Winter Storms Hit Ad Performance Across Google, Facebook and Amazon

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By Andy Taylor

Many advertisers have been experiencing significant shifts in demand since the start of the extensive winter storms that swept the country in mid-February. With severe power outages in some areas, online demand has cratered for many advertisers on Google and Amazon, while Facebook advertisers have found surging impressions but lagging ROAS.

Here we examine how these trends have moved since the start of the storms, using samples collected from more than $2 billion in ad spend under management at Tinuiti.

Special thanks to Aarati Sriram for her work on Google geographic location trends.


Google Search Ad Impressions Down Across the US


Taking a look at how Google ad impressions moved across the United States from early to mid-February, it’s clear that the winter storm hugely impacted search demand for most Tinuiti advertisers. Texas, which was one of the regions hit hardest by the recent storms, saw the greatest decline in impressions.



This has resulted in a significant deceleration in click growth for many advertisers, as rolling 7-day, year-over-year click growth fell by double-digit percentage points from the beginning of February to the middle of the month.



Amazon Advertisers Find Similar Slowdown in Ad Performance


Amazon advertisers observed a very similar trend as Google advertisers when looking at how year-over-year click growth has trended since the start of the storms. Conversions attributed to ads have also fallen meaningfully over the same time frame.



While ad impressions have fallen across Google and Amazon, the story was quite different on Facebook properties.


Impressions on Facebook and Instagram Surge During Storms


Taking a look at Facebook performance, ad impressions have soared over the last week across both Facebook and Instagram for many advertisers.



However, many advertisers have found lagging ROAS, particularly on Facebook. Facebook Ads Manager Status did report major disruptions to ad delivery on Feb 18, and it’s unclear if the disruptions are storm-related.





These shifts follow similar trends observed around Election Day last November, when search demand on both Amazon and Google fell while the whole country watched as results trickled in. Facebook impressions surged, however, as Facebook and Instagram are also considered news and communication platforms for many, such that use of these platforms can increase during times such as massive storms and political turmoil when other platforms find waning interest.

Advertisers may have believed that 2021 would bring with it less surprises and shocks to ad performance than a pandemic-plagued 2020, but the early events of this year indicate marketers will have to remain vigilant. The political events of January already produced rocky performance results for many brands, and the winter storms have clearly taken a toll as well.

It’s very likely that advertisers will see a rebound in demand once consumers return to a more normal pace of life, just as brands found a resurgence in ad performance following Election Day and the events of January. In the meantime, marketers should monitor search query reports to ensure that recent events aren’t causing an influx of ad impressions for irrelevant queries.



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