Should You Run Facebook Ads During a Crisis?

With the current coronavirus pandemic, many people are wondering if they should run Facebook Ads during a crisis.

It’s a challenging question with a few layers that I will unpack in this blog post.

Obviously, we are in an unprecedented situation where we have never felt such global implications.

But for a more “generic, run-of-the-mill crisis”, as well as our current situation, here are some things to consider:

  • Is this a local or national crisis?  Or in this case, a worldwide crisis!
  • What business are you in?  Is your product a luxury item or something more necessary for day to day living?
  • How long is the crisis going on?  How severe is it?  We are currently in the early stages of this pandemic so we don’t exactly know but it is impacting every part of our lives already.

In any crisis you must be mindful of people who are more impacted than others.  Come from a place of service.  But you don’t have to halt all aspects of your business.

I particularly like Edelman’s post on using paid media during a crisis.

Here are my recommendations for using Facebook ads during a crisis.

#1 Address the Situation

You may have to stop existing ads and start new ads so that you acknowledge the situation in some way.  You should never just edit an existing ad – always create a new ad to keep the data pure.

Some ads may be ok, you will have to watch the performance as I mention in point #3 but typically people may feel that you are not sensitive to the whole crisis if you are carrying on like nothing is happening.

Addressing the situation could be as simple as using phrases like:

  • In these challenging times…
  • We recognize the uncertainty in…

People want to know you aren’t looking to make money off of the panic.  Again, make sure you are coming from a place of service and this is really the time to offer more low cost or free things.  Look to elevate your audience instead of adding to the fear.

Free things can serve and connect your audience.

Free series Facebook Ad

For example, during this COVID-19 crisis people have to work out at home since the gyms are closed so people are possibly looking for workout equipment.

Ad addresses the crisis

#2 Which Ads Work and Don’t Work During a Crisis

In general, which Facebook Ads work or don’t work depends on the crisis.  Ads to help inform and mobilize the community will always work.  Ads that have a pushy, insensitive sales message won’t.

Do not stop all marketing messages – that is actually dangerous to your future sales.  Think about supporting your audience.  What do they need right now?

Here are some thoughts on what ads work and don’t work.

Ads that are working:

  • Messages of hope and community
  • Free things can definitely work as a way to serve.  Don’t think about how to profit from the situation but you have to keep the lights on.
  • Shopping can still work.  I’m still seeing people buy things through the crisis.  Even luxury items may work.  People still need things.
  • In the case of COVID-19 virtual meetings, webinars and continued learning are working since people are quarantined are online MORE – some people have time on their hands.
  • People may be looking to change their circumstances with a new career or a new entrepreneurial endeavor.
  • Future in-person events may work – give people something to look forward to.
  • Anything that has to do with toilet paper (ok that’s a little coronavirus humor)

Ads that bring community together

Ads that aren’t working:

  • In-person events that are too close to the crisis.  When there is uncertainty, people won’t know how they are going to feel or how long the crisis will last.
  • Completely unnecessary or vanity items may get backlash (think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).  For example, I saw an ad for reducing your double eyelid shortly after the coronavirus really escalated last week and it made me extremely angry. Although there may still be luxury items that people buy for comfort – just watch your metrics.
  • Big purchases like homes – with the uncertainty people aren’t going to make a big move as readily.
  • Pushy sales ads that don’t acknowledge the situation or are completely wrong advice for the given moment.  This is a time to revisit all ad campaigns any any scheduled content.  In this next example, I have no knowledge that this ad isn’t working – I’m just showing an example of community sentiment towards something that is insensitive to the current situation.

Facebook ad that does not work

Be sensitive to the message as well as the images.  Corona pulled a long-planned ad campaign where they claimed to be the “Official Beer of Working Remotely” according to an article about advertising during COVID-19 by Fast Company and KFC’s finger-licking good no longer is appropriate.

#3 What to Watch For in Your Facebook Ad Reports

The biggest key is to watch what is working for you.  Compare the trends day to day and week to week to find out if your ad should be paused.

In the date area, check the stats for Yesterday, Last Week, This Week.  Then you can use the Compare feature to see how the stats are changing as a percentage.

You may even want to compare a longer period to see how things are trending over a few weeks. In this example I compared the first 2-1/2 weeks in March to the previous 2-1/2 week period to see the change.

Compare Facebook Ad data

And what I saw in this particular set of ads was that lead cost actually went DOWN in 3 out of for Ad Sets (in once case, over a 50% decrease in cost).

See comparison of Facebook Ad results


Also look at your charts to see the trends.  When you click on View Charts under the Ad Set name or Ad Name you can see the performance over a period of time.

View Charts in Facebook Ads

During a crisis, it’s more important than EVER to watch for comments on your Facebook Ads.

You can watch them in multiple areas.  Typically the Notifications on your Page will show anything new.

Monitoring comments on Facebook Ads

I also like using Agorapulse because I can filter just by comments on Ads.

Ad Comments Agorapulse


Why it makes sense to continue marketing during a crisis

“Marketing” during a crisis is probably the wrong choice of words here.  It’s really about being present, showing up, and continuing to offer your community solutions.

Be human and share your concerns but also realize it’s time to lead your community with a message of hope.

You may consider boosting a few messages or videos as well as offering something of value that can truly help.

As usual, track your sales and conversions with the Facebook Pixel and stop any ads that aren’t working.

People will still buy things during a crisis but even if they don’t, your business will be the first one they think of when the crisis is over.

This crisis is changing moment by moment so this all may change next week.  We will get through it together.

Please know that I am sending all of you good vibes, healing, peace, or whatever you need during this scary time.

Thank you for being part of my community and reading my blog.  I appreciate you.

Let me know about your experience in the comments below.