Below are the top 3 questions we’re fielding from our clients about how to approach paid media planning during the current crisis and beyond. Our answers include recommendations for how to prioritize and optimize spend, establish new success metrics, and apply insights and data to inform paid media and search strategies.

1. “How should paid media plans shift to reflect new realities?”

Many brands are asking whether it makes sense to cancel, pause, accelerate, or revise their current media activity. Though longstanding best practices around precision targeting, optimization, and measurement still apply, the current upheaval that brands are facing has prompted the need for new media strategies. An effective response now hinges on several factors: rapidly changing media consumption habits, purchasing activity shifting online, and supply chain and inventory realities.


  • Scarcity: If you’re experiencing supply-chain challenges, pausing paid media may be necessary until inventory has been restored. We’re working with our clients to employ real-time geo-specific in-stock/out-of-stock data to help guide how pauses are implemented and lifted with precision. And as supply chains adjust, shifting campaigns to reflect new online restocking behaviors can ensure that your brand joins the digital cart in the future.
  • Audience-based targeting: If you’ve seen a large bump in sales, these may be attributable to new buyers switching as a result of inventory realities. Applying data sources to identify those new buyers will allow you to potentially re-message these new shoppers to retain them and build loyalty.
  • Community support: If you have goodwill messaging to share, consider switching from promotional or product-centered ads to messages that spotlight those efforts with a focus on the tangible progress that your brand is contributing to.
  • Consumer benefit: As your marketing and brand teams innovate to meet new consumer priorities, paid media support can be redirected to promote new usage occasions, product benefits, and simplified purchase options that promise real utility to consumers facing multiple new challenges.
We’re working with our clients to employ real-time geo-specific in-stock/out-of-stock data to help guide how media pauses are implemented and lifted with precision.

2. “What does media success look like right now?”

A successful media strategy hinges on how accurately your plan and messaging reflect your consumers’ current needs and priorities. How does the brand fit in their lives in this most unusual time of change and uncertainty where their day-to-day lives may look radically different than only a few weeks ago? If your brand can be a source of meaningful assistance, tap into a new priority, and solve a problem, media success hinges on showing up with the right message in the right place to communicate these benefits. In short, an agile approach to consumer understanding will ultimately guide how you allocate dollars in such a rapidly evolving environment.


  • Baseline metrics: To track effectiveness now and moving forward, identify a set of pre-COVID-19 baseline media metrics in order to assess and measure changes as behaviors and marketplace dynamics in your category change over time.
  • Vendor insights: For additional insights, tap into your media vendors, many of whom are tracking channel-specific consumption, traffic, and engagement trends.
  • Agile research: Partner with your internal insights team and external research partners. Consider a quick and efficient online survey of your consumers to gauge their current mindset and explore needs that your brand may address as they adapt to new realities and plan for the future.
  • Purchase behavior: With shopping behaviors widely affected by both stay-at-home orders and newly transformed in-store experiences, messages may need to be shifted to reinforce options such as curbside pickup and other transaction-focused changes.

3. “How should I be considering the use of search advertising right now?”

Given its effectiveness at driving conversion and its reputation as a measurable tactic in marketers’ toolboxes, we expect search to remain an essential part of brands’ media plans in a wide variety of categories. With the current shift towards ecommerce, search advertising capitalizes on consumers’ increased time researching potential purchases. In categories where scarcity is not an issue, search can also generate awareness and capitalize on consumers’ current openness to trial. And as restrictions on retail ease, an effective localized search strategy will be essential in many categories as more shoppers opt to return to store environments.


  • Optimization: With a shorter buying cycle, search advertising strategies can be easily pivoted — a benefit in such a volatile environment. Take time to assess current trends on search and social-related channels to update your keyword, copy, and bidding strategies based on new and quickly changing consumer behaviors.
  • New opportunities: Beyond assessing already-in-place search-related activity to adjust your current spend up or down, identify new keywords and searches to test on specific platforms using tools such as Pinterest TrendsGoogle Trends, and Google’s recently launched Rising Retail Categories data collection. We know that these sites provide a window into consumers’ pursuits and interests in the moment and are, therefore, essential sources of insight for a forward-thinking approach to search advertising.

New, Longer-Term Trends


With the traditional television upfronts disrupted, sports halted at least temporarily, and production studios empty, many are asking what’s next for the TV and video marketplace. A recent Nielsen report shows that streaming increased 85% from March 2019 to March 2020, with Netflix in the lead, while Google reports that YouTube TV saw a 300% increase in viewership. The behavior shift that these stats spotlight and the expected consumer reliance on streaming video moving forward have buyers considering an approach that includes more impression- and audience-based buying of digital video in addition to traditional linear TV. We expect that brands will continue to allocate more dollars to digital video leveraging attribution methodologies and audience-first buys based on brand-owned data and/or publisher data.


Recent pandemic-driven stay-at-home experiences have prompted consumers to seek out new hobbies or rekindle past pursuits. Sites like Skillshare, where consumers have access to thousands of online teachers, have seen site traffic double over the past several weeks. And seizing on the need to inspire at-home entertainment for busy families, Ikea recently released a clever campaign with instructions (no tiny Allen wrench needed) for a variety of furniture forts including a castle, wigwam, and more. We expect that brands across all verticals will act on new consumer expectations for richer content, capitalizing on this opportunity to connect in new and relevant ways.


During periods of extreme marketplace disruption, brands may be tempted to scale back innovation-focused budgets and initiatives. Yet, right now, consumers have been open to new technology experiences as evidenced by the increased usage of online grocery, live streaming, and contactless payment, across demographics. They’re also encountering brands in new contexts with fashion brands showing up in Nintendo’s wildly popular new game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Superstar rapper Travis Scott recently created a new model for music releases when he partnered with Epic Games’ Fortnight for a three-night virtual concert tour. The proliferation of novel experiences such as these and accelerated adoption of newer technologies should spur brands to consider a test-and-learn budget as must-have versus nice to have. Future-forward brands will continue to win over consumers as they adopt new behaviors. We believe that flexibility and experimentation will reap benefits in a period of rapid change.