What Can Advertisers Expect This COVID Christmas?

It’s a tale that feels as old as time, but only goes back to March: The pandemic has had a big impact on consumer habits and attitudes. And that impact will continue through the holiday season.

According to Adobe Advertising Cloud, which surveyed 1006 consumers across the United States, United Kingdom and Australia about their sentiment toward holiday advertising, peoples’ attitudes toward COVID-related messaging has changed substantially since May, when Adobe conducted the first round of its survey.

And brands figuring out their holiday messaging strategy are going to have to roll with the punches.

So here are some pointers advertisers should consider.

Lighten up on the COVID-19 messaging

Did your brand respond exceptionally well during the initial months of the outbreak? That’s great, but consumers are way less receptive to that type of messaging now. The survey found that a brand’s COVID-19 response was way more important in June, when 72% of surveyed shoppers factored it into their purchasing decisions. In the most recent survey, only 44% of consumers do so.

“We’re noticing a shift to indifference about talking about COVID in your advertising,” said Mary Sheehan, head of product marketing at Adobe Advertising Cloud. “We’re seeing people want to be entertained a little bit more.”

Specifically, 40% of consumers surveyed want ads that provide some form of escapism and take them away from their current troubles, while only 26% were more favorable towards ads that showed a brand’s response to the crisis (“In these challenging times…”)

So a brand’s COVID-19 response is significantly less important now than it was during the summer.

Consider demo and region this holiday season

While consumers are tired of COVID-19 messaging, the type of ads they’re receptive to differs by generation. According to the survey, Gen Z and millennials tend to want entertaining ads, whereas boomers and Gen Xers want ads that show how to save money.

Brands this holiday season should also scrutinize their messaging across different regions, said Sheehan, since the way communities have responded to the pandemic is so localized.

Retention and reengagement is the name of the game

Remember all that hullabaloo earlier this year about how consumers are really interested in trying new brands? That might no longer be the case.

In June, 39% of consumers were interested in experimenting with new brands; in the current survey, only 18% are interested. So brands that invested heavily in finding new customers now need to start investing in retention and reengagement, rather than boosting awareness.

That being said, the demos most likely to try a new brand are Gen Zers (29%), shoppers with kids (28%), millennials (24%) and males (22%).

Display is actually up

If you think display is dead, think again. Adobe looked at auction volume and found display increased 24.1%, comparing a pre-COVID timeframe (February 10-14) with a well-into-COVID timeframe (August 16-22). The biggest spikes in display were between 5am to 8am locally.

Sheehan speculates that this spike is not just a symptom of people being on their phones and devices more – but there’s also a whole generation of people who are glued to their devices and constantly connected.

Whatever that observation might say about our national attention spans, it’s apparently good for display auction volumes.

Also, CTV was up during that time span 59.1%, with most activity happening between 11am and 2pm, and between 5pm and 8pm – basically, the mealtimes.

And mobile video was up 9.9%, with early-morning spikes between 5am and 7am. Apparently, people are rolling out of bed and staring at their phones first thing.

Consumers aren’t really excited to see your holiday ads

Harsh truth: only 24% of those polled are looking forward to holiday ads, with 41% indifferent and 35% definitively not looking forward to the deluge.

That’s not to say that brands shouldn’t advertise this holiday season, but understand you’re not about to message an audience enthusiastic to hear about your holiday offerings.