Plan for “Disturbances in the Force” this spring

It may not be only Obi-Wan that feels a great disturbance in the Force this spring – performance advertisers will likely feel it too.

The vast majority of consumer response to performance advertising occurs from inside the home, even in these days of response via mobile devices – any disruptions or distractions from their routine at home impact advertisers’ response volumes. Bank holidays have traditionally been a good example of this phenomenon, with advertisers (bar leisure and entertainment) seeing marked dips in response across the weekends in question.

Our advice for performance advertisers who measure response on a daily basis? Prepare for the equivalent of many new Bank holidays this spring. Here’s why.

Boris’s roadmap out of lockdown has several key dates over the next few weeks: 29th March will see golf courses and tennis courts reopen; pubs (or beer gardens) will be open on 12th April; indoor meals will be available 17th May, and of course, 21st June is the long-awaited Freedom Day.

When this roadmap was announced on 22nd February, we agreed to meet friends and family on or around one of these dates like many of you readers. Only when we came to make the actual bookings did we realise that it wasn’t just us with these plans, but truly a mass movement. If you don’t believe us, try booking a tee time next week or a restaurant table in April. But rather than relying solely on our subjective judgment, we went in search of data to understand just how significant an impact these dates might have.

Figure one below shows the interest in visiting pub beer gardens from 12th April, compared with pubs’ use back when they were last part of everyday life in 2019. 3.9 million of us claim we will be there come rain or shine in three weeks – that’s 2.7 million more than an average day in 2019. 9.9 million of us will be there by the end of the week, and 20 million of us, or nearly 40% of the UK population, by the end of April.

Figure One: 3,900,000 of us say we will visit the pub on April 12th

Source: You Gov 14th March 2021/Touchpoints 2019/TKF analysis

So, three times as many people in pub gardens on day one and they will still be 33% busier than usual by the end of the month.

Not surprisingly, the younger generation is more likely to be found with drinks in hand than other audiences. The under 34’s account for 37% of those planning to be first to the bar. But it’s not just the young – the over 55’s say that they will also be there in force, making up 25% of the first day’s crowd.

We expect this pattern to repeat across different distractions- restaurants, five-a-side football pitches, tennis courts, and on each subsequent key date of the roadmap. Add to this the four upcoming Bank Holidays, and there are several “disturbances” that should feature in any performance brand’s future response planning.

The impact of all this will, as ever, not be equally distributed. Some audiences (e.g., those still worried about their health or the 4,900,000 who will miss many aspects of lockdown) will still be at home and responding. Some brands will thrive from the new IRL social opportunities.

Our advice? Locate these bumps in the road; map them as speed bumps or launch ramps for your audience and brand, and adjust investments accordingly.