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Sascha Lock, VP of Media
April 23, 2020

 

Nowadays, we’re concerned about many things: financial preparedness, getting sick, having enough toilet paper. For those working in marketing and advertising, we’re also concerned about things like shifting and rebuilding our media plans for resilience during COVID-19, an upcoming recession, and in times of volatility. It’s abundantly clear that there’s not a more necessary time than right now to pivot and protect our client’s businesses while protecting our own. But the compasses we typically use to help us plan and buy media can feel like they’re spinning.

The reality is that the rules of the media game and strategy of how to “win” have changed. Media consumption habits have seemingly changed overnight, publishers and ad exchanges have a surplus of ad inventory, but their revenue streams are hurting from things like ad suppression and blocking. And according to the IAB, a quarter of us have paused media through the end of Q2. Media planning today might feel as crazy as Joe Exotic from Tiger King, but there are ways to pivot your plans effectively without losing sanity. Here are five tips in doing so.


  1. Arm yourself with insights on consumer behaviors, channel trends, and brand reactions.

    Consumers - what are they doing and how do they feel? Did you know that 92% don’t think you should stop advertising? Watch out for topics like sentiment around your category, spending habits, content interests, and expectations from your brand or brands in your industry. 

    Channels - how is usage changing right now, and can we predict these things will stick for a while? Take note of immediate changes, like video content consumption being up by 60% and a boost in streaming numbers. Not all of these trends will remain in the long run. We will go back to our old ways once this is over, we’re commuting to work again, shopping in malls, and there are sporting events on TV. Try to understand the longevity of these trends and their implications on your current channel mix, with an eye for the future as well.

    Brands - how are brands within and outside your category reacting to the situation? And more importantly, how are 56% of those consumers who care reacting to their reactions? Observe the successes and flops, while pondering what to implement for your own brand. Live-stream something, make a statement, keep silent, or donate money to an SMB. Your actions could strengthen (or hurt) the rapport your brand has with loyal customers and prospects.

    Your agency and vendor partners can and should help with this task.
  2. Before making changes, try to extract maximum value from what you have.

    Now that you’ve armed yourself with external knowledge, it’s time to look internally and think about what’s worked for your brand in the past, if it will still work, and if so, for how long. Whether specific channels, tactics, or messages have been your workhorses or even shown promising results, you’ll want to determine if they can be salvaged, and how. 

    The ubiquity of digital in our connected lives has helped it weather storms better than other channels, for example during the last recession, which is an indicator of where your focus should be. If social has been a key e-commerce driver, you may be in luck as usage has exploded. Now may be a good time to double-down on this channel to increase frequency among your top-performing audiences.
  3. Look at your pie(chart), and at the ingredients available.

    If you weren’t considering making changes very soon, you likely wouldn’t be this far into the article. But much like a self-quarantined cook with skills (not me) can replace one ingredient for another, it’s important to know which replacements will produce something close to the original recipe. Think about the channels you’ll need to act on, and which replacements will disrupt your business the least.

    If live sports is your only reach-play, could you diversify your linear TV buy with non-sports programming, or flex into connected TV? If you’re committed to a handful of large networks like NBC and Discovery, they’d be happy to help you repurpose your inventory. Also, fire sales could be a short-term cost-efficiency hack to hitting new households and building reach. We’re predicting an insane marketplace for Q3 and Q4 2020 between $5B in political spending, $1.2B in Olympics reinvestments, and billions more in postponed sports, so now’s a good time to look in the pantry.

  4. Find opportunities in the moment. It may be a great time to do that test you’ve been putting off.

    My wife and I have delayed potty training our little girl for over a year. Guess what we’ve been doing this past week? It seems COVID-19 was the catalyst for an overdue yet impending action item, and in the same analogy, testing is critical to improving business. That same test mindset should apply right now, arguably more than ever, for business to prosper. Think about the tests you’ve been meaning to do and if now’s the right time to do them. 

    To use one example, Matched-Market tests work well when most variables are static. It may not seem like it, but right now may be a great time to do a MML: most everyone is at home (user equality across markets), and media plans have shrunk down to a handful of channels (fewer channels means less influence on clean results). And you may be able to negotiate discounts for running it as well.
  5. Reprogram your measurement strategy accordingly to track success.

    This step may sound obvious to some but shifting initial measurement strategies alongside plan shifts can be an afterthought, especially in chaotic times. As you’re thinking about making changes to your media plan, during COVID-19 or beyond, you may need to recalibrate your measurement strategy, data sources, and run feasibility checks with your measurement partners. If you’re implementing tests, ensure proper tagging is in place. Adding new partners? You may need new measurement solutions.

Hopefully, these tips will help you in pivoting your media plan. But just remember, you are not alone, and nobody has all of the answers. We’re all in the same boat. If you’d like to talk, please give us a shout, and we’d be happy to talk.

Check out the article on MediaPost.

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