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Native advertising strategies for unprecedented times

As shelter-in-place mandates have rolled out across the country and organizations are asking that employees work from home, people are now turning to the internet for their grocery shopping, news, entertainment, and work. Forbes shared an article that revealed a 53% increase in VPN usage in the United States in March and ContentSquare found that worldwide, online traffic had increased 2.7% week over week (also in March).

People are searching for the latest information about COVID-19: ContentSquare reported that online traffic for media sites has increased 80.1%. MSN is also seeing an uptick in engagement; internal Microsoft data shows that MSN Homepage views are up 11% week over week and 15% year over year in the United States. These trends are also seen globally: MSN Homepage views are up 7% week over week in the United States and 9% year over year for non-US entities. In addition to MSN Homepage growth, the overall article page views in the United States are up a staggering 37% week over week and 46% year over year (there is a similar trend for non-US article views: 15% WoW and 13% YoY).

During this unprecedented time, the increased traffic to the MSN properties has led to positive results for Microsoft Audience Ads efficiency. Microsoft Audience Ads are high-quality native ads served on Microsoft properties including MSN, Outlook, Edge and premium publisher partners. We’ve seen that Microsoft Audience Ads clicks on MSN properties increased in March for many key verticals like technology, media and telecommunications. Also in March, MSN native click volume on the Microsoft Audience Network was up 27%.

With the rapid increase of traffic to the MSN Homepage and MSN articles as well as on our publisher partner news sites, where we see the same trends, advertisers are considering native advertisement placement as users are more engaged and reviewing more content than they did the week prior and year prior. While strategizing your native advertisements for this ‘new normal,’ consider these three points: corporate responsibility during this time, highlighting products with increased demand, and maintaining brand awareness for the long-term.

Corporate responsibility

Many companies are responding to the coronavirus and resulting economic downturn with wonderful examples of putting customers and people first. Some examples include technology and telecommunication companies waiving data limits and fees or travel companies removing barriers to change or cancel trips. Through native advertising, you can land your message in a positive way using images that best represent your brand and values.

Highlight products with increased demand

While consumers are certainly going to be cautious during this financially tumultuous time, many products are experiencing demand highs. For example, web and teleconferencing software and at-home fitness equipment are both in demand as people look for ways to stay connected and fit during shelter-in-place mandates. Adding native ads to your shopping campaigns can help you expand your reach to get in front of customers where they are today and offer them with a solution.

Maintain brand awareness for the long term

While many products and services are widely impacted by the coronavirus, some commoditized or evergreen products may be less affected. Some examples of products include food, beverages or energy. Native can be a cost-effective way to maintain brand awareness and set you up for success in the future.

We know you have a lot going on and it might be hard to think about the best strategy for your brand. We're here to support you and your team, and we’re committed to helping you every step of the way. Please keep in touch. Reach out to us on LinkedIn or Twitter with questions, as we’d love to hear the strategies you are taking to adapt to the new reality of today.