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Navigating the challenges of Digital Advertising during a Global Pandemic
All over the world, people have flocked online as a key news source to understand the latest updates on the COVID-19 global health pandemic. For media sellers, this means audiences are growing, and for ad buyers, reaching their desired and highly engaged audience has never been easier.
Opportunity lies in the hands of online publishers to commercialise this upsurge in news and overall media consumption habits. Nielsen survey data featured in The World Economic Forum’s white paper Understanding Value in Media: Perspectives from Consumers and Industry reports that on average 16% of people across China, Germany, India, South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S. currently pay for news content; however, 53% indicate that they will be willing to pay for it in the future. The time is now to get proactive about retaining new subscribers who have engaged with your news content throughout the pandemic.
A Pandemic dilemma: Stop Advertising or Maintain Brand Equity through a Cause
Any ROI aspirations burned away from the time the WHO declared on March 11 that COVID-19 was indeed a pandemic and resulted in a venerable firesale of creative content.
For instance, ad inventory that was purpose-built and slated to be associated with the upcoming Olympic games, for travel and tourism purposes, or simply felt tone deaf in the wake of a fast-moving, unknown virus that prompted strict social distancing measures globally, was halted and marketers pulled back. In Italy, for instance, advertisements for a train service featuring people hugging were reported as late as March 8. Following COVID-19, marketing strategies as well as creatives needed to be looked at in a whole new light.
This during a time when unprecedented levels of video viewing were increasing significantly. In mid to late March, total use of television in the U.S., including the use of digital enablers, such as smart TVs, internet-connected devices and gaming consoles, was up 18% from early March. During that same time (March 13 to 31), daily app usage increased significantly as COVID-19 spread across the U.S. compared with the first two-and-a half months of this year (Jan. 1 to March 12).
Local Spot TV Advertising is on the Upswing as States begin to re-open
Despite the epic fragmentation, certain indicators offer guidance about what the future will look like. Advertising, particularly local advertising, is one of them, given that local businesses are the lifeblood that fuels the thousands of communities across the U.S. And importantly, a new Nielsen analysis indicates that spot advertising in local markets appears to be starting to turn the corner after declining in some areas by as much as 35% at the end of March.
Even in tough times, there’s a need and place for advertising. In more recent weeks, local spot TV ad units are coming back faster, rising 5% during the week of April 27, 2020. Unlike national and cable TV ads, which most TV viewers in the U.S. see regardless of location, local spot ads appear in specific markets and clusters of markets. As such, monitoring local ad spot trends provides insight into the future health of our local media markets.
Connected TV usage Remains above pre-COVID-19 Levels as Traditional TV viewing normalizes
During the height of countrywide shelter-in-place orders across the U.S. amid the COVID-19 pandemic, weekly time spent watching connected TVs grew along with overall media use, rising by more than 1 billion hours as the weeks passed. Now, as states ease shelter-in-place orders and allow businesses to re-open, traditional TV usage is normalizing while CTV usage remains well above pre-COVID-19 levels.
The rise in total media consumption during shelter-in-place restrictions was expected and has been well documented to date, but the persistent high levels of CTV use across smart TVs, internet-connected devices and game consoles suggests that life in the new normal includes a heavier dose of connected TV use than before the lockdowns.
While there are certainly people who watch TV alone, TV viewing has always fostered a communal experience among groups of people. This is particularly true for CTV usage. While U.S. households have connected devices throughout their homes, Americans use CTV devices most heavily in the living room, where everyone can watch together.