Digital Publishing
3 mins read

How publishers can help advertisers get past their fears of being tone-deaf

Your ad partner is contracted for a big ad buy on your platform; you certainly don’t want to lose that income … but forcing them to advertise when they aren’t rock solid on their messaging during this pandemic can destroy their relationship with your brand.

“Many advertisers are pausing ad campaigns due to financial strain and that is hard to debate,” writes Kayleigh Barber in Digiday. “But for clients that are hesitating on their spend due to concerns around messaging against the coronavirus content, publishers can take a consultative approach to teach them how to make the messaging service-related, in order to be a brand that is remembered as being front and center in having helped people during the pandemic.”

Barber covered Digiday’s recent Publishing Summit, held online instead of in-person as planned. Publishers gathered virtually to discuss challenges and strategies, with the understanding that they would not be identified by name or company. (That’s why any quotes in this article are not attributed.)

One participant was clear that it doesn’t pay to keep an advertiser locked in if they are reluctant: “Not letting an advertiser out of whatever they want to do is a very short-term decision for your business. If you run this client’s campaign and it’s tone-deaf and you force them to deliver you $100,000 or $500,000, when those lights come back on, they’re not coming back to you and that damage can be irreparable.”

Another publisher said they’re seeing slightly lower than average click-through rates on content related to COVID-19, with one digital publisher saying the drop was as much as 30%. This could be due either to a drop in ad inventory around the topics, or consumers tuning them out … most likely both factors are at play here.

“Either supply chains are broken or they’re afraid of coronavirus adjacency — not because of brand safety but because they don’t want to sound tone-deaf,” said one participant in the event.

Regardless of the reason, the vast majority of participants are expecting revenue to drop by at least 25% this year from previous forecasts, with most of the hit coming from ad revenue.

Two polls conducted during the virtual town hall with 58 participants on the left and 50 on the right. Source: Digiday

Fortunately, publishers can help their advertisers create better ad content by advising them on strategic messaging that will resonate.

Credibility has never been more important for media brands. And it’s not something a brand can claim; true credibility must be earned, by engaging authentically and delivering consistently. Once earned, it’s the starting point for new products and services that people will eventually pay for; even if only a small portion of these new readers become paying customers, the value of the brand will be elevated overall, something that brand managers know is critically important.

Brands are being warned to be helpful, or suffer the consequences. So take the lead and share some ideas with your advertisers to help them rise to the challenge:

The need for honest, helpful and clear communication is real … your advertisers are scared. This is not the time to bully them into keeping their contract commitments; it’s the time to reach out with solid advice that will help them, and you, weather this storm.

David Pilcher
VP of Sales & Marketing, Freeport Press