As the sun sets on cookies, many are looking to contextual advertising, the practise of targeting not the audience for content but the content itself, to offer up the best advertising results.

In contextual targeting, ad buyers would seek optimal adjacency to various kinds of content.

But, to Raja Rajamannar, there is one overriding context that everyone shares in 2020 – a global pandemic.

In this video interview with Beet.TV, the CMO of Mastercard says brands need to recalibrate their messaging because a number of tectonic shifts have occurred.

“Data clearly shows that people’s movement patterns have dramatically altered,” he says. “The screens that they are watching has dramatically changed, the mix of the screens, and the kind of content that they are watching has changed.

“Right now the larger context is that the whole world is in a crisis. So be attuned to it, be appropriate in terms of what you’re communicating.”

Change your plan

Rajamannar thinks the ongoing pandemic crisis has thrown consumers in to a number of different contexts, and that means brands must adapt.

“Once you have got this data, for every brand, you need to identify, in addition to the right audience, the right context in which you are going to communicate your message in a most appropriate tone and manner,” he says.

“You need to really make sure is that you are absolutely tweaking, or correcting, or modifying your media plans completely based on the new audience behaviour, and their viewing habits, and viewing patterns.

You’re in the business of selling some luxury product, you have to be much more careful. A lot of people have lost their jobs … You cannot be tone-deaf and say, here is a fantastic luxury product that you should (buy). The message is critical, the product that you’re selling is critical. The context is very important.”

Out of context

An article by Gartner senior director analyst Laurel Erickson last week brought the problem of context and tone in to sharp focus.

She was taken aback by seeing an ad depicting a woman jumping for joy, placed in an article about COVID-19 deaths.

“Your users have landed on your site in the middle of stressful days probably filled with worry and uncertainty,” Erickson writes, making four recommendations: “Check tone”, “Provide easy access to COVID-19 specific content,” “Adjust to current traffic trends” and “Adjust to current consumer concerns”.

Consider These COVID-19 Content Adjustments to Your Website

Digital ads down

A follow-up survey of brands and agencies conducted by Advertiser Perceptions shows that, in the last few weeks, they have become progressively more worried that the impact on advertising will worsen in Q2 and will stretch in to Q4 and Q4.

Of the immediate impact, the worst may be experienced by digital media. A UBS survey of ad executives shows “ad spending in digital is down over 45% year to date and is expected to drop by that same amount for the rest of the year”, Yahoo Finance reports.

UBS survey

According to an IAB survey, digital display is pegged for the biggest short-term dip in digital ad revenue, eMarketer says.

But the extent of any digital retrenchment may be exaggerated by the extent to which it has long since been the dominant ad channel.

An analysis by Enders Analysis, published Monday, says: “Almost all the evidence we have is that advertising budgets, including online, have been massacred.”

Futuresource Consulting says: “We should expect to see a long-term reinvention in advertising, as the industry will be pressured to make up the shortfall in revenue.”

This video is part of a Beet.TV series titled “Audience, in Context,” presented by Xandr. For more videos please visit this page.