Buy or Pause? Digital Advertising in the “New Normal”

COVID-19 and a near nationwide quarantine has rapidly changed the ways Americans consume media. As we navigate the new normal, a smart digital-first media strategy is more important than ever. Below is a look at what we’re buying and what we’re pausing for our clients.

What we’re buying

Online video

Whether it’s live streaming Paw Patrol, watching DIY haircut videos or creating viral content as a family, Americans of all ages are spending more time than ever before with online video platforms like YouTube and TikTok. Organizations like the DNC have taken note, reserving record-setting sums in battleground states ahead of November. If you have video content to promote–or you’ve been looking for an opportunity to dabble in short-form video production–there is literally no time like the present.

Streaming TV

As people have replaced their commutes with increased time in front of screens and live television has largely paused, streaming TV (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, et al) viewership is up. More people streaming shows means more inventory is available for advertisers, so we’re looking at integrating streaming TV into media plans to reach audiences across devices as they spend less time than usual with their phones and get reacquainted with their televisions.

Premium news placements

The search for reliable COVID-19 updates has led to an increase in readership for large established news outlets and local newspapers. And with many advertisers hesitant about inadvertently appearing alongside “bad news,” we’re looking to book premium, high-impact sponsorship placements like homepage takeover and newsletter sponsorships, which are great for brand visibility and raising awareness among engaged audiences.


With more people online and big industries like travel pulling ads, the prices for Facebook advertisements are at record lows. And reversing a trend of recent years, Facebook mobile app usage is down and desktop usage is up. This is a great opportunity to revisit your Facebook ad strategy to optimize for a more immersive desktop experience.

Streaming music 

When they’ve had enough of the news and aren’t ready to sit down for another streaming show, Americans are spending more time listening to music, especially on smart speaker devices like Google Home. We like streaming radio ads because they’re highly targetable, and unlike many other digital ads, can’t be scrolled or skipped.

What we’re pausing 


While there are indications that programmatic specialists–who buy audience-specific inventory versus directly from publishers–have been less hard hit than publishers overall, there’s no denying that advertisers across the board are taking a beat to reassess where their ads are appearing. With brand safety and message alignment of particular concern during this sensitive time, we recommend refreshing your content blacklists (the placements and terms you won’t run against) or employing a whitelist strategy, whereby you cherry pick the sites and context you’re comfortable with.

Podcasts sponsorships

We love podcasts, but with commutes for millions of Americans now consisting of bed to table to couch, most podcast listenership is down. We expect this to normalize a bit as people settle into the new normal and the election heats up–and in the short-term there has been an uptick in interest in COVID-19 related content. We are working with our clients to review their current placements, look for opportunities to refresh the creative, and reassess their podcast allocation moving forward.

Digital out-of-home (OOH) 

Remember the days of riding in a crowded elevator on your way to a meeting mindlessly watching the newsticker and weather updates on the elevator “tv”? Alas, neither do we. So while we typically love digital OOH as a supplement to location targeting when we’re trying to reach people based on where they work, for the time being, we’re moving our out-of-home budgets to more online video and streaming TV.

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