COVID-19 Has Created a Crisis of Context for Advertisers

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for every industry around the globe. Amid the chaos and uncertainty, it’s become clear that our economy depends on advertising. But brands are in a tricky position. They know they can’t stop advertising if they want to reach their audiences but must also adapt to the changing environment.

Traffic has surged across the web as consumers seek dependable and reliable news sources. Teads has seen a 43% increase in news content since the first reported case of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China.

In this environment, it’s only natural that advertisers are concerned about brand safety. We’ve called on creating brand suitability standards in the past, but now more than ever, the industry needs to shift its ad targeting best practices. Our ability to support quality journalism depends on it.

Consider contextual circumstances

It goes without saying that over the course of the last five weeks, COVID-19 became the most widely read about topic across the globe. Teads saw the percentage of pages that mentioned COVID-19 increase more than ten-fold worldwide. That number continues to grow every day.

As you think about how context factors into targeting, it’s critical to consider brand suitability and safety beyond just blocking all pages that mention coronavirus. The virus is impacting many aspects of our daily lives and journalists are writing about it across multiple dimensions from entertainment to food, sports, finance and more.

The vast majority of this content is not focused on the concrete health and economic impacts, so blocking the topic entirely eliminates millions of pages of inventory with actively engaged audiences.

The words coronavirus or COVID-19 now appears next to content about the impacts on our habits, hobbies and consumption. Consumers reading this kind of content are actively engaged in making purchase decisions that will have a positive impact on their day-to-day lives.

Find opportunities in threats

Advanced contextual targeting involves semantic analysis capabilities that allow us to consider the key topics on each page with a high degree of granularity. Across industry verticals, brands can turn a threat into an opportunity.

For example, articles like, Before the coronavirus epidemic, they didn’t know how to cook. Now they are scrambling to learn or Coronavirus: 6 Workouts you can do at home to stay in shape are providing new opportunities for brands to deliver efficient messaging to engaged consumers.

Media efficiency and user engagement with ads in these contexts have performed similarly in engagement and return on ad spend (ROAS) to ads not appearing in articles about coronavirus. Using AI, we can learn new trends and behaviors that allow us to deliver those results.

As an industry, we must work towards keeping humans healthy and helping our economies rebound. Advertisers have the opportunity to do both by continuing to put ad dollars where they matter most—in credible news sources. We should not be so quick to eliminate uncomfortable or controversial topics, and instead consider if there is a use case for the right context.

Right now, consumers are reading more news than ever. Audiences are out there, and they are paying attention, brands just need to find the right messaging to reach them.