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