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Should You Stop Advertising?

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Making it as a small business can be tough no matter the economic or social climate, and during these uncertain times, things can be especially challenging. You may be wondering if now is really the right time to be advertising.

At Hulu, we have seen that a lot of our advertisers have the same questions, and so we turned to our viewers for their perspective. The data is in, and it turns out that consumers—at least those watching Hulu—don’t have expectations of advertising coming to a halt.

We know that every dollar counts and certainly understand if advertising is on your chopping block right now—we just want to share the insights we’ve gathered from our viewers. These are simply suggestions and recommendations we’re providing to you, based on our research. Ultimately, the decision to “advertise or not to advertise” is up to you.

Let’s take a look at what Hulu viewers had to say about how their lives have been impacted during this time and how advertisers can best connect with them:

Consumers Are Craving Normalcy and Connection

Consumers are craving “outlets of normalcy” during this changing time. As people engage more with media, they seek a connection with brands and see continued advertising as a sign of normalcy. This came to light in a recent Ipsos study that focused on brand and audience messaging as well as how advertisers can optimize communications in today’s climate. The results showed that consumers still want to hear from advertisers, and they expect companies to continue communication.

Consumers Want to See How Companies are Managing the COVID-19 Situation

Hulu viewers resoundingly (99%) value companies that are jumping in to help with the COVID-19 crisis. Note that the focus was on large brands and companies, but many of the principles can be applied to small business. Below are some of the specific actions that Hulu viewers appreciate seeing large brands and companies take:

Whether donating money or services, producing personal protective equipment, or donating supplies to a food bank, 99% of Hulu viewers feel that companies should use their resources to help with the current COVID-19 crisis. One viewer shared:

I believe that the most important thing that companies should do right now is help in the effort to fight the virus. Whether that is making things for hospitals or helping every-day people cope.

Regardless of how the brand is offering charitable donations or actions, 91% of Hulu viewers agree that companies should inform people of what they are doing to combat the Coronavirus.

Companies number one priority should be the well-being and stability of customers and employees. We are all affected by this.

In addition, Hulu viewers shared that they appreciate when companies offer free shipping (75%) and discounts/promotional codes (69%) in their advertisements.

Seeing It in Action: How Restaurants Are Maintaining Connection and Shifting the Narrative

Focusing on the restaurant industry specifically, we’ve seen many brands shift their advertising narrative from encouraging customers to visit restaurants to now promoting delivery or take-out as well as ordering through the restaurant’s online services.

A recent study by EDO, Inc. provided ad effectiveness insights into how advertisers are pivoting advertising narratives during this time and how those shifts are impacting consumer engagement. This research showed that some restaurants that went dark with advertisements post March 23, 2020 (COVID-19 benchmark) have seen a dramatic decrease in their offline search engagement (i.e. uptick in search following an ad airing) than before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, several other quick service chains have redirected their advertising efforts and increased frequency post March 23, 2020. In turn, these restaurants have seen significant increases in offline search engagement.

The research also uncovered significant performance improvements in brands that are promoting offers and direct acknowledgment of lifestyle changes.

These examples show that maintaining an advertising presence, adjusting messaging, and offering discounts leads to increased brand engagement.

RECAP: What Best Practices Should Advertisers Leverage Right Now?

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting all businesses and categories differently. We acknowledge that all companies—especially small businesses—may not be able to follow these best practices at this time, but when possible, advertisers should:

  • Continue advertising to maintain a connection with their customers
  • Showcase for customers how they are helping with the COVID-19 crisis
  • Consider adjusting creative messaging to give customers discounted offers

One thing to note: This does not necessarily mean that you need to build new ads from scratch. Tweaks can be small, like adding a new voice-over or updating an end card (the final frame of your ad, often containing contact info or a call-to-action) on existing ad creative.

Now more than ever, maintaining connection with your audience is key—which is possible with our self-service Hulu Ad Manager. Creating an account to get started is easy, and you can have your video ad uploaded and ready to reach thousands of potential customers in minutes.

Take a moment—think about the data we’ve shared with you and consider how it applies to your individual situation. The bottom line is that your customers want to hear from you, and they’re looking for ways to connect. Maybe it’s today or maybe it’s further down the line, but with a few simple changes, you can create ads that will move your business forward now and in the future.


Source: Source: Hulu Huddle Effects of COVID-19 Survey, March 2020

Source: Source: Ipsos: The Creative Challenge, March 2020

Source: Source: "What Now? Consumer Behavior Amid COVID-19 and Next Steps for TV Advertisers," Edo, Inc., March 2020

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