How Has COVID-19 Affected The Digital Advertising Space?

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has upended the way we live our lives and engage with others. We are experiencing daily shifts in normality with the introduction of curbside pickups, social distancing, and mandatory masks in establishments. These new ways of life will be the norm for the foreseeable future. People will need to continue to adapt to these unprecedented times. The COVID-19 outbreak has also forced the online advertising field to adapt. People across the globe have been staying at home over these past few months to fight the pandemic. This has led to records amount of time spent in the digital space. This has helped increase the potential reach and impact of digital advertising. According to Google Ads Blog, four billion people have been staying at home as of May 18th. By staying inside, four billion people are consuming more online content than ever before. We are relying on digital platforms instead of in-person services to meet all of our essential needs and interests. Now is a perfect time for small and medium sized businesses to utilize the digital advertising space if they previously had been ignoring it. Thanks to some changes to search engines, businesses now have the opportunity to grow in uncertain times.

How is COVID-19 shaping consumers’ interests?

The digital advertising landscape is experiencing and reacting to constant shifts in consumers’ interest, purchasing behaviors, and expectations. People are relying on technology and online platforms to adjust to their new normalities with daily life. Routines are changing to be at-home-first. This is demonstrated through increases in online searches for in-home solutions and substitutions for every day necessities. Stationary bikes and other at-home workout equipment searches have grown worldwide (Google Ads). Searches for food delivery services are up 300% since this time last year, and searches for online pharmacies have grown by more than 100% (Google Ads). The opportunity for paid search ads have drastically increased because people are relying on Google search for updates, answers to important questions, and products to meet their essential needs. Businesses that provide a specific service or product can capitalize by investing into the paid search space. High search volumes give non-essential companies the opportunity for greater online exposure and reach.

Consumers are using multiple devices to go online at extraordinary rates. At home media consumption is at an all time high throughout mobile devices, tablets, connected TVs, and smart speakers. This provides ample opportunity for businesses to advertise their products and services through the display and in-app mediums. According to Google Ads, digital content consumption has increased by 60% as a result of the pandemic, and consumers are now spending 20% more time in applications and games compared to a year ago. Consumers are glued to their screens in recent months, and the potential for well-positioned display ads in digital content or applications is at its historical peak.


People are also consuming more video content now more than ever. Companies have the opportunity to utilize video advertisements for growth. More time at home means more time to practice self-care. Google Ads reports show that consumers are relying on YouTube videos for healthy lifestyle habits, like meditation. Videos with useful information for at-home education, and other tips for coping with the new home-focused lifestyle also have high search volumes. Recipe and cooking videos have seen a 31% increase in searches since last year. “With Me” videos such as Cleaning, Cooking, and Study with Me videos have increased by 54% (Google Ads). Companies offering niche services and products that can enhance the living-at-home lifestyle for people have the ability to really drive their reach and performance through utilization of video advertisements.

How is Google helping businesses?

Yes, now is more than ever, a perfect time more for companies to focus their efforts into the digital advertising space. However, these unprecedented times have had negative effects on nearly every business and consumer. That is why Google is currently focusing its efforts towards helping businesses in the digital advertising space. Google understands the potential in the industry right now, and the effect these times have had on people. Google is offering small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) $340 million in ad credits, which can be used across all Google Ad platforms through the end of 2020! This campaign is part of a larger commitment from Google to prioritize and support SMBs, health organizations, governments, and the frontline health workers. Per Google, “SMBs are the backbone of our communities. They represent about 90% of all businesses and more than half of employment worldwide, according to the World Bank.” Google is showing support and solidarity through this Ad credit. SMBs now have opportunity to reach broader audiences and continue to engage with their customer base by promoting their services and products with Google Ads. 

Google is trying to provide more relief for businesses and lay the groundwork for a healthier retail ecosystem in the future by offering another helpful source for struggling SMBs. Google is now allowing merchants to display their products across the Google Shopping platform for free. The Google Shopping platform reaches millions of potential customers every day. Now the platform can help retailers grow their customer base for free in difficult times. Paid Google Shopping Ads will continue to appear in search results, but the majority of the real estate on these pages will be occupied by free listings offered by Google. The shopping results on all of Google’s other platforms will continue to only feature paid shopping ads, so paying advertisers will not lose much traffic.

The Bottom Line.

Google is demonstrating support for SMBs and other companies affected by the pandemic by launching these campaigns. It shows solidarity in a time where togetherness is so important. However, this could also be Google’s effort to drive more competition against Amazon in the e-commerce industry. Google is benefiting from an increase in more advertisers, products, and shoppers by offering free Google Ads credits and free Google Shopping listings. Driving more traffic towards Google and away from Amazon can be Google’s effort to compete with Amazon’s search engine. This is only speculation, but can prove to be true after analyzing results a few months down the road. One thing that is very true right now is that there is instability and uncertainty across the globe. This should not scare digital advertisers into halting campaigns. Digital consumption is at a high, so now is the most important time to connect with users through digital mediums. 

Digital advertising will help companies struggling with growth and retaining customers combat these difficult times.