Tune Up Your Ads in the Age of COVID-19

Like most people right now, you’ve probably spent the past few weeks navigating our world’s “new normal” and figuring out what the pandemic means for your brand. And you might be wondering, how do we as a brand transform our ads during a crisis like COVID-19?  Or how do we strike the right tone with our advertising?

First a few things you should understand:

  1. Marketing during a pandemic is a delicate situation. People’s focuses have changed as well as their needs. What are people more focused on right now? Maybe it’s the health and well being of themselves and their family.
  2. People are concerned. They are concerned about money and providing for themselves. They are concerned about their jobs. About staying occupied and entertained. Maybe they aren’t spending the way they were before. Or maybe they are only purchasing items that sustain themselves and their family.
  3. People are being inundated with messaging about COVID. From the news, to social media, to their inbox. How many COVID related emails did you receive from your favorite brands?
  4. Demand for your brand may remain lower until the end of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it’s going away forever. And it doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity to promote your brand right now.

What does this mean for your brand?

Be Relevant, Add Value, Entertain

A time of crisis is a great opportunity to deepen the bonds with your audience. The best ways to do that is by focusing on stories and content that will be relevant, add value, and entertain.

What’s relevant?

  • If you are open and providing a service, talk about that. That makes sense.
  • But what do you do if you aren’t in that category? Create messages based on values or tell stories of hope. The important thing to realize is that people are still engaging and measuring who you are versus who you think you are. People are still paying attention.
  • This is a great time for brands to prove who they really are.
  • Maybe the opportunity isn’t to make a sale but to draw people closer to your brand and that you are the kind of brand they can trust. When this rebounds, brands are set up with success and you will be remembered for all of the right reasons.

Don’t Go Dark

  • A lot of brands may feel like they have to. However, just because you don’t have something to sell, doesn’t mean you can’t deepen the bond with your customers.
  • Think of some other ways you can add value or entertain.
  • For example, say you’re a tattoo or piercing shop. Provide some educational content for your audience. This could include things like, how to take care of your piercings at home, how to keep your jewelry clean, or what to look out for in case of an infection. Think of things people could be googling (or not googling) and offer sound advice from your brand with your own personality.
  • Do you have a product that’s in high-demand right now? Promote it. But do it the right way. Can you move your products to shop online? Prioritizing an online shopping channel is a great way to serve your customers that are staying in.

What you’re doing right now can set the tone for your future. People are paying attention right now to how brands are carrying themselves. Be the brand you would want in your life. The kind that people can rely on and look to for leadership. Brands that do this will be set up for success.

Looking for other ways to improve your ads? We put together a 9-point inspection as a quick checklist of items you can use to monitor your advertising. It will provide you with educational resources to improve the effectiveness of your messaging. We will approach it through the lens of your radio ads, but this is true of social media, email, your website and collateral. Let’s get to it.

Inspection Point #1: Clichés

Before your message can sink in, it has to be noticed. The quickest way to get your ad ignored is to fill it with tired, commonly used clichés.

“We keep our nose to the grindstone to provide the experience you deserve.” (typical cliché, predictable, and ignored). When your message could say this… “You’d think we’ve been sniffing glue, the way our nose is stuck to the grindstone for you.” (bold opener, frameline magnetism, rhyme)

Manipulate a traditional cliché and the ad becomes more interesting.

Comb your ads for possible clichés and alter them

Inspection Point #2: Rhyme and Meter

Ever notice that a good amount of ads use rhyme? The fact that you noticed this is a good sign that it works. Rhyme, however, is just the surface paint job. The real engine of that catchy copy is the meter. Meter is the careful positioning of words to create a rhythmic pattern. A rhyme without proper meter feels off and out of place. Dr. Suess was a master of meter and rhyme. It is the meter that makes it memorable.

If you have rhyme in your ads, run it by a polished poet or advertiser. They should be able to help you identify if the meter is correct or not.

Does your ad use rhyme and/or meter in order to be more sticky

Inspection Point #3: Frameline Magnetism

This phrase was coined by advertising expert Roy H. Williams. It is when you intentionally leave something out so the listener must fill in the blank.

This is powerful because when you leave out key information you engage the imagination of the listener (dorsolateral prefrontal association area). This can make it so the listener is thinking about your ad after they hear it. This can be accomplished visually too.

Is your ad saying too much? What can you intentionally leave out?

Inspection Point #4: Frequency vs. GRPs

Some advertising schedules (for tv or radio) are built upon GRPs, or gross ratings points.

GRPs favor impressions and reach at the expense of frequency. However, frequency is the key determining factor for getting your message to sink in. You want to achieve a weekly frequency of at least 3.0 per the average listener.

Would you rather convince 10% of the people 100% of the way… or 100% of the people 10% of the way?

Is your ad schedule based on GRPs? If so you may want to revisit it.

Inspection Point #5: Setting Expectations

Imagine that you own the following three businesses. As a savvy business owner, you know you should base your advertising expectations according to the product being sold.

  • Taco Stand
  • Car Dealership
  • Mattress Store

Each of these products sell at different rates. You might eat more tacos in a month then you will buy mattresses in a lifetime. Understand how your Product Purchase Cycle effects sales. The longer the PPC the more time your advertising will need to return revenue to you.

Determine your avg. PPC to set expectations of your advertising

Inspection Point #6: Be Concise

Traditional advertising is an interruption medium. It gets this name because people chose to watch or listen to a program and the commercials are an interruption they deal with (DVR debates aside).

You typically have 30 or 60 seconds to get across your message. You’re better off focusing on one concise message than trying to say too much.

Each ad should be focused on one message. If you have multiple messages to deliver, break them out into multiple ads and create a campaign. Tie those ads together with a consistent style, voice, and musical image if you have one.

Are your ads concise or are they making multiple asks?

Inspection Point #7: Is your Music Flat?

Some people who have experienced isolated damage to the left side of their brain can no longer speak. Amazingly, they can still sing a song.

That is because language is a left-brain exercise and music is a right brain activity. If you can wrap your message in a unique piece of music, you can by-pass the point at which most ads get denied by the listener.

If the music in your ad is stock music or boring, it won’t help much. But if it is unique and memorable, you’ve created a unique Musical Image. You can also have your brand’s name sung. Check out a few examples on our website.

Can your ads be enhanced by adding unique music?

Inspection Point #8: Own your Position

Have you thought about what your position in the marketplace is? If you have, do your ads speak to that position?

A good example of this is the crowded field of plumbing. There are many plumbers in every market and saying you’re the best won’t get you far. Benjamin Franklin Plumbing says they’re the “punctual plumber”.

That makes Benjamin a good fit for people who place a high importance on punctuality. You can watch our 90 second video on positioning by clicking here.

Do your ads help to solidify a position in your market?

Inspection Point #9: Measure your Critics

When you create ads that are so boring, predictable, and typical, you will save yourself some heartache. That’s because no one will criticize your ads because no one notices them.

If you’re willing to bust through the clichés, slap broca around, and create compelling advertising… undoubtedly, someone will let you know how awful your ads are. Take this unsolicited feedback as a compliment because you know at the very least your ads aren’t being ignored.

One of our client’s gets ripped on Twitter… some of the tweets are pretty funny actually. You can read those in this post and also watch their “Mean Tweets” reply.

Do your ads receive any criticism?


The 9 Point Inspection Checklist:

1 – Check for boring clichés in your ads
2 – Are you using rhymes and meter properly?
3 – What could you leave out to make your ad interesting?
4 – Make sure your ad schedule is based on frequency
5 – Figure out your PPC and create expectations accordingly
6 – Are you sticking with only one message per ad?
7 – Take advantage of the powers of music.
8 – Do you credibly speak to a position in your marketplace?
9 – Are you praised or critiqued? Worse… are your ads ignored?

Got a question?

We’ve been selling, buying, creating and placing radio advertising for over 15 years. You can lean on us if you have questions or doubts about your current advertising strategy. Let us know what concerns you currently have and we will alleviate those for you. Just reach out to us through the link below.