7 reasons to continue advertising through the Coronavirus pandemic

By James Myring

Advertising, like most other industries, is having a very tough time of it just now. Graphs depicting sharp increases1 in postponed or axed campaigns mimic those of the spread of the virus itself.

However, amidst the strong downward pressure on ad budgets there remain several reasons why brands should keep advertising through the current crisis.

Using data from our BVA BDRC Covid-19 tracker, as well as current thinking from marketing experts, we have spelled out below our 7 reasons to continue advertising at a time when it seems most tempting to cut marketing spend to the bone.

1) Advertising is mostly about raising Long Term brand value

Les Binet and Peter Field have persuasively argued that the optimum mix for advertising is to have 60% of spend focussed on longer term brand building and 40% on short term sales activation.

Obviously, the inevitable reduction or elimination of consumer demand across a number of categories as a result of lockdown and travel restrictions means that for many brands, promoting short term sales is pointless. But this should not automatically disrupt long term brand building; there will, after all, be a time when things do eventually return to normal.

Field himself says of the crisis2 “The only sensible course for any advertiser who wants to maintain a presence through this recession… is to be putting money into long-term brand building because the role of that investment is for the recovery, not for now.”

2) Audiences can be higher and the cost of advertising lower

Sales of TVs increased by +60%3 on the same week the lockdown began.

Week 3 of the BVA BDRC Covid-19 tracker conducted on 6-7 April showed that in the UK 51% are watching more live (at the time of broadcast) TV than normal, 40% the same and only 5% less.

Accessing the internet shows an even larger increase, and radio listening also increases.

Coronavirus media activities

Regarding TV, whilst SVOD providers like Netflix are thriving4, it has been reported5 that in these uncertain times people are also finding comfort in the familiar. 56% of UK households say they mainly watch programmes on the five traditional channels, up from 46% two years earlier.

With advertisers reducing spend whilst audiences increase, inevitably spot prices will drop. As Thinkbox says6 “the average price for a TV spot will come down (in TV terms, this means demand is down and supply is up). The impact of this for advertisers is that TV advertising pricing will offer ridiculous value over the next couple of months.”

3) Cutting ad spend in a crisis has had a detrimental impact on brands in the past

If you don’t advertise you are going to lose ground to brands that keep spending.

Peter Field has conducted research with the IPA7 on advertising during the last recession. This provides compelling evidence that brands such as Virgin Atlantic which maintained brand building advertising through the financial crisis benefitted in the long term.

Going ‘dark’, on the other hand, carries a high risk of share loss and greater price sensitivity – Field says to expect a 5-year recovery period and a major loss of profit during this time.

4) It is easy to stand out if your competitors are off air

Advertisers always talk about 'cutting through' and making their brand 'distinctive'. If your competitors are currently off air, will there ever be an easier time to stand out?

WARC8 quote Mark Ritson as saying that marketers who understand the long-term of advertising need only to let their competitors damage themselves. “Untrained competitors who do not know this will cut back on ad spend; your excess share of voice will increase relative to competitors as a result.” Essentially brands now have a rare opportunity to grow market share just by maintaining their existing spend level.

5) Just because consumers can’t currently spend it doesn’t mean they aren’t planning to spend in future

If you want people really to want something try taking it away from them.

Since lockdown began I’ve been sitting at home watching travel shows and dreaming about holidays abroad.? It seems I am not alone. Whilst 46% are currently thinking less about foreign holidays / overseas destinations they would like to visit, 34% are thinking about the same and 21% are actually thinking more about it than before the crisis9.

6) Going through a major life event disrupts brand buying habits.

Richard Shotton highlights in Thinkbox how undergoing a major life events correlates with trying new brands. When everyone is going through an unprecedented major life event it is possible that we are about to enter an era where purchasing (and brand) habits change dramatically. Shotton concludes, “The main implication of all this is that the purchasing habits of your customers will be changing – and continue to change for a while after social distancing ends. Your customers are more likely to switch to your competitors, and your competitors’ customers are more likely to switch to you.”

Post Coronavirus, there may be a lot up for grabs.

7) Finally this will not last forever…

…It is darkest just before the dawn.

On 14-15 April 3 in 5 Britons felt the worst was still to come, but this was down from 4 out of 5 just a week earlier10.

  1. Marketing Week 6 Apr 2020
  2. Marketing Week 26 Mar 2020
  3. Mediatel 30 Mar 2020
  4. DW Akademie Apr 2020
  5. Ernst & Young 17 Mar 2020
  6. Campaign 26 Mar 2020
  7. IPA 7 Apr 2020
  8. WARC 13 Apr 2020
  9. BVA BDRC 6 April 2020
  10. BVA BDRC 17 April 2020

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