COVID-19 Around the World: Three Ways the Pandemic Has Changed Social Advertising

Riikka Söderlund May 28 2020 3 PM | 3 min read

The global pandemic has changed life as we know it, and that includes marketing – both ad performance and consumer behavior around the world are different today than just three months ago. Understanding those shifts, and realigning organizational efforts to match them, has become every brand’s top priority as we continue to wade through this health and economic crisis.

We decided to examine how the pandemic has impacted the world from a marketing perspective, with a keen eye on social media's role. We asked 5,000 consumers across the globe about how they’ve used social media during the pandemic, what types of content they like to see and if social ads have impacted the way they view brands. 

Our results show exactly how different nations and demographics are reacting through different stages of the pandemic, and offer insights into how brands can navigate the new landscape to authentically connect with consumers. Here are three things we’ve learned about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed social advertising:

Initial Upheaval Quickly Resulted in Opportunities

When the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in early March, two things happened almost immediately. Most brands put an immediate pause on their ad campaigns, and lockdowns, quarantine orders and social distancing became a reality across the globe. 

With users spending more time on screens to fill their downtime, and less competition for impressions, brands who were still advertising saw exceptionally efficient campaigns at the end of March. As a result, consumers report seeing more ads from brands they have never purchased from before – especially in countries like Italy (69%) and Spain (70%), where the lockdown measures were very strict.

What’s more, users in markets hit hard by the pandemic reported a higher tolerance for engaging with ads on social media, including France (50%) and the UK (45%). This indicates an excellent opportunity for brands doing business in these countries – not only are consumers spending more time online, they’re clamoring for more content and don’t mind if it comes in the form of social ads.

Adapting to the New Normal

At the beginning of the pandemic, just over one-third of consumers expected brands to empathize with the rapidly-changing global landscape by advising them on how to stay safe during lockdown. Two months later, the picture has changed. 

Consumers in every market we polled now expect brands to serve them ads for products and services designed to help them cope with the effects of lockdown. In fact, more than 40% of consumers in several markets have valued ads that offer products and services appropriate for lockdown lifestyle. From gyms and retail outlets to ride-sharing and restaurants, people want to know how they can regain some sense of normalcy while staying safe.

eCommerce is Thriving, but All Categories Are Not Created Equal

In the U.S., Walmart reported a boom in business during the first few months of the pandemic, thanks to increased e-commerce activity. Globally, shoppers have flocked to social media as well. In fact, nearly 50% of consumers we surveyed worldwide said they purchased an item seen in a social ad within the last 30 days. 

Looking at the specific industries consumers are open to buying over the next 30 days, grocery (43%), clothing/apparel (41%) and electronics (36%) are heavy favorites. Industries that rely on freedom of movement, such as travel, tourism, and ride-sharing continue to be impacted by the pandemic. 

Industries that offer fully digital experiences like gaming, entertainment, and online education have either enjoyed a resurgence or have continued much as before, with established, devoted consumer bases that are comfortable sourcing, purchasing, and consuming online.

As the world continues to progress through the pandemic, brands should continue to convert as many offerings to digital channels as possible and look to pivot traditionally in-person activities to e-commerce.

To read more about how COVID-19 has changed social advertising, and to learn how you can adjust your paid campaign strategy to match this shift, download the full report.



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