With the rise of COVID-19 last Spring, advertisers were quick to pull any copy and creative around handshaking, traveling, and large gatherings out of fear of appearing to lack awareness during the pandemic. Advertisers replaced this messaging with a sense of social consciousness and responsibility that sought to support consumers during a time of economic volatility, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders.

While consumers were initially receptive to this shift in messaging, it’s now being viewed as a “double-edged sword” according to the US Head of Real Talk Insights, whose recent study looked at attitudes toward COVID-19-related advertising. While 63% of people were still happy to see brands addressing this topic, 44% said they all blend together, and only 28% felt these ads were unique and thoughtful.

With that in mind, and now approaching month six of the pandemic, analyzing the data you now have on the ads you launched will be critical to making them actually meaningful to your prospective customers. Here are some things to consider as you navigate ad copy testing in this ever-changing environment.

1. Analyze Your Trending Performance

If you are an advertiser that began shifting messaging at the onset of the pandemic, observe the performance of your COVID-related ads in comparison to 1) trending performance and 2) performance against your more traditional evergreen ads.

Suppose you have been testing messaging around staying at home and notice engagement metrics like click-through rates, or even conversion rates, trending downward. In this case, that may be a sign that your audience is not resonating with your messaging as much and that you should consider testing something else. You can also run a comparison of COVID-19-related ads to non-COVID-related ads across your campaigns.

Take this example of anonymized trending performance from an e-commerce advertiser:

Ad Copy Testing During Covid

Here we can see relative metrics like CTR and conversion rates trending down since May or June, indicating that the target audience is resonating less with this COVID-themed messaging over time and causing performance to become softer. This instance would be an opportunity for you to consider reverting to evergreen ad copy that performed well before the pandemic (see next point on this) or testing a new concept altogether to improve your ad performance.

In some cases, however, COVID-related messaging can actually still outperform your evergreen ads, especially if you are in an industry positively impacted by the pandemic. Take this example of a home subscription advertiser using anonymized data for the last 30 days:

Ad Copy Testing During Covid

Based on this data, we can see that “Stay at Home” copy actually yielded a stronger CTR and CPA with comparable conversion rates compared to its evergreen counterpart, all in a recent time frame. Comparing two sets of messaging can add important context, even if COVID-themed messages overall aren’t as effective as they were in Q2.

2. Find the New Balance In Messaging

Although consumers may be tired from hearing about COVID-19, you should still strive to find a balance in your ad copy between being mindful of new consumer lifestyles as a result of the pandemic and establishing a sense of “normalcy” for your audience.

Take the make-up industry for example. Currently, it might appear oblivious for a make-up company to advertise glittery eyeshadows to get the “perfect night-out look.” However, it could be a good opportunity for the company to push a message of self-positivity through make-up to convince their audience to purchase their products and create a sense of normalcy and heightened self-confidence. This case is especially relevant since many professionals have been working from home for most of the year and likely have not put on as much make-up as they did before the pandemic.

3. Gauge Engagement Metrics From Other Channels

Another way to assess your COVID copy performance is by analyzing consumer sentiment through other channels such as Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. Similar to SEM, you can analyze performance metrics like CTR and conversion rates to gauge consumer sentiment by tying sentiment to purchase behavior.

However, you can also get a sense of this sentiment by analyzing other engagement metrics like comments, likes, view rate, etc. If your messaging is not resonating with consumers as much, you would expect overall ad engagement to decrease (fewer likes, comments, lower view rates) as a result of ad fatigue, COVID fatigue, or both. In some cases, you can see this be reflected through increased negative sentiment in engagement metrics such as an increased number of “angry” emojis on Facebook over time or increasingly negative comments on your ads. Either way, you can use engagement metrics in non-SEM channels to gauge how your audience is responding to your ads.

Although consumers generally may be less receptive to COVID-19 messaging, your current copy may still perform well with your audiences as long as your message is resonating with consumers as well as your brand.

As long as you let the data drive your ad copy testing decisions, you can continue to drive strong ad performance in this volatile time. If you need more help on ad copy and marketing through uncertainty, contact our team today.