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5 Tips To Pivot Your Media Plan During COVID-19

Sascha Lock, VP of Media
April 23, 2020

 

Nowadays, we’re concerned about many things: financial preparedness, getting sick, having enough toilet paper. For those working in marketing and advertising, we’re also concerned about things like shifting and rebuilding our media plans for resilience during COVID-19, an upcoming recession, and in times of volatility. It’s abundantly clear that there’s not a more necessary time than right now to pivot and protect our client’s businesses while protecting our own. But the compasses we typically use to help us plan and buy media can feel like they’re spinning.

The reality is that the rules of the media game and strategy of how to “win” have changed. Media consumption habits have seemingly changed overnight, publishers and ad exchanges have a surplus of ad inventory, but their revenue streams are hurting from things like ad suppression and blocking. And according to the IAB, a quarter of us have paused media through the end of Q2. Media planning today might feel as crazy as Joe Exotic from Tiger King, but there are ways to pivot your plans effectively without losing sanity. Here are five tips in doing so.


  1. Arm yourself with insights on consumer behaviors, channel trends, and brand reactions.

    Consumers - what are they doing and how do they feel? Did you know that 92% don’t think you should stop advertising? Watch out for topics like sentiment around your category, spending habits, content interests, and expectations from your brand or brands in your industry. 

    Channels - how is usage changing right now, and can we predict these things will stick for a while? Take note of immediate changes, like video content consumption being up by 60% and a boost in streaming numbers. Not all of these trends will remain in the long run. We will go back to our old ways once this is over, we’re commuting to work again, shopping in malls, and there are sporting events on TV. Try to understand the longevity of these trends and their implications on your current channel mix, with an eye for the future as well.

    Brands - how are brands within and outside your category reacting to the situation? And more importantly, how are 56% of those consumers who care reacting to their reactions? Observe the successes and flops, while pondering what to implement for your own brand. Live-stream something, make a statement, keep silent, or donate money to an SMB. Your actions could strengthen (or hurt) the rapport your brand has with loyal customers and prospects.

    Your agency and vendor partners can and should help with this task.
  2. Before making changes, try to extract maximum value from what you have.

    Now that you’ve armed yourself with external knowledge, it’s time to look internally and think about what’s worked for your brand in the past, if it will still work, and if so, for how long. Whether specific channels, tactics, or messages have been your workhorses or even shown promising results, you’ll want to determine if they can be salvaged, and how. 

    The ubiquity of digital in our connected lives has helped it weather storms better than other channels, for example during the last recession, which is an indicator of where your focus should be. If social has been a key e-commerce driver, you may be in luck as usage has exploded. Now may be a good time to double-down on this channel to increase frequency among your top-performing audiences.
  3. Look at your pie(chart), and at the ingredients available.

    If you weren’t considering making changes very soon, you likely wouldn’t be this far into the article. But much like a self-quarantined cook with skills (not me) can replace one ingredient for another, it’s important to know which replacements will produce something close to the original recipe. Think about the channels you’ll need to act on, and which replacements will disrupt your business the least.

    If live sports is your only reach-play, could you diversify your linear TV buy with non-sports programming, or flex into connected TV? If you’re committed to a handful of large networks like NBC and Discovery, they’d be happy to help you repurpose your inventory. Also, fire sales could be a short-term cost-efficiency hack to hitting new households and building reach. We’re predicting an insane marketplace for Q3 and Q4 2020 between $5B in political spending, $1.2B in Olympics reinvestments, and billions more in postponed sports, so now’s a good time to look in the pantry.

  4. Find opportunities in the moment. It may be a great time to do that test you’ve been putting off.

    My wife and I have delayed potty training our little girl for over a year. Guess what we’ve been doing this past week? It seems COVID-19 was the catalyst for an overdue yet impending action item, and in the same analogy, testing is critical to improving business. That same test mindset should apply right now, arguably more than ever, for business to prosper. Think about the tests you’ve been meaning to do and if now’s the right time to do them. 

    To use one example, Matched-Market tests work well when most variables are static. It may not seem like it, but right now may be a great time to do a MML: most everyone is at home (user equality across markets), and media plans have shrunk down to a handful of channels (fewer channels means less influence on clean results). And you may be able to negotiate discounts for running it as well.
  5. Reprogram your measurement strategy accordingly to track success.

    This step may sound obvious to some but shifting initial measurement strategies alongside plan shifts can be an afterthought, especially in chaotic times. As you’re thinking about making changes to your media plan, during COVID-19 or beyond, you may need to recalibrate your measurement strategy, data sources, and run feasibility checks with your measurement partners. If you’re implementing tests, ensure proper tagging is in place. Adding new partners? You may need new measurement solutions.

Hopefully, these tips will help you in pivoting your media plan. But just remember, you are not alone, and nobody has all of the answers. We’re all in the same boat. If you’d like to talk, please give us a shout, and we’d be happy to talk.

Check out the article on MediaPost.

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Lessons from Dr. Pooja Lakshmin on Burnout & Boundaries

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Ad Club’s Women’s Leadership Forum. It was inspiring to hear so many accomplished women share their knowledge and experiences with us. As a young female professional, early on in the grand scheme of my career, it was refreshing to hear about a topic nearly everyone is impacted by but few speak about: burnout. The session, poetically called The Betrayal of Burnout, was led by Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist and author specializing in women’s mental health.   Burnout is a word that feels all too familiar to many of us — especially in this past year and a half during the pandemic, where it’s been challenging to separate work life from home life when they are taking place in the same space. Dr. Lakshmin poignantly suggested the term ‘burnout’ itself exonerates a system that does not do enough to support mental health, working parents, or child care. According to Dr. Lakshmin, the most frequent response to an individual expressing burnout is “Are you going to therapy?”, or “Are you doing self-care?”. This, she claims, places the burden of responsibility onto the person, and not onto a system that is evidently flawed. Faux self-care practices like yoga, meditation and spa retreats will not solve the problems that come with burnout. Those are privileged solutions that many people do not have access to, and oftentimes are not long-term solutions. The only thing that worked for her was learning how to say no and setting proper boundaries. Below are a few important lessons that Dr. Lakshmin shared to help women set boundaries in their professional lives. The outcome? Increases in quality of work and client satisfaction are just a few of the benefits that stem from women in the workplace setting boundaries and avoiding burnout. No one is going to make the choices for you and your best interest — you must make those for yourself.  As women, Dr. Lakshmin says, we tend to put ourselves last. She warns that getting into a “martyr mode” comes with a cost. In order to truly prioritize your mental health, you need to make space for yourself. Whether it’s setting your Slack status to “Away” to take that midday walk that gives you a mental reprieve, or declining to take on a new project that would strain your already tight bandwidth  — these are the decisions we can make for our own mental health that help make us more focused while we are working and more easily unplug when we aren’t. Communicate your priorities to the people in your life.  Dr. Lakshmin encourages women to decide what your values are in your current season of life. Different seasons bring different priorities. Some seasons, she suggests, are for prioritizing your family, and some are for your professional work. You can communicate those to the people in your life. For example, if it’s important to you to have dinner with your family, then let your colleagues and clients know that you’ll be offline at 6pm. Setting those expectations creates clear boundaries your team and clients can respect. Sharing these priorities also humanizes us and can encourage our team and clients to do the same, creating a more empathetic workplace for all.  Feeling guilt does not mean you’re making the wrong choice.  Dr. Lakshmin recognizes that sometimes when we set boundaries as women, we feel a sense of guilt for putting ourselves first. In a society that conditions women to be the caretakers, this is an all too common reaction. She instead offers to think of your guilt as a faulty check engine light: just because you feel guilty does not mean something is wrong or that you’re making the wrong choice. Reframe it as building up your muscle to tolerate self-care.  Most importantly, Dr. Lakshmin reiterates, when you’re feeling burnt out, try to remind yourself this is a systemic issue. This is not something that we as women are creating for ourselves; instead, we are simply reacting to it. We must remember self-care is a verb, not a noun, and the real work is internal. We need to get our feelings out in a trusted space whether that’s with our partner, mentor, or friend. Holding those feelings inside will only work against us. Just like Dr. Lakshmin, when you take the risk to advocate for what you need and want in the workplace, you're empowering the women that are coming behind you as well as making yourself a better employee and partner to your clients. 

Most Popular House Plants Based On Search

We have all had different coping mechanisms since the pandemic began. Stuck inside, many of us realized how lifeless our living spaces were. Some of us opted to adopt a living, breathing, loveable dog (see Sean Adams’ article on the top quarantine pooches), but for many who were not ready to take that plunge – we chose another way to bring life inside. Yes, I’m talking about houseplants. Houseplants became a newfound passion for many during their days in quarantine, and existing plant parents only seemed to expand their brood. Time seemingly has ground to a halt for the past year, and new leaves on my plants remain one of the only ways I am convinced that any time has passed at all.  To a pedestrian, keeping a plant alive may seem like child’s play. However as many of us new plant enthusiasts have learned, it is anything but. Many plants are sensitive, needy, and dare I say dramatic (looking at you, polka-dot plant!). As always when in doubt about really anything at all, troubled Americans turned to Google for help in their plant-parenting journey. THE MOST POPULAR INDOOR PLANT DURING THE PANDEMIC: BATTLE OF THE PLANTS We pulled historical data for the most searched houseplant keywords to see if the supposed quarantine plant craze is real (it is), and after that we set out to determine the ultimate pandemic plant. What was the most popular indoor plant during quarantine? Read on, reader. N.B. We have done our best to account for data related to Seth Rogan’s new business “Houseplant”   First, to prove I am completely normal for acquiring over thirty plants since last March, we looked at thousands of the most searched queries for the past several years that contained the phrase “houseplant” or “house plant” (yes, it makes a difference to Google). You can see plants were enjoying some popularity in 2019, but their moment in the sun truly arrived right as quarantine began. They saw some drop off over the winter, but are on the rise again this spring. This may be because plants don’t do as great in the winter, or because this winter was particularly depressing and we could all barely take care of ourselves, let alone our plants. All in all, house plant queries increased 97% between February and May 2020, when they began to total over half a million searches per month.  So, lots of folks decided that watching plants grow was more entertaining than anything else they were doing. Any millennial could have told you that. We wanted more; we wanted to know the absolute hottest quarantine plant. We wanted to know, if put to the test, who would prevail in a(n epic) battle of the plants? MOST POPULAR HOUSE PLANTS To start our investigation, we first gathered a list of common houseplants and plugged them into our search listening tools to find out the most searched plant types. We didn’t stop there, because we wanted to know not only the most Googled house plants in general, but the one that saw the biggest spike in popularity during quarantine. Of our list of 60+ common plants, the only one that did not see an increase in search interest between March and May of 2020 was aloe vera (go figure).  The most searched overall during May of 2020 -- the height of the plant craze -- was lily of the valley, followed by orchid and snake plant.      HIGHEST QUARANTINE SEARCH INTEREST   When we looked at which plant had the most dramatic change of search volume from the pandemic, certain plants stood out.        Although searches for lily of the valley skyrocketed during quarantine (+307% from March to May!), other plants made it out better with sustained interest post-spike. Notably, snake plants (+124%) and philodendrons (+124%) have held onto their newfound popularity quite well. Begonias (+233%) and hostas (+307%) and the lily of the valley both enjoyed lots of spring interest, but searches fell off in the winter. Today, they are rising once again to easily beat 2019 numbers.  Why are people searching for these particular plants? We took a deeper dive to see what questions people ask Google about their photosynthesizing friends.   ARE LILY OF THE VALLEY POISONOUS? You may be asking yourself: How cool even is lily of the valley? In short, it’s cute, smells good and will bloom in the off season if you keep it inside. Sounds good on the surface level, but we found there may be a dark side to this sweet lil’ plant.  https://s7d1.scene7.com/is/image/terrain/53318663_000_a?$zoom2$    It turns out the most searched question related to Lily of the Valley did not have to do with their soil preferences or water schedule. Instead, searchers wanted to know: Are lily of the valley poisonous? (yikes!) Well, are they? Yes! Lilies of the valley are very poisonous to humans, dogs and cats. Do not, we repeat, do not chop up some lily of the valley for your next summer salad. If you don’t have kids, pets or you are just trying to go full Breaking Bad, Lily of the Valley might be the perfect fit for you. If your life is otherwise fulfilling and you don’t want to casually keep poison in your home, maybe consider another plant.   HOW OFTEN TO WATER SNAKE PLANT? Ah yes, the forgiving snake plant, also known as “mother in law’s tongue” (rude!), is a favorite among those who struggle to keep a pet rock happy. First-time snake plant owners want to get down to basics, (probably hoping to keep a plant alive, for once) so their most popular question was how often to water a snake plant? Snake plants like dryness and do not need much water at all. In fact, it’s more likely you will overwater your snake plant than the chances it will perish of thirst. Adjust accordingly, but a snake plant really only needs to be watered once every two weeks. Make sure you give it a good drink!    https://www.thespruce.com/thmb/3ZzeafMMYBupme3O5dodMz3uoxI=/2048x1545/filters:no_upscale():max_bytes(150000):strip_icc()/snake-plant-care-overview-1902772-04-3f69d04885af4613bf2eda197704fe20.jpg    HOW TO GROW BEGONIAS?  Begonias are hideous (I said it) yet still somehow achieved huge popularity during the initial months of quarantine. Yes, they have beautiful flowers. Yes, they come in a huge variety of size and shape. However, if you aren’t ready to wait for it to bloom (could be years if you are a mediocre plant parent), you’re gonna get real sick of looking at those misshapen crinkly hunks of leaves. Trust me.    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91awtOV4jTL._AC_SL1500_.jpg They happen to look pretty cool in this picture.   Popular questions searched about begonias are quite innocuous compared to the deathly lily of the valley. 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Anywhere a leaf grows out of is the magic spot that needs to come with your new plant cutting so it will grow new roots and can be healthy by the time you gift it as a thoughtful housewarming present to your friend. Once you’ve secured a chunk of plant that includes a node, it will have to be placed in soil or water until it grows those oh-so-important root systems. Usually after a few weeks your plant cutting will grow roots and can be replanted!   SO WHO WON THE BATTLE OF THE PLANTS? We officially decree a tie between lily of the valley and snake plants as the ultimate champions of quarantine plant battle. Although lily of the valley had stronger overall interest during the height of the plant craze, the snake plant has managed to hold on tight to its increased popularity and benefitted the most from our collective suffering. Essentially, the winners are “poison” and “an outdated joke about mothers in law.” Congratulations! Now, only one question remains: will these two plants reign supreme in 2021? We’ll have to wait and see.   A BIT ABOUT AMP SEO Every day, there are 3.5 billion Google searches about everything under the sun (including plants). Google is everyones’ most trusted adviser, strategist, and confidant. To know what people search for is to know their true concerns. After all, why would you lie to Google? And if enough people search for the same thing, our search listening tools can pick it up, and we can analyze the inner workings of American minds. By utilizing our Search Intelligence services, AMP can help you unlock a trove of valuable market intelligence data sourced directly from the Google queries of your customers. If you have an interest in analyzing search data to drive brand & business decisions or in monitoring search data on an ongoing basis for up-to-date audience insights, you may want to learn more about our SEO agency services.

Takeaways from The 2021 Women's Leadership Forum

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