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Art imitates life. The pandemic creative effect on social ads.

Bridget Johnston March 24, 2020

Shakespeare composed King Lear during the plague quarantine. George R. R. Martin is rumored to be writing his next masterpiece during this pandemic. Life, and art, will certainly be changed as a result of COVID-19. But how?

If art imitates life, then we’ll see a wave of pandemic-inspired poems, books, movies, and television series in the years to come. But there are more abrupt changes showing up now. And artificial intelligence (AI) can spot them in real-time–using social ads as our bellwether.

Of course, social ads aren’t considered high art, but Instagram and Facebook creative certainly do display the most real-time creative response to our current situation.

To the point: top performing marketers refresh their creative on Facebook and Instagram ads every 10.4 days. With the pandemic (and quarantine) now spanning weeks, we’re in a second wave of creative produced (or selected) within the “social distancing” timeframe. Art now imitates life.

And machine learning algorithms can turn this creative response into data, trends, and predictions that marketers can use to plan. Pattern89 conducted a study across more than 1,100 brands and advertisers active on Facebook and Instagram using artificial intelligence (AI) to understand what creative changes are happening in real-time. Using computer vision and NLP (natural language processing) across more than 150,000,000,000 ad impressions, the study identified newly-emerging trends that are already appearing.

Quarantine your ad models.

Even the models on Facebook and Instagram are practicing social distancing, as there are 27.4% fewer images and videos ads that display models kissing, hugging, holding hands, shaking hands, or touching. Instead, marketers are solo models, or using product-led imagery to promote products.

Wash your hands, face, and products–in your ad creative.

Since the president’s televised address on March 12th, marketers moved to clean imagery and videos. Washing hands, washing faces and images and videos that display water or splashing/cleaning have sextupled on Instagram and Facebook ads. After an initial spike, the trend continues. How “clean” are your ads?

Write about sports and fitness.

Headline and body copy mentioning “Sports & Fitness” topics has quadrupled (from 5.7% to 21% of all ads) since March 12th. All of our social distancing is making marketers more likely to promote movement, activity and sports. Interestingly, there was an 8% drop in the use of travel imagery (airplanes, flight, airports) in this timeframe, reflecting the broader global implication of COVID-19.

Our smartphone addiction is showing up.

Electronics (computers, smartphones, televisions) are now appearing in 39% of social ads. And it’s not just because marketers are selling those products. As human connection decreases with coronavirus, our dependency on electronics shows up in imagery and video of social ads–maybe art does imitate life?

Get outside; take care.

Images and videos that display the same scenes that we’re dealing with in quarantine (indoors, family, petsdog, cat, TV, your living roomroom) are down 20%. Instead, marketers are experimenting with aspirational scenes, inspirational places and product-led images and videos. In the same time frame, the use of “rest” and “sleep” in headlines and body copy is trending up in social ads as marketers try to emphasize the key messages we all want to hear.

No doubt, there is art being created in this pandemic that will emerge in the months and years to come. But the most real-time creative response can be tracked in social today through AI.

How is your creative strategy shifting or responding in the midst of this new era of marketing? Get a free audit today and see.