One of the big concerns for marketers and their advertising agencies during the pandemic is where to position their ads.

In the digital space, ads are often been placed alongside content that marketers deem beneficial to their brand and the product or service that they’re selling. Nothing unusual there.

The reverse of that has been when ads – often due to programmatic buying – somehow end up next to content that is unsuitable and contrary to what the brand or product stands for. For example, alongside content that promotes terrorism, violence against women, racism, certain political viewpoints etc. When this happens there’s a hue and cry, and advertisers may even withdraw their ads from certain platforms that allowed this to happen.


In the age of coronavirus, one of the big debates in the marketing and media world is whether brands can risk placing their ads alongside COVID-19 content. And, right now, almost all content is pandemic-related content.

The good news for advertisers is that a new study indicates consumers are likely to be unfazed by ads alongside coronavirus content on premium sites. The insight comes from the Coronavirus Ad Adjacency study conducted by a technology and data company called Integral Ad Science.

This indicates that, while consumers remain uncertain about whether they’d engage with ads alongside coronavirus content, they say that their opinions of brands that appear next to such content would remain unchanged.

So it’s at least a partial victory. And good news for many online publishers, who have seen their revenue diminish because ads have been withheld by nervous agencies and their clients.


But – and it’s an important ‘but’ – this only seems to hold true for premium sites, probably because people are hungry for credible news about the pandemic from trustworthy sources.

Consumers would also be happier if the ad appeared alongside pandemic-related content that is positive. If that sounds contradictory in these gloomy times, think content such as health workers being clapped by the public, stories of people helping those less fortunate, stories of those who have recovered from the virus etc.

“In the current climate, consumers don’t expect brands to stop advertising, but they do recognise when brands make the effort to appear in suitable environments. As always, context matters,” says Tony Marlow, chief marketing officer at Integral Ad Science.

“As most of the world continues to adapt to the evolving coronavirus situation, consumers are relying on prominent news sources to stay up to date. With the increase in engaged online audiences, there are opportunities for both brands and publishers to reach consumers with suitable content and messages during this challenging time.”