Brands that continue to advertise during a crisis generally recover more quickly, but the COVID-19 pandemic has deleted nearly all relevant data that shows them how.
That’s because brands use measurement models from previous campaigns to help execute ad buys. These models use machine learning and AI algorithms to calculate how a variety of factors drives sales. These include competition, product mix, customer service, weather, geography and advertising channels—which among desktop, mobile, social, linear TV, print and others are delivering the best return on investment.
The coronavirus pandemic, however, has made those models obsolete, as both consumer behavior and the overall economy have radically changed.
Measurement companies as a result are changing their models, incorporating new indicators while tweaking others. Google, for instance, recently began sharing data on what products consumers are searching for and where, prompting companies to now incorporate that information into their analysis. There’s also been a greater emphasis placed on location data as many businesses start to reopen their doors. Other advertising channels, meanwhile, are being weighted differently: Although out-of-home advertising is being monitored, it’s become far less important than connected TV, for example.
Some brands are analyzing weekly and even daily data—something marketers don’t normally rely on so heavily. Others are tailoring marketing messages to consumers working from home, and using A/B testing to measure results. A majority are adjusting—or even pausing—their ad spend.
“You had a series of cogs that were moving together and coronavirus threw a wrench in it,” says Nancy Smith, CEO of Analytic Partners, a measurement company with clients including McDonald’s and Scotts Miracle Gro. “Many of the models that existed are now broken because of new forces at play.”
Companies including Analytic Partners are using new and adjusted indicators to navigate the current climate. Mobility data, previously used, is now much more important, especially as states begin to reopen. Most retailers are pushing for consumers to shop online and have tweaked their strategy as a result, but a sudden spike in foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores may change that, for example.
“You need time to ensure that measurement models are accurate and you need to know what the leading indicators are,” Smith says. “Just because a client saw a surge in online shopping today doesn’t mean they will tomorrow.”
“You need to think about your business in a dynamic way, but the world is changing so quickly,” Smith adds.