Brands: Keep Calm and Carry On Advertising

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As we kicked off 2020, the advertising industry was in great shape. A new decade brought exciting new opportunities and campaigns to launch, with high hopes from those that worked within it. Fast forward to today and the outlook for the rest of the year is very different.

Advertising plays a vital role in our economy and wider society. It drives demand that sells products and services that create jobs. It builds brands that create relationships with consumers. Importantly, for now, advertising revenues also support our news industry – a necessary source of information during these challenging times – and pay for the entertainment we enjoy every day.

Unsurprisingly, demand for news has never been stronger, with GlobalWebIndex’s research shows 60% of consumers are watching more. In addition, 40% are watching more broadcast TV and 52% are watching more shows via streaming services.

However, despite these trends, advertising revenues are dropping faster than ever.

Echoing ITV commercial chief Simon Daglish, who has recently spoken about the battle to keep brand advertising, it’s for businesses to keep communicating with audiences.

In times of national crisis, advertising can provide stability and positive messages – something consumers welcome. Whilst the goals of advertising may have diverted from driving sales, now is the time for brands to focus on building positive perception for the long term.

Advertising is welcomed by audiences

While there are obvious reasons to freeze or shift advertising spend; I believe many brands think they need to stop advertising because of sentiment alone. Coca-Cola, for example, has shrunk its brand marketing due to perceptions around consumer attitudes.

But we know how consumers really feel about advertising since the outbreak, and it’s not what advertisers might think.

Our research shows almost no consumer concern about brand advertising at this time. 85% of consumers either approve of or are impartial to, carrying on as normal. This rises to 96% in favor of advertising that “provides practical information” and 94% in favor of those delivering “funny/light-hearted content.” While it may feel trivial to focus on making people laugh right now, this is clearly not the case for those in lockdown.

Take Dominos – they have made a conscious decision to continue advertising and are not slowing down, despite the pandemic. CEO Ritch Allison acknowledged that “at a time like this, we need to lean in even more to get the messages around value and around how we can safely serve our customers.” Its recent campaign, showing support to the NHS and frontline workers, reinforces the need for positive advertising and brands realigning their strategy in the face of adversity. Brands need to remember that advertising goes beyond the ‘here and now’; building brand equity is a long-term game.

Looking to the future

WARC and the Advertising Association have forecast TV advertising in the UK to drop by 46% in Q2 and all forms of advertising to fall 19.7% across 2020. Sectors such as physical retail, travel, and live events that drive large chunks of spend have disappeared. Product launches and sports events have also been postponed.

Our data shows 46% will start buying again once the outbreak decreases. Top of the list are vacations, clothes, and smartphones.

Sometimes, there’s a valid and important need to pull advertising. However, if you’ve spent years building a brand, switching it off now, with one of the most engaged audiences in history, is a short-sighted decision that could erode decades of hard-won brand love.

While consumers are delaying many major purchase decisions, our data shows 46% will start buying again once the outbreak decreases. The top of the list is vacations, clothes, and smartphones. Connecting with this highly-engaged audience, supporting the marketing industry, and delivering the revenues that publishers need to survive are wins for everyone.

Advertising is a vital component of a functioning economy, and “normal” is something we all need more of right now. At GlobalWebIndex, we have continued our marketing efforts as usual, but have endeavored to offer more valuable, informative, and supportive content by providing free access to audience insights into the coronavirus.

Ultimately, if brands go dark on their advertising now, they will find those that kept the lights have won when the pandemic is over. Despite the world, we’re living in right now, it’s crucial to remember ‘this too shall pass’ – and advertisers should continue advertising to prepare for that moment.

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