How the lockdown is evolving consumer ad preference

Companies have begun adjusting to a new reality with the COVID-19 pandemic and marketers are also thinking on their feet to adapt their messaging to the current landscape.

Recent research by marketing research company System1 said that left-brain advertising is connecting “less well” with consumers during this period. Ads with words, rhythmic soundtrack, abstracted body part, audio repetition are all part of left-brain advertising, and performed less effectively when aired in March compared to when it aired in January and February this year.

system1 left brain advertising 2020

On the other hand, ads containing factors such as a character, scenario, a scene unfolding, or was set in the past, did significantly better when it was aired again in March compared to earlier this year.

According to System1, left brain characteristics include language, signs and symbols, rhythm, repeatability, goal-oriented and narrow. Meanwhile, right-brain characteristics comprises empathy, implicit, connections and relationships, novelty, time, space and depth. The statistics were based on 100 ads from the US and UK which were randomly tested. They originally aired and were tested in January and February this year and were retested in March.

Despite the talk about marketers cutting back on ad spend, System1’s report showed that new ads were still being produced throughout the month of March and April.

Ads appearing in lockdown were also connecting better than ads appearing in the same month last year.

Ads from 23 March to 18 April 2019 had an average star rating of 2.0 out of 5.0 while this year, they had an average star rating of 2.2. out of 5.0. The star rating is based on the the raw emotional response of an ad based on System1's ad ratings, that is predictive of market share growth.

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Separately, System1's chief innovation officer Orlando Wood said in a separate post that certain ad characteristics are connecting slightly better with audiences today, such as ads with a connection to place and community, showing human connection and "between-ness" and exhibiting self-awareness, and ads using established brand characters or campaign scenarios. On the contrary, characteristics that are not connecting as well with consumers during this period are those that are hard sell, focus on things over people, as well as ads that indulge in vanity, and are aggressive, competitive or focused on performance. Wood explained:

Companies should embrace generosity of spirit, humour, humility and spontaneity in their communications and working practices.

According to him, these are values that will connect with consumers in the current climate.

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