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The Absence Of Sports Effects On Advertising

Guy Rancourt, VP of Media May 14, 2020 I miss sports – both personally and professionally – and I know I’m not alone. Those sentiments are echoed in conversations almost as frequently as you hear people say they miss seeing friends or just going out to eat. An unintentional consequence of COVID-19 is the realization of how much sports powers the advertising world. The absence of sports has thrown our marketing ecosystem into flux, and the ripple effect of canceling major sporting events is being felt across all mediums and all categories. In the short term, the loss of linear GRP’s, digital impressions and multi-platform marketing opportunities, not to mention the amount of unspent dollars freed up with these cancellations, is staggering. Countless marketers rely on the scale and platforms that events like the NCAA Tournament, professional sports seasons and the Olympics provide in order to showcase, launch and sustain their businesses. Removing these from the marketing equation is proving to be troublesome for many brands and agencies. Countless conversations, spreadsheets, flowcharts, meetings and revisions – all culminating in media plans of which sports play a major role. Poof! Gone. All for naught. But when they eventually come back this fall, what does that mean for the marketplace? It should be good news for brands and agencies. Many events have already been stricken from the 2020 calendar: the NCAA Tournament, Wimbledon, Tokyo Summer Olympics and The British Open, to name a few. While others have been postponed until later this summer and fall – NBA Basketball, NHL Hockey, Major League Baseball, The Masters, French Open, Kentucky Derby – many more still wait for their fates to be determined.  As the leagues and television partners continue their weekly dialogues around how and when they can resume play, there are countless rumors swirling about how each of them will land the plane:   Playing the NBA season at Disney World   Pushing the college football season to the spring of 2021   Sequester all MLB teams and staffs in Arizona and Florida   Eliminate NFL bye weeks to squeeze in games in the event of a delay While all of these options are up for consideration, they’re merely speculative solves until the country gets a handle on the Coronavirus. But the point here is that they are all working on solutions to resume play. Each already has mapped out countless scenarios and contingency plans to employ, once they are given the all-clear, in an effort to save their seasons. And they may all come back around the same time later this summer and into the fall. Clearly, there are more grave and consequential things going on in the world, so I do not highlight the lack of sports as the most pressing of challenges facing us. But make no mistake – the removal of sports has turned the marketing world on its head. According to Bloomberg, more than $2.5 billion dollars have been removed from the market this year already.  That’s billion, with a B.  We’re undoubtedly headed for a recession as businesses try to recover later this year and into next. We also know that production schedules for scripted entertainment will be impacted, causing delays in original programming. This will mostly affect prime time as their pilot season has been impacted the most – and who wants to invest heavily in what could be a light schedule of first-run scripted content this fall? As such, many are speculating that the sports marketplace will be flush with cash as the logical landing spot for all of those budgets. Another sellers’ market? Consider this: the back half sports schedule will be very condensed when all of these sports return. Imagine this very real scenario on November 15th: Sunday final of The Masters, followed by a National NFL window that then leads right into a World Series Game and Sunday Night Football. Talk about feast or famine. The point I’m making is that there should be a concentration of premium sports impressions in a tight window. Will there really be enough demand for this glut of sports GRP’s? Our industry is quick to say that sports – and football in particular – are mostly immune to market fluctuations. But can Madison Avenue afford to fund all of these hungry mouths this fall?  I say no, and I think brands and agencies are in store for one of the softest sports marketplaces in a long time. Even the mighty NFL shield could see dents in the armor for the first time in a long time.

Google Search Trends Insights April 2020

In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for April 2020. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. Yes, Banana Bread Did Have Its Moment There are moments in time that you will always remember. For me, I will never forget how in April 2020, “banana bread” peaked in its search interest. Although it never made the top three queries in the month of April, it did have an impressive jump in query volume in the month of April. I’m not sure it will reach these heights again, but may we always take with us the knowledge that there is a use for that browning bunch of bananas sitting on the countertop.  The Top Trending Keywords Beyond the search increase of fruit-based bread, here are the top queries we collected in April: IRS stimulus check portal- April 15th - 10,000,000+ queries Coronavirus tips - April 19th - 10,000,000+ queries NFL Draft - April 23rd - 10,000,000+ queries Coronavirus tips - April 23rd - 10,000,000+ queries Kim Jong Un - April 25th - 10,000,000+ queries Popular Google Doodle games! - April 26th - 10,000,000+ queries Google Doodles make up half of the list, the “Coronavirus tips” query was triggered on two days in April along with the Doodle and announcement that “Popular Google Doodle games!” were going to be re-released to help with everyone’s boredom on the 26th. The IRS stimulus check portal received top queries on what is normally tax day and the nation’s need for sports was sort of fulfilled with the virtual NFL Draft that began on the 23rd.  Lastly, queries about Kim Jong Un reached its peak on the 25th as there were multiple reports about his whereabouts and health condition. Where’s My Stimulus Check? People were also trying to figure out the whereabouts of their Stimulus check in April. Of the 90 phrases we recorded in April, phrases related to Stimulus checks made up 10% of them, including the one that made our 10 million club above. Here are the rest of the keywords in the order of the date they were searched: Stimulus check IRS - April 2nd - 200,000+ queries Stimulus checks deposit date - April 5th - 1,000,000+ queries  IRS stimulus portal - April 9th - 500,000+ queries Stimulus check 2020 direct deposit - April 10th - 200,000+ queries Stimulus Checks - April 13th - 5,000,000+ queries  Stimulus Check Calculator - April 14th - 500,000+ queries IRS stimulus check 2020 - April 17th - 500,000+ queries IRS stimulus payments - April 21st - 500,000+ queries It certainly makes sense that this topic had multiple entries into the top three queries throughout the month and how much the phrases varied from day to day..  It’s a reminder of how needed the financial assistance is and that having thorough online resources available for people who are seeking information is crucial. What Takes The Place Of Live Sports? If you have followed this series of posts, sports is the most popular category of the top queried phrases in past months.. If there aren’t any sports to watch, what do people search for?  Thank goodness for documentaries and NFL players coming out for retirement: The Last Dance - April 19th - 5,000,000+ queries  Rob Gronkowski - April 21st - 2,000,000+ queries  Dennis Rodman - April 26th - 2,000,000+ queries If TV ad buyers are looking for alternatives to live sports, documentaries are getting a good amount of search interest. Singing Songs On TV The top keywords in Entertainment were related to singers on television. Andrea Bocelli - April 12th - 1,000,000+ queries Disney Singalong - April 16th - 200,000+ queries One World: Together At Home - April 17th - 500,000+ queries  Eddie Vedder - April 18th -  2,000,000+ queries  Stevie Wonder - April 18th - 200,000+ queries  As we try to get through this together, the power of song is noticeable in our search queries.  Live event TV that is geared toward family viewing appears to be driving search interest. Holidays One of the things that we picked up throughout the course of this project is the popularity of non-traditional holidays. For instance, Easter is an established holiday but did you know that National Siblings Day happens every April 10th and it’s a top searched keyword for two years running? In 2019, we recorded the phrase “national siblings day” as having driven over 1 million queries – just as it did in 2020. The Google Trends chart for this phrase shows that it was slightly more popular this year: Earth Day is a more established holiday, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Let’s take a look at how popular “national siblings day” is compared to “earth day”: Although we can’t tell with absolute numbers how many more queries Earth Day (April 22nd - 2,000,000+ queries) had over National Siblings Day, we can tell directionally that it still has a while to go until it’s as popular. Both holidays have a nice year over year trend, so brand marketers should consider them for their April 2021 plan if there is an appropriate tie-in with either holiday. Thanks for reading - Until next month.  

Creating Brand Experiences While Social Distancing

Luis Infante, Creative Director April 30, 2020 The rise of experiential design over the last decade has sent ripples across the marketing landscape. We have just begun to scratch the surface of what it is and what it can achieve. In many cases, good experiential design can be more effective than traditional media. That's because audiences nowadays don’t want to be talked at – they want to be engaged with. If traditional advertising is a megaphone, think of experiential design as an open forum.  At its core, experiential design is a simple idea: a moment where a brand can connect with its audience in a personal and meaningful way. As design experts, we work to design that moment to be as impactful and memorable as possible. The principles we follow are fairly simple too, though sometimes hard to achieve: make it unique, make it engaging and make it shareable. As Jason White, Executive Creative Director at Leviathan, puts it: “Experiential design is the most effective way to intrigue audiences, because people flock to new experiences in unexpected places.” Big and loud doesn’t cut it anymore.  If it’s not remarkable, it’s invisible. Fast forward to today. Brands are still trying to connect and engage with customers in unique ways, and give them experiences worth talking about. But how does experiential design come to life in a world of self isolation and social distancing? Content vs. Experience Lately, we’ve seen endless brands, celebrities and social media users inundate our feeds with clever and click-worthy content. While most of these are awesome, they don't always fulfill the sense of community or engagement created in physical experiences. In fact, some of the best examples of experiential design are coming from people who are trying to create connections within their neighborhoods. Take, for example, the idea of Takeout Brigades. Groups of friends choose a locally owned restaurant to support through takeout, place their orders and then all meet in the restaurant's parking lot. This seemingly simple idea has all the makings of a great piece of experiential design. Unique, very engaging, and highly shareable.  Brands should take note of these kinds of ideas, and help facilitate our much needed human connections. For instance, a big box retailer brand could use their empty parking lots and create drive-in movie experiences. People gathering together in the safety of their cars, brand ambassadors delivering food from food trucks, etc. This would give the brand a captive audience to engage with and entertain for hours as well as create legitimate goodwill and connection within that community. From low tech to high tech, one platform that is ripe for brand experiences is the world of Virtual Reality. Millions of people around the world are already connected through VR headsets and using them for full-immersion experiences. From going to movie theaters together to flying star ships with their friends Star-Trek-style to attending live show recordings, they're able to use an avatar that can go anywhere and interact with anyone – all without the risk of getting infected. So far, few brands have taken the leap to this platform, but this may change in the next six months. Imagine a brand sending out a mail invitation to a VR event, where the invitation itself is a pop-out Google Cardboard headset. All consumers would need to do is insert their phone, tune in and engage in an immersive live brand experience with their friends.  So how do brands adjust their experiential design principles to fit a post-COVID-19 world? All we really need to do is proceed with empathy and tweak the priorities to meet what people need. What we value as people is changing, and we should change, too. Where before we valued bespoke adventures, now we reminisce on common experiences we took for granted. Here is how we are adjusting our principles for good experiential design to fit a post-COVID-19 world:  Make it unique and valuable Think about what people are missing most and try to find ways to achieve it. Hint: it's not always going to be another funny internet video, or another livestream (these are great, but people are seeing them in spades). It is the sense of community and being with one another that we’re craving. That's why we honk and cheer every night, or why drive-by birthday celebrations and teddy bear hunts are sweeping the nation. Thought starter: Could a brand like Netflix or Disney partner with a VR company and create legitimate movie theater experiences? Imagine giant virtual theaters filled with people from all over the world, watching and reacting to the same movie together. Make it as interactive as possible It’s hard to have a personal engagement nowadays, but adding interaction makes the sense of community and belonging that much stronger. It’s why people are waiting an hour in Starbucks drive-throughs, to have that meaningful positive interaction with their baristas. Interactive Zoom classes and livestream concerts are great, but imagine an activation that makes you leave your home and drive somewhere to take part in something bigger. Thought starter: If sports teams will be playing in empty stadiums this summer, why not create a “tailgate” brand activation outside, where people can cheer, make noise, be on kiss-cam, play mobile phone trivia, etc. – all from inside their cars? Make it about your audience, not the brand Audiences today often care more about what a brand stands for than what they sell. This is more true than ever in a post-COVID-19 world. Activations that spread goodwill will rise to the top and become memorable engagements for years to come. The likes and shares will follow. Thought starter: Imagine a hospitality brand sending out beautiful, high quality self-care kits complete with sanitation essentials, self-care products and other takeaway goodies to surprise and delight both customers and people in need. It’s safe to say experiential design will look very different in a post-COVID-19 world. Time will tell if people will be itching to go back to packed lines and concert crowds, or if they will think twice before hitting their local farmers market. One thing this pandemic has highlighted is that the sense of community and sharing of experiences is paramount to the well being of all of us. People will always have the need to gather and engage. The field is open for brands to respond by creating experiences that are unique, safe, authentic and meaningful.

Consumers Expectations For Brand Leadership Has Changed

Jacob Steinfield, Assistant Account Executive May 7, 2020 An acronym soup for breakfast: COVID, WCS, and KPIs It does not look like our distancing days are going to go anywhere soon, but even when mobility comes back – and we rise dramatically from the couch – consumer relationships with brands will have been transformed. There's some debate over habit-forming timelines. Conventionally, 21 days was the magic number needed for permanent changes to occur (based on research published in Maxwell Maltz's 1960 bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics), but more contemporary researchers have found the length closer to 66 days. Either way, our COVID journey will certainly surpass both, and we have undoubtedly developed new attitudes and conditions that will remain as the world slides back into normalcy. This is especially true in consumer expectations for brands as embedded community leaders, given the instantaneous pivot to solemn commitments to employees & customers in response to this emergency. There is a new standard for purpose from these entities: The uncountable statements of “togetherness” and ventures for collective healing will not be allowed to merely dissipate in the post-COVID era (which will not be such a binary distinction either). Learning from those who have delivered effectively and creatively in these conditions (see Light, Coors) will be imperative as consumers are more inclined than ever to use their buying power on companies whose actions and values align with their own – and uncommitted to companies who merely shouted for everyone to remember they existed. As Adweek reports from social psychologist Hillary Haley, “[People] don’t just want to be helped, they want to provide help themselves, and they’ll reward brands that act as facilitators.” Take Spotify for example. This week, they launched their Music Relief project, with a new Artist Fundraising feature that gives listeners the option to donate to their favorite artist directly or a relief initiative of their choice. Donations will be matched by Spotify up to $10M, and users are given immense freedom to provide much-needed support. During this time, our client Eastern Bank has also successfully delivered on the values of their long-standing Join Us For Good brand campaign. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, they have pledged $10 million in aid to those most affected, became founding donors and administrators for the $25 million Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund, and provided pathways for people to join them in giving efforts along the way. The brand has deep roots in local volunteering and service, with this additional leadership making it clear that commitment to their communities is not new or temporary, but endemic to their brand’s DNA.  Brands & marketers must consequently re-calibrate the levers they use to turn communication and brand identity into desired outcomes. This brings us to an important consonant jumble: WCS – What Constitutes Success? Achieving a quantifiable level of success is not a new challenge in the advertising space. The rise of digital marketing made the wide world of impact measurement a much more complicated game. Near infinite opportunities for companies to connect with people, ever-consuming throughout their day, creates a dizzying array of data points to synthesize. No longer is a sales lift or focus group – both limited by bias – the only ways to measure effects. We can see the resonance in real-time with brand recall and changes in buyer habits, and instantly tinker, AB test, and iterate. This can, however, restrict the horizon of our improvement targets in the endless pursuit of immediate incremental benefit. It is important to take a step back from your anchored campaign norms to identify larger potential opportunities, especially as messaging expectations change.   Customers are less motivated than ever by undiluted sales pitches or vague statements of pandemic camaraderie, growingly conditioned against them, and capable of tuning out through ad blockers and nearby alternative devices. Attention needs to be truly earned, and people react positively and strongly to premises that are relevant, important, and authentic to them – especially when those messages are tied to action beyond the advertising or purely-commercial realm.   As The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull reports, “[Leadership] vacuums have often been filled by brands that see social issues as an opportunity to connect with customers — especially younger ones, who want to believe that there’s a right way to spend their money.” While it may be challenging in our current circumstances to rationalize, brands are on the right track trying to compel outcomes that benefit society. In fact, consumers have growingly defined brands themselves by their social practices and philanthropic priorities. Cooperation opportunities are key for marketers to validate brands as forces of communal good, but there is a huge opportunity and need for brands to give more direction in achieving such results. While hope and community belonging are fabulous intentions, the onslaught of purpose-based messaging inundating our timelines and networks with solemn background music often do not give specific, convincing instruction to achieve these goals. This is where marrying commonly-shared desired outcomes to internal metrics of improvement can create business objectives that are sincerely important to the customer – like the aforementioned Coors activation. Coors raised spirits with a unifying metric of donating 500,000 beers, while also focusing on definitive financial impressions by contributing all merchandise profits to COVID relief efforts.  Cause-based marketing may pose difficult questions for ROI, but we can use our skills in translating data-driven insights to make cause-related messages as productive as our commerce-related ones.  To do so, marketers must re-define their KPIs – Key Performance Indicators Good marketers understand that true ROI is based on the lifetime value of your relationship with the customer, and the positive externalities that being in their network entails. To achieve such fruitful relationships, marketing initiatives must find a compelling way to demonstrate not just shared values, but a common purpose, all while facilitating ways to connect the two. Consumers understand that advertising is aimed to drive action, and when that action is one they consider worthy, it creates an association of aligned incentives. Considering the enormous challenges in global health, environmental protection, and human rights, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t be compelled to think favorably of a campaign intentionally designed to improve these worthy outcomes. Converting favorable perception into action can be a difficult task, but brands can ignite such behavior by communicating KPIs that are meaningful to both the company and consumer.  Conveying a measurable definition of success for your civic engagement program helps alleviate public concern about motives. Non-monetary KPIs can also be constructive, such as donated cans of non-perishables, volunteer hours, or shelters built. These not only create attainable goals, but valuable bonds for the company and consumers to work together toward.  To build this new type of relationship with customers, brands often partner with philanthropic organizations that have endemic popular trust. It’s a form of assuaging concerns about the integrity of their efforts. However, with hundreds of brands flooding the market with cookie-cutter COVID-19 responses, such partnerships alone cannot galvanize when consumer individuality is not recognized. Advertising is often powerful because it speaks directly to a specific need, but when a sea-of-sameness permeates throughout, that influence dissipates. To break this mold, AMP helped its client GIANT Food Stores launch the national #MoreForAll campaign, aimed to mitigate panic shopping by spreading direct, actionable instructions and driving awareness through digital conversations. Across media platforms, and with influencer help, local individuals instructed followers on ways to extend the life of their produce and urged them to be considerate of their peers. AMP was able to measure overwhelmingly positive sentiment and engagement, the topic clearly resonating with followers, and GIANT was able to see definitive reductions in over-buying. Even when the COVID-19 era subsides, there is a heightened expectation and opportunity for companies to continue to support communities. Large organizations can use their scale and connections to create value beyond their immediate spheres of influence, and engrain themselves positively into the public consciousness. When normalcy returns, brands should look at the successes of these charitable causes moving forward, and see that ROI can be earned and sustained with marketing that optimizes its positive impact on consumers’ daily lives.  Key Takeaways Brands are increasingly defined by their conduct as community leaders and responses to social needs Leading firms are developing stronger relationships with consumers by empowering buyers to make a philanthropic difference with their spending Cause-marketing is most effective when campaign KPIs are also pertinent to consumer ideals, and messaging clearly illustrates how specific actions by both parties can catalyze an outcome that is mutually rewarding.

Content Production During Quarantine: How Brands Can Keep Creating, No Studio Required

John Degray, Associate Creative Director Liz Furze, Associate Creative Director April 30, 2020 High-quality digital content has become a core pillar of marketing for modern brands. It’s how you reach new audiences, engage with your existing fans, hone your message, and express your brand’s unique values and personality. It’s how a new brand emerges from chicken-scratch on a whiteboard as a living, breathing online entity.  At AMP Agency, social content creation is our bread and butter, so to speak, and we’ve built out an in-house studio capable of producing top-notch stuff for the brands we work with, from follow-along recipe videos to stop motion lifestyle layflats to jaw-dropping beauty product photography. We learned to measure the impact of our work and evolve accordingly; we adapt to the always-shifting landscape of best practices (4:5, no, 9:16, still images, no wait, everything video!).  Then COVID-19 hit. And all of that changed. Suddenly, brands across the board have been forced to approach their content strategy from an entirely new angle. In some cases, content created months in advance might now seem irrelevant, or the entire strategy may feel off. At AMP, we’ve been challenged to create the caliber of content our clients have learned to expect from us...but without the tools and processes we’ve become accustomed to. And it’s not just an ‘AMP’ challenge. It’s an ‘everybody’ challenge.  We’ve learned a thing or two from the last few weeks of coping with this crisis as we strategize along with our clients to deliver content in a whole new way, while our studio remains dark in our Times Square office and our employees are scattered throughout New York City and beyond. Of course, we’ll all continue to adapt as the crisis and its aftermath play out. In the meantime, here are some strategic ways that brands can re-think content production during a time of uncertainty. Look Back  In a world of pay-to-play, unless your pockets are bottomless (if you’re one of those clients…call us?) there are plenty of eyes that haven’t seen your content from the past year. Chances are, lots of dollars and time went into that work. This is the perfect time to reflect on your past content calendar, assess your output, and consider how you can adapt it for right now. We always start by asking a few questions: What worked? Why did it work? Would it work again? What would need to change?  Sometimes, this solution can be as simple as resurfacing old content and running it again with refreshed copy. For Welch’s Fruit Snacks we were able to update old creative by swapping in new packaging and put the ads back into market with updated, more tonally aware copy. Or, if your past content doesn’t feel relevant now, simple edits can often help breathe new life into your existing assets—no production required. That might mean adding some updated art cards or a new text overlay. It could also mean experimenting with the ad format—can you translate older Instagram feed assets into Instagram Stories, or update a few existing ads to run as one collections unit?  When it comes to video, try combining high-performing assets or re-cutting a spot to create a new story arc. We’ve worked with recording houses to do completely remote sessions with our voice over talent to update our scripts on the fly—no sound proofing required!    Re-using content might not be the solution to all your social needs, but it’s a low-touch way to take what you’ve already done and up-cycle it into something fresh. So before you rush to create all-new everything, take some time to peruse your inventory. Just like going through your closet, you might find a piece from last season that just needs a little re-working to fit your current style. Look Inward Okay, but what if your content from last April just won’t work right now? Don’t fret. It turns out there’s a small army of passionate creators right at your fingertips…your own team.  Right now, depending on your workflow, employees may be feeling restless and eager to find new ways to contribute to business. The internet is on fire with the quarantined masses showing off their newfound love of breadmaking and their perfectly choreographed dance to Blinding Lights. Chances are your staff is discovering new skills, new passions, and new dance moves just like the rest of us. So embrace it. Encourage them. And then feature them. Has anyone internally expressed interest in creating content for you? Or are they already creating interesting content for their own personal brand? Handing the reins over to your team is an ideal way to champion some of your brand’s biggest fans. Plus, consumers love to know the insider scoop. That might mean sharing a carousel of recipes your employees are making, a video of a makeup look they’re trying out, a snap of their stay-at-home #OOTD, or a blog post on how they’re approaching childcare while working during quarantine. Feeling adventurous? Go Live. It took a pandemic for brands to really embrace Instagram’s live feature, but it’s having a moment and we are here for it. Live Q&As are a simple way to let consumers engage with your brand in a way that feels bespoke, and get to know the humans behind the brand. For example, for our coffee client Lavazza, we partnered with their in-house trainers to launch a live series around helping consumers elevate their at-home coffee experience beyond traditional drip coffee. Need more inspiration? TBWA Singapore produced a heartwarming spot for their client Ikea created exclusively with TBWA staff members. Nordstrom has done an incredible job of utilizing their internal team on Instagram TV, showing off a cocktail recipe from one of their store bartenders, a self-care tutorial with one of their beauty directors, and a yoga series with a member of their marketing team. Our own client, Sam Edelman, recently launched a weekly series called Moodboard Mondays, featuring the inspo their staff is pinning in their Instagram saves.  Chances are your staff is full of creative minds with diverse talents. Featuring them brings authenticity and humanity to your brand—and will only bring you closer to your consumer.  Look Outward  When you’ve got goals for your brand and a distinct vision for your social media feed, sometimes DIY content won’t cut it. But how can you bring outside resources in to help your brand when professional production is at a standstill? We usually see influencers as a way to reach audiences. But what if we shift to see them as micro production studios? Influencers can be extremely affordable one-person operations, capable of crafting high-quality content with the talent fees baked right in. Creators across YouTube and Instagram are accustomed to working with limited resources, often shooting at home on their own equipment. Try to find lesser-known influencers whose visual aesthetic aligns with your brand’s and partner with them to create the custom content you need. Alternatively, you might not have the resources right now to create custom content at all. That’s where your fans step in. Asking questions and creating hashtag buzz on social media isn’t just a best practice to engage your audience; it’s a way to generate more content. Take inspiration from clothing brand Maje. They use Instagram Stickers to ask questions of their audience, and then re-posts the answers with a simple image. It’s a low-lift way to show some brand personality and build affinity with their audience, and it’s something they can replicate again and again with success. You can also try setting a challenge for your audience on TikTok or elsewhere on social. For our client Just For Men, we launched the #letsgrowtogether challenge around the insight that lots of men are using this opportunity to try out the quarantine beard (some more successfully than others). We cheer them on, and re-purpose the posts we receive across social media and re-post to Instagram.  For Lavazza, we asked fans to share their WFH setup (plus their daily coffee, duh) using #LavazzaAtHome to win bags of coffee. It was a chance for us to collect images to encourage consumers to drink more Lavazza at home. We reshare those images across our channels and give fans some love at the same time. Finally, when in doubt, curate. In a recent piece on the rise of the curator, Strategy Exec Ana Andjelic writes, “Modern aspiration is not about having money to buy things, but having taste to know what to buy. That’s where human curation comes in, and why it’s increasingly considered both a differentiator in fashion, food, travel, wellness, [and] design...” In short, curation is an expression of your brand’s point of view and distinct niche. Re-posting found images and video from other sources allows for brand storytelling and can help you develop an atmosphere around your brand.  Woman-focused coworking space The Wing does an excellent job of this, posting stills from films or shows that evoke the image of a well-rounded, culturally savvy woman with a wicked sense of humor, no doubt their intended audience. See also the oft-hyped Supreme, which solidifies its NYC cred with gritty photos and footage pulled from history.  Look Good - But Not TOO Good As Creative Directors, we’ve spent years trying to elevate our brands. We labor over the minute details, from lighting to props to pantones, all in pursuit of perfect visual consistency. But that desire for spot-on perfection has been replaced with a greater need. We’re all craving authenticity, vulnerability, and honest connection more than ever. Looking at the world through brand marketing goggles feels insensitive and, frankly, inappropriate. And as a gesture of solidarity with our collective feelings of fragility, the content your brand releases right now doesn’t have to be so polished—and in fact, it shouldn’t be. Consumers have become forgiving and are willing to look past less professional production in hopes of seeing a greater impact or a more human message. If your brand is doing something important to help those affected by COVD-19, don’t be afraid of putting out an awareness video that’s not up to your normal audiovisual standards. Your audience won’t mind. At AMP, we’ve turned employees’ kitchen pantries into makeshift studios to record voice-over so brands can update their messaging quickly in the ever-evolving landscape. Sure, the sound quality isn’t flawless, but in the era of COVID, the greater sin is appearing tone deaf. And in fact, it can be really refreshing to see brands release content that has a more personal feel. Across social media, we’ve been inspired and delighted to see our favorite Sesame Street characters take to Zoom playdates (filmed on an iPhone), or the Bon Appetit gang moving from the glossy BA Test Kitchen into their own home galleys. We loved the moving montage that Facebook put together using both user-generated and photojournalistic footage to intro the Facebook Community Health Platform. This content feels all the more impactful because it reminds us that we’re all in this together—we’re all stumbling through the novelty and the inscrutability of quarantine and doing the best we can. So as a brand, don’t be afraid to let your guard down. Shoot on an iPhone. Record on your laptop. Show your consumers you’re right there with them.  And Above All… This is, admittedly, a tough time for brands—because it’s a tough time for everyone. And while we sometimes forget it, there are humans behind every brand who care and want to do right by their product, their consumers, their employees, and their society all at once.  Our ultimate advice: be genuine and provide value. Consumers are seeking meaning and action due to the heavy nature of our current cultural climate. If your brand can’t make a big splashy contribution to relief efforts, or if COVID-19 messaging just isn’t really relevant to who you are as a brand, remember it’s okay to be quiet on social media right now. Take a step back and orient your efforts toward where you can truly create impact for your brand and your consumers. That might mean focusing on customer experience or employee relationships rather than content. Just remember: if a tree falls in the woods and you don’t post an Insta story about it…it still fell.  Doubtless, the situation will continue to evolve, and so will the way we communicate as brands. Embrace the uncertainty. Let your teams be creative. Loosen the reins. And above all, be true to the soul of your brand. If you’d like to talk more about how your brand can navigate the presently murky waters of content development, we’re excited to continue the conversation. After all, murky as those waters are, we’re all floating in the same boat.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

Marketing Land Reports SEO Focus In Downturn

Marketing Land recently released an article discussing a recent survey by Conductor. The survey argued the importance of SEO during an economic downturn and had respondents from a wide range of industries including retail, healthcare and travel. Check out some of the key findings from the article below.  Key Findings Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, marketing budgets are being impacted with 65% of survey respondents reporting that their budgets will most likely be decreasing. 45% reported that their budgets would only decrease slightly while 20% noted that their budget would decrease greatly. Despite a decrease in budgets, 32% said their goals would remain the same while 36% said their goals would actually increase.  So how do you meet these goals with a reduction in budget?  The majority of survey respondents agreed that SEO would gain in importance either slightly (34%) or steeply (29%) during this time. Organic search was seen by 66% of respondents as the top performing channel last year.  When asked how a global recession would impact your marketing strategy, the top response was to lower the marketing budget. The second top response was to specifically invest in lower cost channels like SEO.  So why does all this matter?  As consumers’ behaviors shift to focus on seeking information and answers, brands should rise to meet the demands of their audiences. With a reduction of budgets from other marketing channels,  it makes sense that content creation and organic search optimization are now more important than ever to meet goals and reach/retain customers. Learn how AMP Agency can manage your organic search strategy during these challenging times and after them.

Use Community Management To Connect To Your Audience

Marketing is a multifaceted field filled with strategies, creative executions and everything in between. While all of this is important to the success of a brand, it’s also crucial that every brand maintains strong relationships with consumers – especially during uncertain times such as these. One of the best ways to help your brand’s audience feel heard and understood is by developing effective community management. Here are three ways you can leverage community management practices to successfully respond to consumers in today’s landscape. Above all, have empathy Marketing is a multifaceted field filled with strategies, creative executions and everything in between. While all of this is important to the success of a brand, it’s also crucial that every brand maintains strong relationships and communication with consumers – especially during uncertain times such as these. One of the best ways to help your brand’s audience feel heard and understood is by developing and maintaining effective community management. Here are three ways you can leverage community management practices to successfully respond to consumers in today’s landscape. Establish approved FAQ guidelines to respond to common questions and comments Many people are grappling with the same questions right now as we navigate unprecedented times. To properly address them in an informative and understanding manner, it’s important for your brand to work with internal stakeholders to create FAQ guardrails your internal team can use when answering common questions. This will help ensure consistency in your brand’s position and enables you to meet your customer’s needs more quickly by providing them with an answer.  Once these answers are in place, it’s important to continually reevaluate and adjust them when necessary. As news develops and situations change, your responses should, too. This will help ensure that your customers are receiving the latest and most accurate responses. Take a look at Apple & Eve, a brand who prepares and approves responses to common questions they receive. By crafting well-thought-out, clear answers to questions such as these, Apple & Eve is able to give consumers the information they seek with honesty and accuracy. Along with developing FAQ guidelines, establishing an escalation process is a helpful tool for managing consumer comments effectively and appropriately. Unfortunately, threatening or worrisome comments from consumers happen every day. Now that we’re living in uncertain times, heightened confusion and stress could add to these types of responses. Having an escalation process in place can enable brands to flag moments where consumer comments are a cause for concern and find ways to respond effectively and appropriately. Proactively find ways to connect with your audience As long as brands exist, consumers are certain to have questions for them. While engaging with your direct consumer base is important, it’s also beneficial to seek out opportunities that enable your brand to connect with people outside of your community. By finding ways to have positive interactions with new audiences, your brand can raise awareness in an organic way. For example, coffee brand Lavazza followed relevant coffee hashtags to find new people on social to engage with and influence their at-home coffee routines.  This approach allows brands to remain true to their purpose and current audience, while finding natural places on social to join in conversations with new consumers and add value.   All in all, by remaining empathetic, creating guidelines to respond to consumers appropriately and seeking out new ways to start conversations outside of your typical consumer base, your brand can build and maintain strong connections with consumers.

3 Tips To Tailor Your Social Content and Strategy

To be completely candid, life is weird right now. We’re all living at a greater distance from one another than usual, and we’re spending more time in digital spaces than real ones. Needless to say, our sense of normalcy is shifting – which means our approaches to social should shift, too. Here are three tips for how you can adapt what your brand is doing in the social space to effectively and appropriately respond to what’s going on in the world. Customize your approach, strategy, content and tone to the current media climate based on your unique brand and industry position When thinking through how to adapt your brand’s messaging and strategies to current events, it’s important to first acknowledge who your brand is on its own. Whether you’re a forward-focused tech company, a whimsical plant shop or an edgy clothing store, you have both a personality and knowledge about your audience that is unique to your brand and your brand alone. So take a moment to think about what that is in your case. When you have a clear sense of who your brand and you put what you know about your audience at the forefront, you can more confidently navigate the current news climate and new cultural norms to inform your communication approach.  Think about your brand’s mission, values, and place in the industry. Consider how your audience perceives your brand generally, and during these unprecedented times. Determine what unique value your brand has to offer -- if it has something meaningful to offer right now -- and ensure communication of that value is consistent across all places you show up, like your website, the press, social media, and more. As the news and culture climate shift, people swarm to social to continue the conversation, so it’s important to maintain a united front made of clear and consistent messages from your brand.   Coffee brand Lavazza is using social to share that they’ve donated over 50,000 bags of coffee to healthcare and public safety workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The brand has also adapted their messaging to reflect an at-home focus, encouraging users to showcase their at-home coffee set ups and ask their coffee questions to create opportunities for two-way engagement.  Putting insights about their audience at the center, Apple & Eve adapted their content pillars to meet new needs. For example, the brand is sharing recipes, activities and crafts parents can try at home with their kids on their Instagram. By leaning into crafts made from materials most parents already have at home and providing fun activity ideas for kids, the brand was able to adapt their social messaging to current stay-at-home lifestyles with a small adjustment to their existing strategy on their social channels. Vagisil chose to focus content on thanking essential workers, given their brand’s women’s health-related mission. Maintaining their illustrator-style Instagram posts, the brand was able to create content directly related to Coronavirus while weaving in their signature brand style and remaining true to their core values. This shows that while much is being talked about regarding Coronavirus, brands can find their unique voice and value in the conversation.  Leverage social listening and monitor competitors to keep an accurate pulse on the landscape Once you’ve determined strategically how to pivot your messaging, it’s equally important to keep a continual pulse on the cultural landscape to ensure what you’re sharing is timely and well-received. That’s why on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis, you should actively participate in both news monitoring and social listening. Doing so will cue you into what people are talking about, how they’re talking about it, and continue to identify where your brand’s voice may be able to add value. A message that feels appropriate to post or respond with one day might need to be reevaluated the next within the ever-shifting news and cultural landscape. Helpful tools like Sprout, NetBase, and Google Alerts can help inform your content reevaluation cycles.  It’s also important to note that right now, every brand is facing the challenge of navigating the new terrain that is COVID-19. So just as we should all keep up with what is being shared in the news and by consumers on social, it is imperative that your brand also tracks competitor activity in your industry as another input for understanding the current landscape. By tuning in to what other brands are doing, you can learn from their successes and missteps and better understand what consumers may be seeing or needing from brands like yours -- most importantly helping you identify the whitespace for your brand.  Experiment with new social formats and content types At the end of the day, this is new territory for all of us. We can plan and strategize to the best of our abilities, but one of the most sure-fire ways of determining what resonates most with your audience on social media is through experimentation.  Now, especially, is a time to be understanding, empathetic and real with the world on social. Leaning into more raw, authentic content that feels less polished and more organic is a strong way to reach audiences in a time where we’re all looking to connect and relate. Take late night show hosts for example. Many hosts have ditched highly produced segments to embrace DIY iPhone videos recorded at home.  Instagram is one platform that touts many tools brands can use to test out a more real and raw approach, and at the same time engage with and learn about your audience. Most notably, this includes Instagram Stories. From adding stickers and GIFs to stories to allowing polls, questions and countdowns, these various tactics can help brands feel more authentic on their social channels and create a two-way dialogue.  Additionally, Instagram Live and IGTV are other ways your brand can create longer-form content that enables connection with viewers on a deeper level. By experimenting with new social formats and content types, you can not only try new approaches and tactics to leverage on social during this difficult time, but determine what your audience most positively responds to. The proof is in the pudding. Or in this case, the engagement. We hope these three tips help you navigate shifting social for your brand. If you want to dig into any of them further, or would like to chat through other questions your brand is facing, drop us a line. Also, check out our guide to COVID-19 community management.

How COVID-19 Will Change The Video Ecosystem

Guy Rancourt, VP of Media April 23, 2020 As we all continue to adjust to the new normal, it’s fair to speculate on what the future holds for the video landscape. It’s no surprise that with most of the country confined to their homes that media consumption is up across the board – especially in linear TV and OTT. But what will these changes mean long term? As audiences are in home-confinement, they have ample time on their hands to explore all their media options. In fact, they have no choice but to fill the hours- social, streaming, television and online media usage are peaking. It’s forcing people to delve deeper into their entertainment ecosystem. It’s exposing them to linear channels and streaming platforms that, 30 days ago, were not on their radar (I even found myself watching ‘I Survived’ on something called The Justice Network). And it’s growing consumption across both paid and free OTT platforms, exposing audiences to new sources of video content. Across demos, the biggest spikes in usage are among the younger demographics, which stands to reason when you consider that they were the segment consuming the least video content prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, the average viewer is spending over than an hour more per day with the television screen (5+ hours). It’s naïve to think that the COVID-induced spikes in viewership will sustain. Hopes for maintaining the ratings bumps we are experiencing now, or even the high viewership among streaming services are not practical. Levels will naturally diminish as Americans return to work and leave their homes again. Without a doubt, the ratings increases in linear are a welcome sight after years of declines, but they are unlikely to maintain the growth given: Lack of production during the stay-at-home restrictions. New season programming, particularly in primetime, will not be ready, turning viewers away when they expect new content in the fall. The trends that were present prior to the Coronavirus outbreak (audience fragmentation, linear erosion) will not be reversed, even with the massive impact a crisis of this magnitude causes.  Will we see a ‘new normal’ of social distancing take effect after we get the all clear? Or quite the opposite- where everyone embraces the opportunity to be outside. At restaurants, the movies, the beach or just hosting get-togethers again after being denied those long-lost indulgences. Either way, they’ll be hungry for good content, as they have always been. They just might be gravitating more towards alternative sources when we emerge on the other side. All of this can only bode well for streaming services that were already on the rise pre-COVID and will likely accelerate adoption and usage. So, the need to diversify media mixes will only become more apparent and more necessary. Audiences will not abandon linear- so that will continue to be a valuable reach vehicle, integral to media mixes. But marketers need to recognize that a larger swath of the population will surely have sampled and grown used to a heavier dose of streaming video into their regular habits. Between Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Quibi, Peacock, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, not to mention free services like Pluto TV, Crackle, Tubi, etc. – they’ve never been pulled in so many directions before. Meanwhile more services are on the way from AT&T, Comcast, ViacomCBS and Discovery. Consumers are customizing their media consumption: on their terms, with the content they want to view, when they want to view it. And it makes sense for brands and agencies to follow suit.

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