Guy Rancourt, VP of Media May 14, 2020 I miss sports – both personally and professionally – and I know I’m not alone. Those sentiments are echoed in conversations almost as frequently as you hear people say they miss seeing friends or just going out to eat. An unintentional consequence of COVID-19 is the realization of how much sports powers the advertising world. The absence of sports has thrown our marketing ecosystem into flux, and the ripple effect of canceling major sporting events is being felt across all mediums and all categories. In the short term, the loss of linear GRP’s, digital impressions and multi-platform marketing opportunities, not to mention the amount of unspent dollars freed up with these cancellations, is staggering. Countless marketers rely on the scale and platforms that events like the NCAA Tournament, professional sports seasons and the Olympics provide in order to showcase, launch and sustain their businesses. Removing these from the marketing equation is proving to be troublesome for many brands and agencies. Countless conversations, spreadsheets, flowcharts, meetings and revisions – all culminating in media plans of which sports play a major role. Poof! Gone. All for naught. But when they eventually come back this fall, what does that mean for the marketplace? It should be good news for brands and agencies. Many events have already been stricken from the 2020 calendar: the NCAA Tournament, Wimbledon, Tokyo Summer Olympics and The British Open, to name a few. While others have been postponed until later this summer and fall – NBA Basketball, NHL Hockey, Major League Baseball, The Masters, French Open, Kentucky Derby – many more still wait for their fates to be determined. As the leagues and television partners continue their weekly dialogues around how and when they can resume play, there are countless rumors swirling about how each of them will land the plane: Playing the NBA season at Disney World Pushing the college football season to the spring of 2021 Sequester all MLB teams and staffs in Arizona and Florida Eliminate NFL bye weeks to squeeze in games in the event of a delay While all of these options are up for consideration, they’re merely speculative solves until the country gets a handle on the Coronavirus. But the point here is that they are all working on solutions to resume play. Each already has mapped out countless scenarios and contingency plans to employ, once they are given the all-clear, in an effort to save their seasons. And they may all come back around the same time later this summer and into the fall. Clearly, there are more grave and consequential things going on in the world, so I do not highlight the lack of sports as the most pressing of challenges facing us. But make no mistake – the removal of sports has turned the marketing world on its head. According to Bloomberg, more than $2.5 billion dollars have been removed from the market this year already. That’s billion, with a B. We’re undoubtedly headed for a recession as businesses try to recover later this year and into next. We also know that production schedules for scripted entertainment will be impacted, causing delays in original programming. This will mostly affect prime time as their pilot season has been impacted the most – and who wants to invest heavily in what could be a light schedule of first-run scripted content this fall? As such, many are speculating that the sports marketplace will be flush with cash as the logical landing spot for all of those budgets. Another sellers’ market? Consider this: the back half sports schedule will be very condensed when all of these sports return. Imagine this very real scenario on November 15th: Sunday final of The Masters, followed by a National NFL window that then leads right into a World Series Game and Sunday Night Football. Talk about feast or famine. The point I’m making is that there should be a concentration of premium sports impressions in a tight window. Will there really be enough demand for this glut of sports GRP’s? Our industry is quick to say that sports – and football in particular – are mostly immune to market fluctuations. But can Madison Avenue afford to fund all of these hungry mouths this fall? I say no, and I think brands and agencies are in store for one of the softest sports marketplaces in a long time. Even the mighty NFL shield could see dents in the armor for the first time in a long time.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
Guy Rancourt, VP of Media April 23, 2020 As we all continue to adjust to the new normal, it’s fair to speculate on what the future holds for the video landscape. It’s no surprise that with most of the country confined to their homes that media consumption is up across the board – especially in linear TV and OTT. But what will these changes mean long term? As audiences are in home-confinement, they have ample time on their hands to explore all their media options. In fact, they have no choice but to fill the hours- social, streaming, television and online media usage are peaking. It’s forcing people to delve deeper into their entertainment ecosystem. It’s exposing them to linear channels and streaming platforms that, 30 days ago, were not on their radar (I even found myself watching ‘I Survived’ on something called The Justice Network). And it’s growing consumption across both paid and free OTT platforms, exposing audiences to new sources of video content. Across demos, the biggest spikes in usage are among the younger demographics, which stands to reason when you consider that they were the segment consuming the least video content prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, the average viewer is spending over than an hour more per day with the television screen (5+ hours). It’s naïve to think that the COVID-induced spikes in viewership will sustain. Hopes for maintaining the ratings bumps we are experiencing now, or even the high viewership among streaming services are not practical. Levels will naturally diminish as Americans return to work and leave their homes again. Without a doubt, the ratings increases in linear are a welcome sight after years of declines, but they are unlikely to maintain the growth given: Lack of production during the stay-at-home restrictions. New season programming, particularly in primetime, will not be ready, turning viewers away when they expect new content in the fall. The trends that were present prior to the Coronavirus outbreak (audience fragmentation, linear erosion) will not be reversed, even with the massive impact a crisis of this magnitude causes. Will we see a ‘new normal’ of social distancing take effect after we get the all clear? Or quite the opposite- where everyone embraces the opportunity to be outside. At restaurants, the movies, the beach or just hosting get-togethers again after being denied those long-lost indulgences. Either way, they’ll be hungry for good content, as they have always been. They just might be gravitating more towards alternative sources when we emerge on the other side. All of this can only bode well for streaming services that were already on the rise pre-COVID and will likely accelerate adoption and usage. So, the need to diversify media mixes will only become more apparent and more necessary. Audiences will not abandon linear- so that will continue to be a valuable reach vehicle, integral to media mixes. But marketers need to recognize that a larger swath of the population will surely have sampled and grown used to a heavier dose of streaming video into their regular habits. Between Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Quibi, Peacock, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, not to mention free services like Pluto TV, Crackle, Tubi, etc. – they’ve never been pulled in so many directions before. Meanwhile more services are on the way from AT&T, Comcast, ViacomCBS and Discovery. Consumers are customizing their media consumption: on their terms, with the content they want to view, when they want to view it. And it makes sense for brands and agencies to follow suit.
Digital marketing and traditional media ad spend has taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, one thing that has seen a surge in consumer spend during this time is mobile apps. Check out some of the key insights and findings from a recent Campaign US article. New findings from Appsflyer showed that there was a 10% increase in mobile apps’ global revenue from consumer spend during the first week of April. They dug even deeper to see what industries were seeing the biggest spike in revenue. Health & fitness apps’ revenue jumped 24% last week with more people having to resort to working out from their home. Finance (up 18%), shopping (up 15%) and food delivery (up 10%) also saw increases in revenue as more people began staying at home and following social distancing guidelines. Not all mobile apps however have experienced the same recent surge as the ones listed above. The largest drop is from travel apps, which is down 30% in the last 6 weeks. Here’s what our VP of Media, Sascha Lock, has to say about the trend: A rise in mobile-app usage has hit quarantined countries since mid-March, which in part is being driven by existing users seeking distractions or space/sanity from their nuclear families. However, apps like Pandora and Tiktok have reported sizable increases in new users, too. Folks are seeking comfort from music, or just mindless entertainment, while trying new apps to fulfill those needs. More users means more ad impressions on mobile-apps, but there’s a steep shortage in demand for those impressions right now. What’s clear in this picture is that paid apps (or paid versions of apps) are at least seeing diversification in their revenue streams - while ad-supported revenue is down, app-download revenue is up. Sadly, the same can’t be said for most players in the advertising industry, at least until the end of Q2.