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How COVID-19 is Impacting Native Advertising

How COVID-19 is Impacting Native Advertising

Last week, we covered how brands are reducing their programmatic ad spend.

Some of this has to do with the loss of business activity among certain sectors (i.e. restaurants, tourism and other hurting industries). But aside from this is a big change in the media industry: the blacklisting of the term ‘coronavirus.’ 

When we look at native ads, we are seeing a similar trend. Advertisers are proceeding delicately with native advertising — but it’s not completely off the table. 

Let’s jump in. 

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Native Advertising in this Pandemic

While news readership and media consumption is up, advertising is down. 

Out of fear of brand safety, many brands have stopped buying ad placements adjacent to coronavirus content. ‘Coronavirus’ recently became the number one blocked term within Integral Ad Science (IAS), an ad verification company. 

“It is possible that this is a temporary measure as [brands] evaluate their stance on appearing adjacent to this type of content,” said an IAS spokesperson. The company does not recommend blocking the term coronavirus, but many brands still feel uncomfortable sponsoring hard news.

From the publisher’s perspective, native advertising is tricky at this time. Publishers have to be careful not to allow content that is spreading false information or fake endorsements. Many products appear in times of crisis — like vitamins that are a cure or false statements by celebrities. 

Despite the delicate nature of native advertising, it can still be done well. There are opportunities within certain verticals to promote impactful, accurate and brand-safe native advertisements.

Justyna Liana at Voluum DSP says that the verticals that have the most potential include:

  • Health and safety 
  • eCommerce
  • Making money online (freelancing tools, online courses, etc.)
  • Gaming and streaming
  • Online dating and communication

MediaRadar was curious about what the data had to say. Here are our findings. 

MediaRadar Insights

Our data shows that native advertising has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. 

Native Advertising YTD

We see a significant drop in spend starting the week of March 8th. Spending remained low through the end of March. 

The week of March 22nd, the month-over-month spend was down 43% and the number of brands running native ads was down 10%. Brands didn’t completely stop natvie advertising but they did reduce the amount they poured into the format. 

When we look at year-over-year data, the picture becomes even more clear. 

Before the coronavirus crisis had a huge impact on the U.S., native ad spend was comparable to 2019. Figures were similar until ‘Week 11’ (March 8). This is when we see a noticeable dip that did not occur last year. Spending in the last two weeks of March (weeks 12 and 13) was down 31% year-over-year.

Ad Spend on Native Content Chart

Some of the largest buyers of native content year-to-date include: 

  • Geico
  • Progressive
  • T-Mobile
  • Optimum
  • Domino’s

This backs up Liana’s theory above that some verticals will do better with native ads in this time. For instance, insurance companies and communication services are finding ways to promote their brand in more organic ways. 

For more updates like this, stay tuned. Subscribe to our blog for more updates on coronavirus and its mark on the economy.