COVID-19 Media Planning Resources

Keeping you in-the-know

This site will be used to aggregate and share information on COVID-19 and its impact on media. Channel, industry, and vendor specific news will be shared to help everyone in these uncertain times.

Industry Resources

Channels

Consideration and resources by media type

Video

Consumers are shifting more towards online activities and video viewing during the pandemic – whether shopping or watching content. With the increase in work from home and isolation, we expect both linear TV and streaming hours to rise. Nielsen predicts that video content viewing may jump 60% in U.S. homes. If you are still able to advertise, consider adjustments to your video strategy to support changes in consumer viewing habits and viewer mindsets.

  • Dayparts & Programming – Consider that more people are home during daytime hours and thus standard HUT levels and viewership patterns are likely to shift. Expect consumption of news content to increase across the board, but other programming could also see increased viewership.
  • Advanced TV – Addressable or Data Optimized linear TV can be valuable to customize messaging and tone to specific audience.
  • Streaming TV – (CTV, TVE, VOD, SVOD) If you are looking to strategically adjust TV presence, consider increasing Streaming TV allocations on broadcast or programmatic ready-to-go deals in addition to linear daypart shifts. Both avenues provide top tier content options.​

Audio

Studies show that in times of crisis, radio listening spikes upward as the need for local and national information and companionship escalates. We expect shifts in audio listening behavior as consumers project to spend less time in their cars and more time at home. If you are requesting adjustments to your audio approach, or even complete removal of radio, consider recommending increased allocations in streaming audio, including smart home devices, where listenership will likely remain stable or increase.

Regarding commercial messaging, audio partners such as iHeart Media, have offered their services to assist clients in expedited rerecording of audio spots.

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Resources: Audio Usage Trends, Programmatic Audio

Out of Home

Decreased travel will affect Out of Home impression delivery. We are working with key vendors to be able to quantify the impact of reduced travel – it will certainly vary by location and ad unit type. Operations/printing/posting lead times are not affected yet, but it is still smart to build in extra time to account for limited staffing.

In lieu of cancelling a campaign completely, consider swapping in relevant messaging, negotiate added value/MGs for later in the flight, and negotiate incentives for clients who do not cancel.

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Print

News, in print and other forms, is a hot topic right now, but still faces risk. Reference this article from Neiman Lab about the impact to the print industry as a whole.

All people want to read about is the virus, but not many advertisers want to be associated with it. The papers realize the potential severity of this crisis and are now asking what advertisers might want to do for general awareness and community support … and, at very low costs too. Below are some additional thoughts from MANSI, one of Harmelin’s key print partners:

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  • General Impact?​​​​​​​ sales, press, delivery and reporting operations at the papers are going along as usual. Almost everyone working from home except press staff, post-press staff, and drivers.
  • Delivery Interruptions? All have claimed no disruption since most are by car and single drivers with very little person-to-person interaction.
  • Newsstand sales? Most newsstand sales luckily come from retailers that are still open: grocery, convenience, gas stations, etc. This situation could change as things develop.
  • Digital traffic? WAY UP for obvious reasons.

Sports

At this time, nearly all sports have been cancelled, suspended, or postponed creating a void for both viewers and advertisers. For sponsors of any teams, leagues, etc., we cannot yet predict the long-term impact until we know better when these sports will resume. Until that time, there are no “one-size-fits-all” recommendations that can be made across all clients. Once the leagues layout how they will handle their respective seasons, whether with abbreviated seasons, shortened post-seasons, or even outright cancellations, the Harmelin Sports Marketing Team will advise on next steps. And if, as everyone hopes, seasons do do resume and games are permitted to return, assessments will be made on how best to relaunch partnerships and placements.

In the meantime, for any client that have booked spots during game broadcasts (pre/post/in-game) or any sports related programming, we recommend they consider moving these spots to other prime and news content. Regardless of the chosen daypart shift, we suggest our clients leverage heightened, shifting TV viewership across dayparts in ways that best align with their brands and customers. Our recommendation comes with a major caveat: If advertisers DO decide to stay on the air, it is imperative that their creative/message be relevant and sensitive to the viewer and the times.

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Resources: What are Basketball Viewers Watching (SambaTV), Philadelphia Sports news

Digital Display

If are able to continue advertising, there is a larger audience to reach online. Please consider if your level of comfort with adjacency to Coronavirus content. If not, we advise that you proactively target away from news content.

Social

Expect social media usage rates to skyrocket over the coming weeks as people go to popular platforms to connect with friends and family, to get news and share updates of their own, and to pass the time. We suggest specific tweaks in messaging, creative, and targeting by industry/product so that you are reaching an engaged audience in the best way possible.

Facebook – Industry and social trends

Twitter – Twitter is a platform that plays a significant role in crisis communications and it can be a powerful tool for you to communicate with your customers, employees, and the world at large. They have put together a detailed resource with suggestions about how you might approach this challenging moment. You can also stay up to date with the latest information about COVID-19 from credible, authoritative news sources and public health agencies by following their live curated coverage here.

Search

Search will become an increasing valuable medium to connect with consumers as they spend more time indoors during the crisis. This will likely cause increased online activities such as surfing, eCommerce and social engagement which is usually initiated or involve search as a pathway to a user’s desired content. Search activity is showing significant volume spikes, starting on March 14th.​​​​​​​

Google has released a Search Best Practice Guide, outlining tactics clients can use during COVID-19. Please note that Google and Bing are not allowing Coronavirus terms in keywords or ad copy. ​​​​​​​The policy is in place so that people searching for Coronavirus get the most relevant information. However, clients are still welcome to drive ads to dedicate virus content landing pages.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Google Trends has a new dedicated section for Coronavirus, including top questions asked in the US over the past week, information on which products are being searched and how demand for other categories is changing over time.

SEO/Local Listings

With companies cutting ad spend during the COVID-19 pandemic and consumers shifting their lives online, an organic presence on Google and other search engines is becoming increasingly vital for companies to effectively connect with their customers. As business shifts away from traditional commercial messages during the crisis an investment in SEO is a strategic way to leverage marketing dollars for both short-term needs and long-term shifts in consumer habits. Below are just a few specific SEO strategies to highlight.​​​​​​​​

  • Google is making important changes to the SERPs and business listings during this time. We have seen evidence that Google may be automatically marking businesses as “temporarily closed” and companies will need to reach out to GMB support (maybe on Twitter) to resolve if that’s incorrect. With the unpredictability of Google, it is important for someone to be playing close attention to changes in your online business listings that may affect your company.
  • Paid advertising is being viewed through a more skeptical lens during the crisis. Through analysis and optimization, high opportunity keywords can be prioritized for organic results to highlight key messages and content, while ads are down or not appropriate.
  • It takes time to build domain strength and organic keyword rankings. So, while much of the impact of improved SEO will be realized over time, SEO investments now will have long lasting impact, leaving businesses in much better positions when life returns to normal.

Please reference our full COVID-19 POV’s on Google My Business and Schema Mark-Up for more details.

Influencer Marketing

While there is still high adoption of influencer marketing (75% flat or increased usage) among brands, there are significant changes in how campaigns are being deployed. Almost all content creators have shifted the messaging away from promotional or strong commercial calls-to-action. At the same time, brands have been slow to follow suit. Below are a few early influencer marketing strategies and trends that we see taking shape. Please reference our full POV on Influencer Marketing and COVID-19 for more details.​

  • Small shift in dollars from mass media to influencer marketing
  • Emphasizing micro-influencers over macros influencers
  • Major change in tonality of messaging

Messaging Considerations

Be very cautious about what you during crisis times. The one thing that is abundantly clear…. if this crisis continues, advertisers must change their messaging and tone. Below are some recommendations that were offered by one PR professional, Hinda Mitchell, in a March 12th article of PR News:

  • Have a variety of materials prepared for everything from event cancellations to school closures to government orders.
  • Recognize that audiences are concerned and unsettled; communications should reflect an understanding of how audiences are feeling by focusing on corporate values.
  • Share accurate data from public health experts – and avoid drawing your own conclusions about what is safest, healthiest, etc.
  • Avoid chapter and verse restating public health recommendations – it’s better to share links to expert opinions.
  • Consider your employees. For example, what is your illness reporting and sick time protocol? How will you change your remote working policies? Will you support employees in the event that​​​​​​​ school districts close and they have to care for children at home?
  • Think about how you can assure employees that the disruption in your business will not negatively impact their jobs or the future of your business. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Messaging Thought Starters

Examples of how advertisers continue to promote the brand but remain timely, sensitive and PR-friendly

  • QSR/CPG/Retail – emphasis on delivery, convenience, shelf stable products and/or online ordering
  • Auto/Banking/Insurance – emphasis on financial aid options
  • Healthcare – emphasis on telemedicine and education about staying safe and making folks aware of tips/desired actions
  • Education – emphasis on e-learning
  • Tech – emphasis on importance of strong wifi/connectively with increase WFH and streaming
  • Online Sportsbooks – changing messaging to online casino and table games for responsible gambling play
  • Automotive – aftermarket are promoting home delivery and fleet services to help keep delivery and emergency drivers on the road.
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