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Intelligence Briefs

Brands and agencies - it’s not the time to go quiet

Industry Contributor

Sean McCaull, Head of Sales
Revolution360

13 May 2020 3min read

  • Advertisers are pulling back or halting advertising spends
  • The rapid pace in which everything unfolded has made for a kind of shock we’ve probably not faced before. No one had time to plan and so many brands have gone into protection mode and shut off marketing altogether
  • Outdoor advertising and in fact all advertising might feel like background noise to us most of the time, but its absence is startling and disconcerting.
  • The public want the news and rely on news houses, but those houses rely on advertising and with brands waiting to avoid being placed near any mention of COVID-19 and other key words this will cost the publishers more than $60m
  • Many advertisers are trying to remain present and are changing their messaging to ensure they get the right tone in this truly unprecedented time

My Takeout

In times such as these, the shocking unfamiliarity naturally makes you pull all of your chips closer, not knowing what’s next. With losses being felt all around many are unwilling to risk losing more, but perhaps what more brands should be asking themselves is, how can we adapt? Crisis is a time to re-look at the way you do business and the changes in behaviour that follow could present new opportunities to engage.

Many brands are halting their ad spends during this period with 70% either pausing or decreasing their ad spends. Digital and traditional ad spend are down 33% and 39% respectively. Previous studies have shown that a maintained or increased marketing spend during a recession can actually deliver a long-term advantage for the brand. During the 2007/8 GFC, the brands that continued to spend were the ones to come out of it the strongest with a quick recovery.

Now there has been some time to take stock, brands need to pivot and think long term and create a lasting impression by maintaining a presence in market whilst also positioning themselves in a meaningful and respectful way. Mercedes Benz, Heinz and Nike are all examples of brands that have adapted swiftly, altering their messaging to be helpful, relevant and keep their presence front of mind.

One thing I take from this article is that people still want to see ads. In times of fear, people crave normalcy and it helps create calm. Adverts, while sometimes intrusive are a normal part of our lives and the example made about billboards in major epicentres is a good one. Could it be more unsettling seeing the likes of Times Square, Piccadilly Circus and Shibuya Crossing void of any brands?

Content, of course, must be carefully created so as to not be rejected by consumers. It is far from BAU and it would be a mistake to pretend otherwise. The messaging needs to be right. Brands should put people ahead of profit and communicate how they are able to help or add value, whilst ensuring their strategy and messaging are authentic and consistent with the brand’s values.

Avoiding being associated with the pandemic by blacklisting keywords around Coronavirus is perhaps not the right tack either. It seems like an obvious move, but is it actually helping everyone in the long run? The news outlets need to deliver this crucial news, but they rely on ad spend to allow them to do it. Jobs rely on that spend. Maybe a “we are all in this together and how can we help” approach could in fact be a better angle. Giving consumers the reassurance they need in a time when they need it.

In conclusion, it seems messaging in this climate can help build a sense of trust, but the right message is key. In doing so we are creating a sense of comfort. For years we have become used to the ‘noise’ so this sudden wave of empty ad space is confronting. By putting things out there you are creating a sense of normality and helping to reduce the widespread feeling of uncertainty. As we will get through this, together approach that benefits everyone in the long run.

Let’s go. What do you think?

Industry Contributor

Sean McCaull, Head of Sales
Revolution360

Head of Sales NSW & QLD at Revolution360. Sean has been with the company for 4.5 years and has a media-sales focused career background spanning Australia and Asia.

Market Voice

Less price promotion and product-focused ads doing better in COVID; public wants to hear from brands

Orlando Wood is the author of the ground-breaking 2019 advertising bestseller, Lemon, and chief innovation officer at advertising research firm System1. Wood says  even as consumers shift from fear to sadness and anger, System1’s global consumer tracking studies show they’re ok with ads during COVID-19. But what ads are working?

Go deeper 10min read

Orlando Wood

Chief Innovation Officer, System1 Group

18 May 2020 10min read

Less price promotion and product-focused ads doing better in COVID; public wants to hear from brands

Orlando Wood is the author of the ground-breaking 2019 advertising bestseller, Lemon, and chief innovation officer at advertising research firm System1. Wood says  even as consumers shift from fear to sadness and anger, System1’s global consumer tracking studies show they’re ok with ads during COVID-19. But what ads are working?

Go deeper 10min read

By Orlando Wood - Chief Innovation Officer, System1 Group