Understanding ad performance is more important than ever, says Harry Davison. Here, he offers four helpful strategies for marketers to consider.

Coronavirus is affecting everything, from the routines and habits of people, to global supply chains and how businesses serve communities around the world; brand media spends and strategies have also been hit.

Some 89% of advertisers say they have taken action with their budgets in response to COVID-19, with 45% saying they have adjusted media type usage or shifted budget among media types.¹

We can’t say if the shifts in consumer habits will last beyond the current environment, so it’s important for businesses to evaluate their measurement strategies to ensure that they are gaining a true understanding of the impact of today’s conditions while avoiding developing an inaccurate view of long-term behaviour.

As businesses seek to navigate this difficult time, adapt media strategies, and determine which marketing activities are most worthwhile, gaining an accurate understanding of ad performance is more important than ever.

Here are four helpful strategies for understanding advertising performance during extraordinary circumstances and how to make the most out of marketing during this time.

1. Simplify your strategy

Evaluating your measurement strategy to adapt to today’s conditions does not mean you need to abandon your existing measurement approaches. Rather than changing course completely, consider simplifying your strategy to focus on using your organisation’s current key sources of truth. This will enable you to more quickly understand shifts and optimise your media.

2. Re-evaluate tests designed to inform future decisions

With the profound changes happening to people’s day-to-day lives, media performance is often unusual. So, when looking at insights from tests conducted during this time, consider the extent to which current conditions are impacting results. Some findings and best practices may still be able to be generalised and used to inform future business decisions while others may only be applicable now.

Shifting to short-term measurement will be key for those sectors, like FMCG, that have seen an incredible shift in buying habits among their customers. Methodologies using past sales data like econometrics may struggle to predict current campaign performance. Similarly, historical trends may not hold. Run short-term tests to keep a pulse on current consumer perception. Consider and test channel reach as this will have changed with shifting media consumption patterns.

3. Use A/B and multi-cell testing to optimise quickly

To gain a better understanding of today’s behaviours, consider running quick A/B and multi-cell tests (A/B tests with a holdout). Through measurement and learning, you can assess the impact of making adjustments in areas like audience targeting and creative presentation. This will enable you to rapidly adapt your ads, undertake changes with greater confidence, and optimise your strategy for the current environment.

For industries that were already online, they can use A/B testing to explore new audiences and refresh the creative. For those retailers which have historically carried out the majority of sales in stores, from fashion to telecoms, they will need to pivot to online sales quickly. They should use testing to decide what works and what doesn’t.

4. Consider impact by industry and marketing conditions

Various industries are facing starkly different realities during this time, with some seeing increased demand and others seeing dramatic drops. Moreover, advertising conditions vary widely by geography and customer base. Measurement strategies that compare between countries and regions should be put on hold and those that use broad benchmarks need to be carefully considered.

This means there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Advertisers should consider validating their measurement practices to confirm they are still working; ultimately, the right measurement strategy will have to be tailored to your specific goals, customers, and marketing conditions.

Now is the time to lean in to measurement

Ultimately, marketers need to embrace measurement rather than fear it. During such uncertain times, you need as much insight and data as possible to know if you’re getting it right. Testing and measurement will allow you to make data-driven decisions on where and how much to invest to get the best results.

In a crisis like this, timelines are running on weeks and months, and conditions can differ dramatically by location. Our most advanced advertisers are doubling down on short testing to help guide them at this time. Test quickly and test often to allow you to adapt your strategy as the situation changes.

If you’re looking for further guidance, Facebook has shared guidelines on how advertisers should adjust their measurement strategies to account for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in a new report, Adapting Your Ad Measurement Strategy for COVID-19 Impact.


¹ Coronavirus Effect on Advertising Report, Advertiser Perceptions Q.12 In which of the following ways has the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak impacted your recent or ongoing advertising efforts? (Base: Total Respondents)