Research reveals how to connect with consumers now

Verizon shares proprietary insights on where and how to engage audiences amidst pandemic content consumption

While advertising and media agencies have long relied on old saws like ‘breaking through the clutter’ or ‘standing out from the crowd’ to promote their communications prowess, the fact is that such value propositions are almost impossible to deliver in a world that is flooded with content. Indeed, if content were water, we’d all be drowning in it.

In such a supersaturated communications arena, you might be tempted to think that consumers would run in the opposite direction. But no: content consumption has been rising dramatically, generating more supply than we’ve seen in recent history. According to the Global Web Index (March 2020), 95% of consumers say they’re spending even more time-consuming media.

Verizon Media has been researching the phenomenon of how, what and where people are most apt to consume digital media. One of the things they have found is that people value brands that are aligning with trusted news, especially now.

Despite the fact that the pandemic is causing so much anxiety and uncertainty – or maybe because of it – Verizon’s research revealed that 64% of people expect brands to be advertising and that when messaging appears alongside the news, audience engagement is 48% higher (Verizon Media, Immersive 5G Consumer Topline Summary, 2020).

Country manager, Jon Finnie says ‘What this shows is that that aligning with credible, trusted sources does not erode brand value, but instead enhances it.” He points to Verizon Media’s study showed that eight out of ten respondents say they ‘need content from trusted sources’ during a time of crisis. Furthermore, one in four claim they interact with brands advertised alongside news content.

Now that we know where people like to see brands advertise, we might ask how that content should appear. To build on the connection that people already have with their trusted news sources, you need to strike the right tone. You need to be authentic.

Verizon’s recent work with Burger King is a good example. Recognizing the stresses of lockdown, Burger King changed its long-time tagline ‘Home of the Whopper’ to ‘Stay Home of the Whopper’. It launched an entire campaign around the new slogan, pivoting to delivery and even providing instructions on how to make a Whopper at home. It gave away 250,000 sandwiches to health care providers, saluting these vulnerable and essential workers who are saving lives and keeping the country running. Associating your brand with good is key: what’s good for people is good for business.

Another ‘how’ question: how are advertisers diversifying their social buys to reach their audiences at scale, while protecting their brands? The answer is to think full funnel and to begin with native advertising. “With everyone on their phones even while on their desktop, watching TV or playing video games, native provides a great opportunity to really drive performance with 11x the click-through rates of traditional display advertising” says Missy Schnurstein, Head of Native and Strategy at Verizon Media.

A final point to remember is that when it comes to native, ads that blend into their environment are better received by consumers than standard digital ads. The Verizon Media Consumer Study (Feb 2019) found that 79% of respondents say they’d rather see ads that blend into the page than intrusive banners. Between March and April, Verizon saw an increase of 40% of mobile native formats (Verizon Media Internal Data, April 2020). Native is clearly proving to be increasingly valuable during these troubled times.

The key take-aways? Align your messaging with content sources people trust. Communicate authentically with the right tone and sentiment. Native advertising is an effective full funnel solution for placement with trusted news sources. And don’t treat native ads like display ads: they need to blend in, not stand out from the content they are aligned with.

As the industry remains focused on rebuilding and adapting during this transitional time, Verizon Media is helping brands reach their business goals. Check out Verizon’s insights here on how to better inform strategies and messages that will resonate now.