Rico Chan
Jun 30, 2020

Marketing in the new normal. It doesn’t have to stop.

In times of crises, most marketers are understandably worried about brand safety. Yet when people are out of the streets and tuning in from their homes more than ever, counter-intuitive tactics and empathy could drive your brand’s message in these extraordinary times.

Engagement across digital channels is at an all-time high, and digital platforms will likely reign supreme in the next six to twelve months as we all adjust to the new normal.
Engagement across digital channels is at an all-time high, and digital platforms will likely reign supreme in the next six to twelve months as we all adjust to the new normal.

Rico Chan, co-head APAC, Verizon Media

It’s a scenario that’s all too familiar: a crisis happens, and suddenly, brand marketers go haywire, acting on knee-jerk responses and abandoning basic marketing principles in panic. Brands pull out their ad investments, understandably in an effort to communicate sensitivity towards the situation at hand, and at the very least, to avoid even a modicum of brand risk.

That said, it’s a reaction born out of reflex, and one that hardly surprises. In times when the internet can possibly amplify any sort of brand message, businesses are quick to avoid any threat to their online reputation.

And who could blame them, really? The effects of this crisis have loomed over the globe, placing various regions in tough spots. Needless to say, the massive health problem has created a domino effect on the world’s economies, forcing various businesses in precarious conditions. Tact and empathy go a long way in these times, and for many of these brands and their marketers, this has meant pulling their ad spending and marketing budgets and waiting until the storm passes. After all, no one wants to be perceived as capitalising on collective trauma.

For the most part, it does seem like a sound move, especially for businesses experiencing significant financial trouble after a global economic standstill. Brands in the travel industry, for example, are likely to continue seeing a drop in demand until the world gathers its bearings and reopens its borders. Keeping prudence and sensitivity in mind, however, this crisis could present opportunities for those willing to take the leap.

Mind the realities of the situation — mainly, that this may likely be the new normal we’re facing in the next six to twelve months, if not longer. Putting a pause on marketing spend also means retreating from publishers who release valuable content — the same credible sources of information your audience listens to, now that they are paying more attention than normal.

As we navigate through this unusual time, this doesn’t mean marketing efforts need to be paralysed as the world gets back on its feet. Take notice of how consumers think and behave during this period, and begin devising marketing strategies that are engaging, timely, and relevant.

Consumers don’t mind ‘normal advertising’ as much as you think

Marketing guru Mark Ritson has constantly discussed the concept of the ‘humble marketer’. Simply put: you, the marketer, are not the consumer. Instead of siding with your individual biases, pay attention to your market’s behaviour. Listen to what your customers are saying and doing, and act from there.

It has long been perceived that negative scenarios can cast doubt on a brand’s reputation especially when they try to advertise. Hence, it’s easy to misjudge that any form of advertising is a no-no in a crisis, such as the current one we’re in. 

That’s not what the figures are saying, though. According to the most recent market research study by Global Web Index (GWI), 52% approve of ‘normal’ ad campaigns, meaning, brand advertisements that have nothing to do with the pandemic.

It’s the same story in Southeast Asia (SEA). In Singapore, approval ranged from 51% between March 31 to April 2, to 44% between April 22 to 27. Similarly, in the Philippines, there were high approval ratings for ads ranging from 50% to 52% over the same period.

Does this mean your brand should engage in crisis-related relief efforts? Absolutely. But as it turns out, there’s nothing to fear about running your usual ad campaigns. When these campaigns are paired with premium content on a trusted media platform, it further amplifies your brand message in an authentic and relevant manner.

People approve of light-hearted content

Apparently, in the midst of increasingly negative news and an atmosphere of uncertainty, people turn to entertainment as a form of escape. Who knew?

Seriously speaking though, as people are cooped indoors and their activity limited, it’s no surprise that they look to the internet as a source of their entertainment. According to GWI’s study, an overwhelming number of people appreciate light-hearted and humorous videos and content from brands that keep them entertained. In the Philippines, this figure was at 83% between the period of March 31 to April 2, and 82% between April 22 to 27. In Singapore, this ranged from 71% to 69%.

What do these figures prove? Just because the times are more sombre doesn’t mean their content has to be. People could use some cheering up, especially from the brands they trust. Sentosa Development Corporation’s launch of Sentosa Crossing, a virtual version of Sentosa Island, allowed guests to explore the fun-filled resort island from their homes, allowing users to have fun while also inspiring them with ideas for future trips. Fitbit also grabbed the opportunity to help people feel good with its Good Moves challenge, inspiring people to keep moving even as they stayed at home.

Take advantage of sky-rocketing engagement levels

As our data shows, Southeast Asia is paying attention to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t either.

Engagement across digital channels (CTV, online editorial, native, and audio) is at an all-time high, and digital platforms will likely reign supreme in the next six to twelve months as we all adjust to the new normal.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, searches relating to COVID-19 spiked in SEA, with over 50% of overall content viewers in the region browsing COVID-19 content, particularly in Singapore and in the Philippines — proving that the pandemic is very much a hot topic in Southeast Asia as they contributed 55% and 51% of overall page views. 

Audiences from these countries certainly don’t shy away from pandemic-related content, as readers in Singapore brought a massive surge in page views on health articles, with an increase of almost 5000% for articles on diseases and medical conditions, 774% for nutrition-related content, and 1371% for articles on family health.

The Philippines has also seen a spike in similar categories, with an increase of almost 2000% in diseases and medical conditions, 5139% in nutrition, and 3526% in family health.

GWI data also shows that 64% of Singaporeans and 65% of Filipinos have been paying attention more significantly to the news.

With online penetration at an all-time high, one thing is certain. When the tide ebbs from the crisis, brands who invested in the online space and contributed their share to the economy in a time of uncertainty will remain top of mind among its audiences. If a brand wishes to remain relevant after this crisis, they need to be present now.

Tap publishers you can trust

In the age of rapid-fire content, breaking news and misinformation, the current landscape may be a potential minefield for any marketer. In the race for expanding audience reach and maximising engagement, it is essential to tap credible publishers with trusted content.

As the pandemic reached fever pitch, our platforms at Verizon Media quickly adapted to the situation, delivering content that mattered to our audiences. Yahoo News responded to the crisis by reconfiguring their page to reflect the most relevant coronavirus-related updates in the region and collaborated globally for a 24/7 live blog, as well as an update in its Weather app to provide COVID-19 stats within the region. 

Keeping in with relevant content that viewers need now, Yahoo Singapore also released a series of #staywelltogether content dedicated to well-being, work-from-home tips, parenting, online shopping, mental health, food, and tech. On Yahoo TV, we introduced new content that catered to the changing appetites. These have been popular with users, with an average 350k streams per episode on our new PWN THEM ALL web series, helping new and returning gamers get acquainted with latest games, and 1.8m streams in total on our How To Store web series featuring storage tips for common household produce for the new stay-home audience.

Utilise DSPs to help navigate the crisis

At a time when all eyes are glued to screens, marketers can seize the opportunity by tapping into reliable and optimal advertising solutions. A reputable DSP that provides a diverse yet premium range of platforms with quality and editorial-driven content eliminates the guesswork, and allows brands to focus on driving their brand message and optimise their campaigns without fear of appearing alongside offensive content.

One such trusted solution is the Verizon Media Ad Platforms, a simplified suite of intelligent advertising and publishing solutions that makes it easier for advertisers to build meaningful connections with our member base. Its powerful omnichannel platform is powered by qualified, unique, and diverse data, offering solutions for mobile, video, desktop, native, CTV, addressable TV, audio and DOOH.

Verizon Media’s DSP partners continue to see success in our working relationships that are built on trust and transparency. Our commitment and efforts to protect our partners from digital ad fraud received the Certified Against Fraud Seal from the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), a testament of the standards we uphold in the industry. We are the only platform that offers a full-funnel transparent insights and forecast tool, combining unique data sets with machine-learning optimisation, exclusive inventory and enhanced productivity features. This gives advertisers real-time results and the ability to control and manage their omnichannel programmatic strategy.

More importantly, Verizon Media’s commitment to brand safety is unparalleled as the only DSP platform to offer our advertisers 3P brand safety tools and Moat viewability for free, alongside purchasing premium, editorial-driven content that resonates with our millions of audiences worldwide. Our partners have enjoyed successful campaigns, connecting with 900 million consumers every month, paired with premium content amplification through globally recognised brands such as Yahoo, HuffPost, and TechCrunch.

In the midst of these times, marketing efforts don’t have to pause with the right partner. Contact our representatives to learn more about how our solutions can augment your campaign.


Rico Chan, co-head APAC, Verizon Media


Campaign Asia

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