how the pandemic has affected paid advertising strategy

2020 was a difficult year for many of us to navigate. We adjusted to new ways of living and working with industries such as hospitality, leisure and in-store retail suffering the worst of the impact. As advertisers, 2020 also challenged us to reimagine methods and adapt to fast-changing rules and behaviours.

The couch consumer

With lockdown measures forcing most of us to spend the majority of the year at home, shopping online for everything from groceries to new homes from the couch has become the norm. And as a result, consumers are spending up to 20% more time scrolling through social and gaming apps than they did in 2019.

Likewise, we’ve seen a significant rise in the number of people regularly watching television. During the first UK lockdown, adults were reportedly spending 40% of their waking hours in front of the box, with time spent on subscription streaming services doubling during April.

Despite unpredictability, these changes in behaviour have created new and interesting opportunities for advertisers, and those who’ve adapted quickly have reaped the rewards.

Adaptability is the key to successful ad campaigns

The UK’s regional tier system has meant that circumstances for businesses have had the potential to change from one day to the next, greatly impacting the way they operate and, in turn, how they target specific audiences.

With the rules around non-essential activity fluctuating throughout the country, businesses of all shapes and sizes have had to quickly reallocate budget towards digital methods, with a move away from more traditional platforms such as instore or outdoor advertising.

These changes not only impact the way businesses plan and implement campaigns. They also create the need to adjust creative output, with up to 73% of advertisers having to modify or develop new assets since the start of the pandemic.

Creating versatile ad campaigns with separate targeting for each region, and being able to add and update location-specific information according to new government guidelines, has been key to reaching the right consumers at the right time.

Plans versus planning

This pandemic has not only affected paid advertising in the short-term but is also forcing us to re-examine plans and strategies for the months ahead.

As we enter 2021 with increasing pressure to provide measurable return on investment, advertisers are drawing upon the valuable learnings of the past year, with 61% of marketers altering their short-term media strategy accordingly. However, only 9% are making long-term changes.

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that rigid plans and goal setting can often leave us back at the drawing board. In the months and years ahead, agility, preparedness, and a digital focus will be vital to delivering successful ad campaigns.

To discuss how you can begin or adapt your paid advertising strategy, reach out to us at

work of 2018

work of 2018

The last year has brought about some great and some not so great campaigns from the industry.

We always like to focus on the positives, so whilst there have been some weak efforts, we’ve highlighted the strong performers who grabbed our attention and made it to the accolade of our ‘Work of the week’ and for all those loyal hashtaggers ‘#WorkOfTheWeek‘.

But rather than reel off all of the years’ winners, we’ve distilled it down to a few of our faves. And here they are:

Long Live the Local

Long live the local was a campaign from Britain’s Beer Alliance encouraging people to sign a petition so to not increase the imposed beer tax, as well as supporting the local pubs which play a vital role in most communities.

The increased beer tax would lead to the closure of more pubs in the UK and this campaign wanted to celebrate the role pubs play in British culture, which they represented perfectly in their ad.

Nike – US Open Serena Williams

In August, ahead of the US Open, Nike released a moving ad which featured footage of a 9-year-old Serena Williams being coached by her father Richard back in 1991.

Richard Williams provides the voiceover with words of encouragement for his daughter, even saying “This is you at the U.S Open”.

The early amateur footage and more recent professional scenes with Serena playing at the US Open switch back and fore with the consistent voice over from her coach and father.

The tagline ‘It’s only crazy until you do it’ hits home as we see early efforts and dreams coming to fruition, showing that with hard work anything is possible.

Elvie – Breast Pump

Elvie’s campaign to launch the world’s first silent breast pump taps into a well-known product flaw and subsequent mockery to those in the know.

The ad highlights the colloquial comparison with mums expressing and cows milking. It features four mums dancing in a barn filled with hay singing along to a track featuring the lyrics ‘in case you noticed these are not udders”.

Elvie represents their revolutionary and discretionary product feature in a fun but factual way that busts the taboos and boosts demand for their silent solution.

Reese’s Candy Converter

Perhaps easier than ‘taking candy from a baby’ was Reese’s Candy Converter, created Stateside for the Halloween holiday.

Reese’s created a vending machine that allowed trick or treaters to swap their unwanted candy in exchange for Reese’s.

In a good old fashioned, insight-led approach, Reese’s acted upon research which found that 90% of Americans have traded or wish they could have traded their unwanted candy. If people do it, they will use it.

And as an office of Reese’s lovers, is there a better trade up than a peanut butter cup?!

Aviation Gin & Virgin Atlantic

When Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airway’s partnered with Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin, the two camera friendly ‘business’ men offered an alternative announcement video to mark the occasion.

Reynolds’ good humour allowed him to poke fun at his apparent lack of business acumen by taking a simple serving agreement to another level and announcing the ‘merger of the two companies’.

This business jargon bashing piss-take follows on from Reynolds’ refreshingly irreverent corporate comms.

So, that’s all for 2018. Keep tuned in 2019 where will bring the work that sparks our interest to the social-sphere on a weekly basis.

Follow Pretty Pragmatic on Twitter to see all the #WorkOfTheWeek winners in 2019: @PrettyPrag