The digital advertising industry has a history of beating the odds. While it was yet in its infancy, it survived the 2001 Dotcom crash. Seven years later, it breezed through the 2008 financial crisis.
In 2008 it seemed like the world was falling apart. The stock market fell off a cliff; a decade of growth was wiped away in an instant and global trade ground to a halt. Venerable business foundered and sank into the abyss as employees in previously highly-paid positions found themselves jobless.
This was just 12 years ago.
While other industries lost 100-year-old titans (Lehman Brothers, etc.) and others had no recourse but massive government bailouts (General Motors, etc.), the digital advertising industry not only survived but grew.
The crisis but slightly hampered its growth, and things were back to full-steam-ahead the following year.
But those crises were more traditional. They had precedents. Black Thursday, Black Tuesday, Black Monday – the global economy is no stranger to sudden financial crises.
Regulators and businesses have always come away having learned something, and preparations were always made for the next one. No one ever believed that there wouldn’t be another crash.
But few were ready for a sudden global economic slowdown caused by a pandemic – a global emergency that would close borders, bars, and other businesses across most of the developed world.
That’s something new. The globalized world has never been put under such strain, and it’s frightening businesses in even the most developed and stable economies.
But for digital advertisers, for adtech, for affiliate marketers: have no fear!*
*At least not for business, please take the appropriate precautions regarding your health!
Table of Contents
- The Situation
- They’re on the Web
- How to win in bad times
- What not to do
In a rush? Skip straight to our tl;dr here!
Having started as a small outbreak in a Chinese city that few had ever heard of and now grown into a global pandemic, “Coronavirus” or Covid-19 has sprung onto the world stage in what feels like no time at all.
And it has made a splash.
As of writing this, Italy, Spain, and France have all imposed various levels of home confinement on the entire population. Police are patrolling borders that haven’t been closed in decades (such as the Franco-German border). In some cases, it’s the army manning the post.
Recently, the EU has closed its external borders for 30 days.
The list of measures taken against the virus is getting longer as I write this. But the effects of these measures are quite uniform.
They prevent people from moving about and having contact with one another.
And so what are people all over Italy, France, Spain, and much of the United States doing while they’re in confinement and can’t go to the office or the pub?
They’re on the internet.
Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?
Between the lockdowns, shelter at home, social distancing, and confinement at home, a lot of things are happening right now that are negatively affecting the vast majority of industries and certainly the economy as a whole.
However, at least in the short and mid-term (more on the long-term later), the digital advertising industry as a whole is actually in a pretty good place.
As more and more people have nothing but time to kill, they are going to be spending an ever-greater portion of their day online.
They’re going to be looking at more sites, watching more TV, reading more, news, and – crucially – clicking more ads.
In fact, so many people are online now that digital services companies with high bandwidth overhead, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, have had to reduce streaming quality in some regions!
These regions being, for the most part, European since the Continent has become the epicenter of the outbreak.
Facebook and Disney Plus have also recently announced streaming limitations in certain areas because of corona-related bandwidth-limitations.
As you can see, this isn’t just a case of some people spending more time on the internet – it’s a tidal wave of users the likes of which even the largest tech companies in the world had never imagined.
How to win in bad times
As the exodus out of the office and back to the home continues, traffic across the board is up, and for digital advertisers, that means opportunity.
And there’s no reason to let this opportunity pass you by! So here are some of the best ways to monetize this surge in online traffic and engagement.
With the coronavirus crisis, many people are finding that their traditional means of entertainment are no longer available. Not only are things like bars and movie theaters closed all over the world, but even professional sports matches are canceled.
So, even just watching the game at home on your couch is off the table!
What this means is that the need for new entertainment is twofold. Not only do tens of millions of people suddenly find themselves with significantly more time to kill, but most of their means of entertainment have also been shutdown!
No football, no soccer, no basketball – they even delayed the Olympics for a year!
So this is an excellent time to run campaigns selling entertainment products. Video-on-Demand has been doing particularly well for us here at Mobinner.
To continue in the vein of entertainment, gaming applications – on both mobile and desktop – are extremely hot right now for the same reason as streaming sites. There are fewer ways to entertain oneself, so consumers are on the hunt for new ones.
We’ve been doing very well with branded desktop games (both download and in-browser) as well as mobile gaming apps.
- Delivery Apps
This is another massive opportunity for digital marketers and affiliates right now. It might even be a more significant opportunity than entertainment and gaming offers.
Consumers are afraid (and in some cases, unable) to go to the store right now to their normal shopping. In certain places, it is actually illegal for people above a certain age!
While there was a pre-lockdown rush to stock up, most people will still need to get items from the store on a regular basis.
For those who are not allowed to go shopping or who are simply in groups considered at risk, many are choosing to use delivery services. Services like Grubhub, Wolt, Bolt Food, Foodora, Über Eats, etc. have existed for some time, but have enjoyed a veritable renaissance with the advent of coronavirus.
Likewise, in many cities all over the world, restaurants have been forced to close and offer only take-out service to limit the spread of the virus.
All of these factors combined have led to a surge in demand for delivery services. These offers will likely never convert so easily as they are now!
- Home Fitness
Another very hot vertical right now that isn’t getting as much attention as it deserves is Home Fitness. One of the first things to close in most cities were gyms as they were rightly seen as a place of transmission for the virus. In many cities, especially in Europe, even going outside to jog is being heavily restricted.
However, many people still want to workout. However, since they’re stuck at home, there is a lot less equipment (if any) available for their workout.
So, for the most part, they’ll be stuck doing bodyweight exercises. But doing just pushups and situps can get boring fast. That’s why there are a plethora of apps available that help direct, track, and spice up home workout routines.
Advertising these apps will likely never be easier than it is now.
- Online groceries
Unlike food delivery services, which are just an intermediary between you and a traditional restaurant or grocery store, online grocery services wholly replace the store.
They’re online marketplaces for food – both fresh and nonperishable. And they’ve never had more appeal.
The catch is that online grocery services (think FreshDirect) aren’t available everywhere do the nature of what is being shipped.
So if you’re going to try and advertise these offers, it’s going to involve a lot more care insofar as targetting as they tend to only be available in major cities in the West.
That said, it is major cities that have been the most affected by the virus.
Opportunity is everywhere
These are just some of the kinds of offers that are boosting the digital marketing space right now in a time of general economic retreat.
But there are many, many more digital services and products that enjoying a substantial boost thanks to coronavirus. Think about all the people that now have to work from home, all the kids and students that have to study and learn at home.
There’s an enormous number of services that are designed to make working and studying at home easier and more accessible.
And these services need to be marketed just like any other if they’re going to get in front of consumers.
What not to do
While there are a lot of ways to continue growing – to thrive, even – during the coronavirus outbreak, there are definitely things that you don’t want to do.
As mentioned earlier, directly monetizing corona-related traffic, though there is a lot of it, might not be very easy because the keyword itself is often being blacklisted on the advertiser’s end.
They don’t want their product or service linked to such a nasty international tragedy, so they prefer to avoid it altogether.
Some publishers and advertisers who might be a little less concerned about building a long-term brand might consider monetizing the interest in the coronavirus directly.
That is, explicitly targeting coronavirus-related traffic in order to sell coronavirus-related goods and services.
This is especially attractive as coronavirus-related CPMs are being depressed by blacklisting by larger advertisers.
Indeed, a large number of vendors are already doing this: by selling very in-demand products such as masks, e-books, prepping equipment, etc.
And that is ok. They’re providing an in-demand service.
What is not ok (and often outright illegal) is price gouging, bending the truth, and broadly taking advantage of and stoking public fear in order to sell a product or service—especially one of dubious value.
Ideally, such things would go without saying; however, it is worth repeating.
If you are going to monetize coronavirus-related traffic directly, do not fall into the trap of fear-mongering or exaggeration. It might make you a little money in the short-term, but in the long run, it could be costly. Not to mention immoral!
Speaking of the long-run, let’s quickly look at some of the potential implications of a prolonged coronavirus crisis.
The long term picture
We’ve illustrated above how the current pandemic is affecting the economy, people, and their spending habits – and how these likely won’t negatively affect the digital advertising industry in the short term.
Indeed, it could very well be good for the industry – by many metrics, it already has been.
But that’s just the short term. What about the long-term implications of the pandemic? Especially if it drags on for months?
Then there are a whole host of other factors to take into account.
In the first weeks or months of confinement, consumers still have money on hand and ready to spend. Indeed, they have more than they’d usually have available because most of the places where they’d use it are now closed by government order.
However, for a very large portion of the population, there isn’t a whole lot of money in the bank. That is to say that, while they might have more than usual to spend now, it could dry up relatively quickly. Many people aren’t going to work, working reduced hours, or are simply being laid off.
The longer the pandemic lasts, the less insulated the digital advertising sector is going to be. Especially if the pandemic sparks a sustained recession.
It’s simple economics. The longer the confinement lasts, the less cash-on-hand consumers will have, and the less businesses will have to spend on advertising operations.
However, digital businesses – especially those that sell purely digital goods and services – will likely maintain their moat the longest and prove the most durable in a prolonged crisis.
Coronavirus is one of the greatest challenges that the world has faced in recent memory. In some cases, it is being considered the most significant challenge in living memory and constantly compared to the Second World War.
And perhaps it is.
However, the all-encompassing restrictions that are being put in place to try and stem the spread of the virus are also arresting economic growth. Many economic sectors are struggling massively under this strain. But digital marketing is not.
Rather, digital products and services are more appealing than ever, and more people than ever are spending their time on digital media to entertain themselves (and worth and study, as well).
For digital marketers, this provides a double opportunity. The consumers are more accessible and receptive than ever, and many of the products that digital marketers promote are more attractive than ever.
If the pandemic persists, the situation could very well change, but as it stands now, the smart digital marketer stands to gain a lot in this time of crisis.
Coronavirus has frozen huge swaths of the world economy. Since many people cannot go to work or university (or any number of entertainment venues), they find themselves stuck at home. And at home, they are spending a huge amount of time on the internet, browsing sites – and clicking on ads.
Traffic volume is way up, and many services have become much more attractive due to the coronavirus pandemic (e.g., food delivery apps, video-on-demand, home workout, home office services, etc.).