Unruly Finds UK Consumers Want Ads to Make Them Feel More Informed


A study by video ad tech company Unruly reveals COVID-19 is reshaping consumer content consumption, spending habits and advertising preferences; only 5% think brands should pause their advertising; and 35% want ads to make them feel warm or happy.

"Keep on advertising" - that was the resounding message from UK consumers to brands trying to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, with only 5% saying brands should pause their advertising. But what sort of advertising do consumers want to see?

With a lot of ad campaigns being put on hold or cancelled following the COVID-19 outbreak, a new study by video ad tech company Unruly has revealed almost half (42%) of Brits want brands to be more informative in their ad campaigns, with consumers particularly looking for advertisers to provide messages around COVID-19 (18%) and to share how they’re supporting staff and customers (18%).

Unruly, part of Tremor International, surveyed 2,556 consumers around the world to see how the pandemic is impacting consumer interests and behaviours.

Consumers' daily routines in the UK have drastically changed, with only 4% continuing on as normal, while 48% are self-isolating and 48% are practising social distancing. As a result, their views on how brands should advertise to them have also changed.

The survey revealed that 23% of UK consumers want ads to provide a sense of continuity and normalcy, while another 13% want ads to be funny or positive in an effort to distract from what’s going on. A further 35% would prefer advertising to make them feel more warm and happy.

Results also revealed that overall, time spent online has dramatically increased in the UK - with consumers spending a lot more time than before on their mobile phones (47%), connected TVs (35%) and laptops (29%).

Away from their digital devices, half of British consumers (50%) are spending more time cooking, while there’s also been a significant increase in the amount of time people are spending improving their homes (45%) and reading books (35%).

Other key findings include:

  • People in the UK are turning to comedy during the Coronavirus pandemic, with Brits more likely to watch comedy shows or movies (50%) than the news (48%);
  • 61% are spending more time on social media than they used to;
  • More than half of under-35s (51%) are spending a lot more money on home entertainment since the pandemic;
  • A third of UK consumers (31%) are more interested in hearing about online retail (excluding food) than they were before;
  • 80% of 18-24s have increased the amount of time they spend watching online videos, while 73% are spending more time on social media;
  • 39% of 18-24s would prefer brands to communicate to them using online video;
  • Despite the shutdown, a third of Brits (31%) say they are spending more money on groceries in store than before.

Unruly has also been using its emotional testing and targeting tool, UnrulyEQ, to discover how brands’ COVID-19 ad strategies have been received by consumers around the world. The results were then compared to Unruly’s database of thousands of ads to discover not only the emotions people felt but the impact they had on various brand and business metrics. In the UK it tested the reactions to coronavirus campaigns from supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s, plus broadcaster ITV and a spot from Jack Daniels.

In the case of Sainsbury’s ‘Help Stop The Spread’ ad, 35% of viewers came away from watching the video feeling very informed – more than 4x higher than the UK norm (8%). A massive 20% of respondents felt feelings of warmth while watching the video ad campaign from ITV compared to the UK norm, with top emotions being happiness (16%), pride (16%) and inspiration (12%). Meanwhile, Jack Daniels’ ‘With Love, Jack’ ad performed above the norm for all key business metrics, scoring 48% for shareability versus a 26% UK norm. Full details on the analysis and the findings can be found on the Unruly blog here.

“The introduction of a social lockdown by the UK Government has resulted in rapid, unprecedented changes in consumer behaviours and their preferences,” said Rebecca Waring, Global VP, Insights and Solutions at Unruly.

“The vast majority of consumers still want to see ads, but the key to success is in the content and the way a message is conveyed. The magnitude of these changes require brands to be nimble in adapting their advertising strategies to maintain and grow connections with consumers, provide support and minimise disruption to performance.”