Adapting Media Strategies at the Onset of a Pandemic

Name any advertiser whose plans remain untouched by COVID-19.

It seems now that it might be a ridiculous notion given where we are, but in the opening months of the year, the sentiment was less obvious, the outlook less perturbing, and the plans for what lay ahead were, for most, neatly intact.

Yet in our work with client Authority Brands, the GDC media team’s efforts in creating a dynamic media shift went well beyond being able to see a storm brewing. As the virus had yet to be confirmed on U.S. soil, the team crafted likely scenarios as to how media plans and current buys would be affected, and solutions that gave our client options and runway to make critical decisions.

Authority Brands is a corporate entity that owns and markets home service companies, including Ben Franklin Plumbing, One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning and Mister Sparky Electric, among others. Authority Brands is headquartered in Columbia, Maryland with more than 1,675 customer-facing franchise locations in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Kenya and Indonesia.

Customer facing, indeed. The majority of the companies’ business involves working in customer homes, and their brand is built around familiarity and exceptional customer service.

The plans were presented to the client, creating an open dialogue where marketing efforts and media solutions could evolve with the changing situations brought on by the pandemic and government responses.

In parallel, GDC leaned on vendor partnerships to plot quick changes and offer added value where available. This proactive and responsive approach to media planning ensured the brand’s messages about serving the community as essential businesses reached (and continue to reach) our audiences.

Here’s a rundown of some of the specific tactics involved in those early stages of the pandemic response.

  • With daily updates from media partners on the changes of media consumption due to shelter-in-place enforcements, the media team made recommendations and changes across all media vehicles.
  • For radio, shifts were made to broaden dayparts and weeks to extend reach.
  • Out-of-home buys were re-visited to cancel immediate flights as a response to reduced street traffic and shorter cancellation windows were negotiated for upcoming flights, where available, for continuing flexibility.
  • With stay-at-home orders in place and the increase of CTV use, Out-of-home dollars were shifted to increase CTV presence by extending existing flights or adding the tactic where lacking to maximize the use of space as CTV viewership increased.
  • In addition, extensive coordination measures were taken to change messaging across all media channels, address changes in protocol for radio and TV production and confirm these efforts for the client.
  • The continued efforts include close monitoring of performance by media channel, keeping an open dialogue with media partners for the most up-to-date information on competitors and the individual markets and continued collaboration with the client for business performance and key metric changes.

These actions were all the more viable due to GDC fostering long-term, meaningful vendor relationships and acting preemptively to ensure the stage was set for substantive measures.

In doing so, the actions helped mitigate loss of market impact and messaging opportunities. The team drew up meaningful metrics to inform subsequent shifts to remain nimble through the turbulent landscape.

As of this writing, the pandemic is still having immense impact on our daily lives, the economy at large and how we engage with businesses.

Amid the uncertainty, it’s all the more evident that plans must remain malleable, that building relationships pays off, and that quick strategic action can offer clients room to maneuver when stakes are high