How brand lift has been affected by the pandemic

Anders Lithner 2020-10-20

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Brand Metrics delivers brand lift metrics for 30+ major publishers worldwide, measuring hundreds of campaigns every month. Taken together, this data provides unique insight on the impact of Covid-19 on the digital ad market. As potential second lockdowns also loom in some markets, all the more reason we should understand fully the impact of the past six months.

Here are the five most vital trends we observed:

1. Campaign Volumes Down, Then Rebound

Brand Metrics saw a clear drop off in the number of active campaigns in April and May. As expected, advertisers paused activity or delayed potential new campaigns – indeed, during May, we measured half the number of campaigns covered during March.

March April May June July August September
100 66 51 62 67 76 78
This table illustrates the volume of campaigns measured via Brand Metrics over the last 6 months, expressed as indexes and using March as the base.

2. Shift in Advertisers Active

Alongside this, Brand Metrics noted a pronounced change in the volume of advertiser campaigns by category over the past six months.

Traditional heavy spenders in brand advertising, such as automotive, banking, travel and the beauty sector, all saw a declining share versus all measured campaigns. Meanwhile, categories more relevant to lockdown living, such as consumer electronics and media, have seen relative growth.

measured campaigns chart

Looking further into this dataset, there are again signs that the digital ad market is gradually returning to normal. The above graph shows the share of all measured campaigns associated with three categories: events/entertainment, authorities and groceries.

As it shows, when the pandemic first hit, event advertisers paused spend, while grocery advertisers increased their activity. Then, a few months in, authorities became a more important advertiser category. Entering autumn, activity levels are pretty much back to their pre-lockdown state.

3. Consistent Lockdown Spend Vs. Brand Awareness Growth

For every campaign we measure at Brand Metrics, ‘brand standings’ are calculated. In other words, we look at the base level of awareness from which all brand lift occurs.

Looking at this metric across the 4,000 or so campaigns we measured during the past six months, we see how the average level of awareness generated by campaigns has changed during lockdown. The table below shows this trend, again using March as index 100.

March April May June July August September
100 107 109 110 102 96 100

Just as the number of campaigns decreased over this period, the average level of brand awareness grew – by the end of June, it was 10% higher than in March.

The biggest reason for this perhaps is that larger advertisers proved more resilient, often maintaining their advertising spend during lockdown.

It also supports the often-quoted theory around the benefits of maintaining advertising during a downturn, as a future investment in the brand. Creating brand impact is also clearly easier when there are fewer advertisers to compete with. Again though, these patterns have also returned to their former levels.

4. Higher Action Intent for Consistent Advertisers

At Brand Metrics, we also capture ‘brand standings’ for three other metrics across every campaign: consideration, preference and action intent. The impact on the latter - ‘action intent’ was particularly notable over the past six months.

March April May June July August September
100 119 127 115 103 100 98

Far from declining, which might have been expected at a time when the world was in a state of paralysis, there was a steady increase in the base levels of action intent for those brands who continued to advertise.

In May, action intent was on average 27% higher than March, a reminder of the importance of remaining top of mind when people emerge from lockdown and their intent turns to action.

We are now entering a period where advertising activity is arguably returning to pre-Corona levels. Those brands which remained active in the quieter lockdown period are more top of mind and can now reap the benefits.

5. Reasons to Be Cheerful

After a few weeks of great uncertainty and concern for the future, we have been heartened by the number of publishers since reporting positive conversations with advertisers. Not to mention also their desire to measure the true impact of their campaigns.

Brand Metrics has never been busier, seeing our own client base grow by 30 per cent during lockdown, which is of course good for us - but also, we hope, a positive sign for the broader publishing industry at large.

It is a sign that advertisers continue to value high quality, professional content and environments. But also, that they see the key importance of measuring the true impact of the campaigns that take place within them.

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