘We found that there were three dimensions to human communication: the emotion that is activated, a natural tone, and an empathetic approach that is personal and considerate.’

The most human brands were perceived as being friendly, responsive, thoughtful, and helpful and created and delivered communication that reflected an acute understanding of their customers’ needs and the ability to meet them successfully.’

The Dettol campaign failed because it didn’t tap into the emotion of the moment, lacked a natural tone and didn’t take into genuine consideration the mood of a nation back to work after months inside.

Put the advertising where the people are

Two areas which, perhaps unsurprisingly, have seen vast growth in 2020 are TV streaming services and gaming. The gaming industry is now predicted to be worth $159billion by the end of 2020, thanks to Covid-19. It’s also been said that two out of three gamers would instead give up their social media accounts than their gaming ones.

Therefore it goes without saying that advertisers must consider the opportunity to market their products to gamers through their various platforms. It’s previously been noted by The Drum that in-app advertising to gamers is a widely missed opportunity for many companies, even though players actively relish the opportunity to watch ads in return for in-game rewards.

Furthermore, because of the wide variety of games available, it can be easy to target ads to specific consumers or demographics. For example, football games are known to have a higher number of male players, therefore, lending themselves as a platform for more traditionally male-focused products.

Go big and out of your comfort zone

If there is one silver-lining opportunity that coronavirus crisis has allowed advertising agencies, it’s the chance to adapt, to think differently and to push the boundaries of their creativity. Brands need to be quick thinking, take for example Superdrug, who, in the face of the crisis – and decreased footfall in-store – took their magazine Dare digital in just a couple of months with the help of The River Content Group.

Other brands thought about how they could rally community spirit during the last difficult few months. Nike’s Play Inside, Play For The World campaign was simple but effective at bringing people together when they couldn’t physically be together. While other brands have upped their social game dramatically, creating shoots from home and reacting to consumers and the world around them.

Kurt Geiger, for example, recently launched their #weareonePeople Empowered campaign. A response to a call for realness from consumers and a reflection of the current climate, the shoe giant said of the campaign, ‘PEOPLE EMPOWERED embraces all that we stand for as a brand. We are one for love, freedom and kindness. We are one for diversity, equality and change. And we are one against racism.’ The first model featuring in the campaign is amputee Bernadette Hagans.

But is it time to say goodbye to print?

Undoubtedly, Covid-19 hit the media industry in a big way; with people stuck at home, advised to shop as little as possible, the sales of print publications plummeted. The Telegraph, The Times and The Guardian all furloughed or laid off staff, while glossy fashion magazine Grazia quickly adapted, moving to a fortnightly, rather than weekly, model.

With this in mind, the appetite for print advertising has dramatically decreased. What the long term effect will be, it’s too early to tell, but it’s safe to say that with digital consumption continuing to grow, it may well be time to say goodbye to traditional print advertising.


Olivia Foster is a freelance writer and content producer specialising in fashion, entertainment and women’s lifestyle. She has written for Grazia, Marie Claire, and Stylist.