Guest Post: Running Paid Advertising Campaigns in a Crisis

How to grow during a crisis opens up a thousand questions that all depend upon the unique challenges being faced. Should you change your messaging or shift your goals? Should you cut your advertising budgets or invest in testing new approaches? Is your audience open to seeing your branded content in a crisis? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer on any of these questions.
Adelina Karpenkova
March 29, 2023

How to grow during a crisis opens up a thousand questions that all depend upon the unique challenges being faced.

Should you change your messaging or shift your goals? Should you cut your advertising budgets or invest in testing new approaches? Is your audience open to seeing your branded content in a crisis? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer on any of these questions. You can’t apply a single strategy to companies that are thriving and the ones that are suffering. But we’re going to help you find the answers in this post.

How the advertising industry is affected

Running a native advertising agency, we regularly talk to our clients and know what to expect from them. With the pandemic outbreak, some brands decided to pull back and save money rather than take the risk of continuing to run their paid campaigns. Others decided to use this less competitive environment to push their marketing efforts and gain more customers. 

Why would they do this? Just think – the decline in the number of advertisers buying ads resulted in lower CPCs, allowing brands to access cheaper ad placements. Moreover, they could spend the money saved testing different creative approaches and optimizing for the future. 

So, there are definitely quite a few advantages from running ads when your competition is hesitant to do that.

Meanwhile, some categories have actually seen increased CPCs due to increased competition to reach an audience now spending more time online. This has proven especially true for many professional services, such as B2B, legal, health, etc. These companies have pushed actively to establish an online presence, and actively invested in more ads to achieve this. 

Some advertisers are already planning reviewing their pre-pandemic budgeting strategies and thinking of ways to appeal to their target audience in the post-pandemic world. It’s worth noting that brands are still unsure about what comes in the future, and the consequences of the global lockdown will be echoing long after we take off our face masks. 

Before we move on to evaluating the necessity of running a paid advertising campaign in today’s world, let’s look at the advertising statistics collected after the virus outbreak.

  • Kantar surveyed more than 35,000 consumers globally and found that only 8% of respondents thought brands should stop their advertising campaigns.
  • Also, 75% of surveyed customers said that brands should not exploit the pandemic situation to promote the brand.
  • 65% of consumers surveyed agree that how well a brand responds to the crisis will have a huge impact on their likelihood to buy that brand in the future.
  • 44% of internet users are spending longer on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • According to the Econsultancy study, 62% of marketers in the UK and 63% in the US claimed that their marketing budget commitments were delayed or needed review.
  • Marketing Week says that  60% of marketers in small businesses have revised and adapted their marketing strategies, compared to 67% in larger organizations.

These statistics tell us that the Coronavirus crisis brought marketers a reason to rethink their approaches and adapt their brand messaging. They should also consider changing consumer behavior and find new ways to reach their target audiences.

Should you run a paid advertising campaign in a crisis?

The first thing coming up to your mind for advertising when a crisis comes is how to test out the waters while minimizing your potential costs . If your offering is in high demand like sanitizers or online conferencing software, your first thought might be that this is the perfect time for your company. That’s the best-case scenario, and it’s clear enough you’ll want to figure how to actively increase your advertising budgets. 

But let’s talk about an average business owner who is seeing a drop in sales and has no clear idea of when customers’ interest in their product will bounce back. Should he or she run a paid advertising campaign? 

The short answer is ‘yes.’ A bit longer version will sound like ‘yes, if you want to be prepared for a surge in interest.’ 

Your target audience hasn’t gone anywhere. Moreover, they started to spend much more time on platforms where they can interact with your ads. Instead of going to cafes and spending time with their friends, people are reading more press, scrolling their social media feeds more often, and watching more videos. They might not be ready to buy from you right now, but they are more open to interacting with useful content than ever before. And you don’t want to miss this chance.

Focus on the longer term

As well as marketing in general, paid advertising affects your brand health in the long term. If you want to be thriving when the recovery starts, you should work on  adjusting your messaging rather than cutting your entire advertising budget. 

We should stress it’s crucial to reallocate your marketing spending. There’s no need to keep allocating your pre-pandemic budgets on current campaigns. Your goals should be revisited (we’ll talk later about it) and so should be your advertising spending. What we don’t recommend is that you lie low and waste this precious time by taking no action.

The quarantine situation taught us we should think long-term. When a crisis comes, ask yourself where you see your brand when it all passes. Do you want to use this time to generate leads and boost your online visibility? Or you’d rather let your competitors engage your prospects?

How to approach advertising in a crisis

Don’t look at advertising as a hard-sell approach. A quality ad can help you build your online presence, attract leads, or strengthen your customers’ loyalty (you don’t want to gain customers and lose them right after they make a purchase, do you?).

Here are a few steps you should take to run successful online advertising campaigns in a crisis.

Rethink your goals

Our founder at Joinative, Jonas Olausson says: “Depending on the product or service sector, customers might be holding back more than previously for real conversions, such as sales or deal creation. But people are still open to non-committal conversions such as downloads, sign-ups, or trials.”

If you can’t drive sales at the pre-pandemic scale now, you need to rethink your goals first. Shift your focus to more achievable goals – you can aim at building brand awareness or bringing in new loyal prospects – and adjust your paid campaigns accordingly.

Revisit your channels

The Coronavirus crisis has affected consumer behavior and media habits. Digital advertising channels that might have worked not so long ago can turn out to now be effective

Moreover, if you’ve set new objectives for the crisis period, It’s likely that the channels you didn’t use before will now better fit your new goals. For instance, Google Ads can be effective to drive conversions, but do you want to keep using them for brand awareness campaigns? Native advertising will be a less expensive and more appropriate technique for this goal. With a growing number of users spending their time on news websites and blogs during the Coronavirus crisis, native ads have become increasingly popular among advertisers 

Test different creatives

There are quite a few keywords that proved effective for capturing users’ attention during the pandemic. For example, 8fit, a company that offers a fitness app, started to use the ‘home training’ keyword in their headlines more often. 

As has been said, some companies took advantage of reduced CPCs to test variables they wanted to try before. It’s never late to improve your ads and start engaging more people.

Promote content that appeals to your audience

As General Manager of CMI Stephanie Stahl mentioned in this article: “Content marketing is poised to be the shining star of a brand’s marketing mix in this new world we’re living in.” With content consumption up, it’s an excellent time to boost your content marketing efforts. 

If traditional conversion-aimed landing pages don’t deliver expected results for you anymore, it’s time to not only set new goals but also develop more relevant content for your campaigns. 

Put your brand in front of more eyes while providing more value to them. Think of the ways to be useful to your audience today so that they remember about it tomorrow. Create landing pages to educate, entertain, or help them go through this crisis. With a paid content distribution campaign, you’ll reach the widest audience and achieve your brand awareness goals.

Are you running lead acquisition campaigns? Why not launch a campaign aimed at building your email list now? Offer your audience access to useful resources in exchange for their email addresses. Free ebooks, checklists, webinars, discounts on future purchases, templates – there are tons of content types you can choose from to attract your audience’s attention during the lockdown.


Whatever sector you’re in, it’s never a bad idea to run a well-thought brand building campaign. The capabilities of online ads aren’t limited to driving sales. In times of crisis, you can leverage online ads to distribute valuable content and attract more loyal prospects.

Adelina Karpenkova is a Content Marketer at Joinative.

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