Apco Worldwide loader


APCO’s guide to advertising during COVID-19

During a global pandemic we understand that there is uncertainty on how to engage advertising dollars previous allocated for yearlong campaigns. Not only that, the media landscape around the world is changing dramatically, forcing marketing and communication teams to rethink how to engage their audiences.

We are here to help you figure it out.

APCO’s influencer advertising specialists create effective, integrated, and efficient campaigns that are optimized to target the people most likely to engage on a given issues or topic, maximizing investment and ensure we are reaching the right people at the right time.

Download this graphic and guide as a PDF

Find your voice

How Does It Work?

The APCO COVID 19 Response Index (CRI) is a customized approach to measure the effectiveness of communications during the pandemic crisis. We collect data related to thousands of conversations across social media and apply data science to develop the CRI—a trackable metric to assess your communications impact across owned social channels and the organic online brand conversation.

Why Does It Work?

We drill down into the key topics driving discussion about your brand to assess key message pull through, develop additional content ideas, and look at how competitive brands are perceived. We determine the impact of media in driving organic and owned channel conversation. We assess the key influencers in traditional and social media affecting the changes in the CRI.


A CPG manufacturer wanted to assess how others in its industry were communicating to customers about COVID 19 and the reaction to competitive brand responses. By developing the CRI around its competitive set of brands, the manufacturer discovered that employees were frustrated over the lack of leadership messaging coming from other CPG companies. We advised the brand to accentuate a message from leaders about the health and well being of its customers during these uncertain times. We are able to track the impact of the messaging through the positive shift in the CRI compared to the brand’s competition.

Using first-party data

How Does It Work?

If you have a database of key stakeholders that you need to communicate with, we can help you onboard that data and move into an online privacy complaint environment, which will enable you to push display or video content directly to this audience. Through this process, you will be able to control which message you are sharing and how many times you want people to see it.

*The rules and regulations around use of 1st party data vary by country.

Why Does It Work?

This process enables you to minimize waste and calibrate your efforts to ensure you are breaking through in a noisy and crowded environment. With media consumption soaring and audiences distracted as they try to balance staying informed and navigating a new working environment, leveraging 1st party data gives you the ability to continue to build your relationship with your most important stakeholders.


Due to COVID-19 you have closed your physical retail locations but are still accepting orders online. You have seen a significant drop in sales, and you want your customers to know that they can still access your products in a safe and timely manner through your website. You onboard your customer database and send them messages letting them know they can still order online and what you are doing to ensure safety during the process.

Contextual on news outlets

How Does It Work?

Deliver display banners or video content on specific articles posted on top-tier news outlets that are using phrases relevant to your message. Your ad will only appear on the pages using the phrases you identify as being relevant. Your creative can talk about what you are doing in response to the crisis, but it cannot use words like “COVID” or “Coronavirus” within the ad.

Why Does It Work?

Web browsing has increased by 70%, with 52% of people relying on traditional news outlets to get information about COVID-19. Only 11% of people consider social media to be a trustworthy source for information about COVID-19, which makes news publications the most desirable place to get your message out.

(Source: Kantar)


Your company is taking a proactive position protecting the well-being of your staff and customers. The media is talking about how companies are handling this situation differently and it is important for your reputation that people understand your position. You target the top 100 news outlets and appear on articles posted using phrases like “employee safety,” “telework” and “store closures.”

Amplifying through third parties

How Does It Work?

Because many news outlets have slashed feature departments in recent years, paid tactics for earned media are one of the standard approaches to getting feature news to the key audiences. We work with several vendors to produce and distribute content via mat releases, listicles, audio news releases and satellite media tours. In most cases the content is controlled and can be directed to target markets and audiences.

Why Does It Work?

Feature news and non-COVID 19 related news still have a place, but because most news organizations have deployed their resources to cover the pandemic, there is a real void for content. We’re seeing our RMTs and Mat releases and other “paid/earned” tactics receiving better coverage than in a normal news cycle. And, because both TV and radio satellite media tours can be conducted from anywhere, the company spokesperson can conduct all the interviews from their home. Not every topic still makes sense in these times, but many still do.


A food industry association recently conducted a virtual satellite media tour to inform grocery store customers on how the supply chain works. The tour was booked with 36 hours’ turnaround time and 45 separate interviews were secured including NBC News, Sirius XM and local television stations in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Seventeen of the interviews were live, 18 taped and 10 pre-recorded.

Media consumption habits

How Does It Work?

Identify the conditions in your target market and adapt your media strategy to focus on the channels your audience is consuming and eliminate the channels that currently have minimal exposure, like commuter media (OOH, drive time radio).

Why Does It Work?

Global telework has transformed the media environment by making certain channels more valuable than ever and others significantly less valuable. To be successful with your advertising, you need to understand how media environment has shifted in your target markets so that you can adapt your media plan to eliminate waste and focus your investments on the channels that make the most sense.


You have an active cross-channel media plan running in a market that has been directed to stay in place. Given the circumstances and uncertainty about timing, you reallocate your upcoming OOH media and current drive-time radio media towards digital, over-the-top TV, and news programming on linear TV to reach your audience while they are at home consuming that content.

Professional Audience Data

How Does It Work?

By partnering with data companies, we have access to thousands of granular audience datasets that enable us to target display or video content to specific professional audiences. As the audience we are targeting goes online, we will identify their presence and place an ad on the webpage they are visiting in real time.

Why Does It Work?

Using audience data allows you to reach your audience independent of their location. At a time where people are primarily working from home, this is critical to making your media efficient. This approach allows you to eliminate waste, place tailored messaging in front of each professional audience, and measure how the audience is engaging with your message.


You have a campaign in place that is trying to reach federal lawmakers. Historically, you have relied on geo-fencing certain locations. As uncertainty grows and the likelihood of your audience going back to their district increases, you change your targeting approach to focus on professional data that contains policymakers and enables you to continue your campaign independent of where the audience is physically located.

Pausing Your Advertising

9 out of 10 people want to hear what brands are doing to be helpful during this time period and very few think brands should stop advertising.

top logo

Source: APCO Insight & Kantar

This is not the right time to pause your advertising. Brands that have gone dark for too long in past crises have seen a significant decline in their brand awareness. This is a unique opportunity to build trust. If you have something authentic to say, it is critical to do so.


  • Use a reassuring tone
  • Talk about what you are doing to help
  • Talk about how you are supporting your employees
  • Communicate the brand values
  • Use brand guidelines but be thoughtful about imagery


  • Exploit this crisis to promote your brand
  • Use humor
  • Make unfounded remarks

Contact us.

Mac Struthers

Head of Media, Targeting & Big Data

Nicole Monge

Deputy Lead, Advertising