Marketing during COVID-19: It’s not all or nothing

It is soul-destroying when the marketing strategies that have taken so long to determine become unfeasible and irrelevant overnight, but now is no time for the advertising sector to be feeling sorry itself. Yes, April media investment is forecasted to drop by over 50% and entire channels such as OOH are temporarily out of the marketing mix, however this is not a period to completely drop off your audiences’ radar. Those who create a platform to resume activity when normality returns will gain considerable share of voice and therefore market share.

Now it’s all well and good quoting the likes of Binet and Field whose theories show that those investing during times of crisis such as a recession means you will come out the other side stronger, but like most theories, they don’t account for other external factors such as the business requirement to reduce costs.

But it’s not about spending huge sums. Tailoring your ask to people’s current mindset and implementing an approach that is relevant to the current unique situation without being seen to exploit it, will see return. Those that are decisive and agile will succeed whilst those that procrastinate will ultimately fail. It’s better to be doing something (in the right tone and at the right time of course), than nothing at all.

As sectors like travel & leisure pull their spend and users spend more time on platforms, we have seen a seismic swing in supply and demand. Across the Facebook platforms, we have seen CPMs drop over 30% in the past three weeks, so if you can maintain response rates at 70%+ of their normal levels, you should continue investing in paid social. Using such an agile platform allows us to be extremely reactive as new trends emerge, especially in this constant state of flux and we’ve seen several clients taking budget from later in the year to increase their spend at this time.

On programmatic, CPMs have initially remained stable and speaking to our partners, it appears the channel managed to backfill lost revenue with spend reallocated from OOH. This, however, was a short-term scenario as the next planning cycle will see more reduced budgets and therefore less allocated to online video and brand Display.

The auction model for Programmatic is much more complex and convoluted than AdWords or Facebook, so a reduction in demand may not see prices fall significantly as publishers look to protect their income.

However, some premium publishers and platforms have seen traffic explode and now represent amazing opportunities to gain cost-effective reach and frequency. The likes of The Guardian and The Telegraph have seen site visitors increase circa 20% and not just on coronavirus content – topics such as healthy living, science and education have almost doubled in online readers. We can access this inventory directly, via private marketplace deals and even non-guaranteed whitelists.

In summary, in channels where there are more eyeballs and lower rates with no minimum spends and no penalties for stopping activity, why wouldn’t you test some activity? Just make sure you learn from those who got their content strategy wrong, like ASOS and their chain mail face mask last week!

Ben Foster, Director of Digital