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April 9, 2020

7 min read

Why brands should keep their advertising game strong

The media landscape and how audiences are consuming their media has changed dramatically since the beginning of 2020. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that now sees a large portion of our population working from home, our behaviours are being forced to change and we are rapidly adapting to a new way of life. In a time of uncertainty, people also tend to revert to trusted and credible sources of information and so we are seeing an increasing trend of people engaging with premium, trustworthy and credible publishers and broadcasters.

In times like this, when there is uncertainty and the economy starts to stall, the natural reaction of many brands is that they start to pull back and decrease marketing activity. This is understandable as many organisations are forced to focus inwardly on serious matters such as keeping employees and the organisation afloat. Wherever possible however, the decision to halt any marketing activity can sometimes be hasty and severely impact relationships with your current and prospective clients. What is required is more than likely a different approach – changing messages, utilising different platforms and reviewing customer engagement platforms.

As experts, we pride ourselves on being bright thinkers capable of offering strategic recommendations to our clients. Using our insight-led approach, we’re advising clients to think strategically before stopping all marketing initiatives and instead, focus on how to grow brand awareness and loyalty in these times and provide customers with relevant and useful information. Here’s some reasons why:

1. Growth in Audiences
Already we’ve seen a huge spike in online activity and television audiences – both free-to-air (FTA) and broadcast-video-on-demand (BVOD). This is not surprising considering consumers are likely to have a bit more time on their hands and there is a desire to constantly seek updates on COVID-19. The Nielsen Digital Content Ratings March 2020 survey, revealed a 54% increase in online audiences and engagement to news publishers’ content; with the top site being ABC news. Online newspaper subscriptions are surging, with NewsCorp noting the March average has increased 114% from the previous month. Towards the end of March, the Australian Financial Review reported that their daily unique audience had grown by 24% and in total, readers spent over 5.3 million minutes on the site; up 35% week on week. 7Plus have recorded a viewership shift from a mobile device to larger screens, with 64% of people viewing on a Connected/Smart TV; and the 31st March saw 17.3 million minutes of catch-up TV viewed nationally.
This growth represents an opportune time for advertisers to align their brands with premium publishers and get their message seen.

2. Media time increases as consumers adjust to staying indoors
In a recent report released by Nielsen, it is predicted that being home-bound could lead to around a 60% increase in the amount of video content we watch globally. As each country is at a different stage of responding to COVID-19, TV engagement is varied, but one thing is consistent – time spent per viewer watching news is increasing. Advertisers have significantly more opportunity to engage with consumers simply because of the clear correlation between time at home and media consumption. Brands can get their message in front of this highly-engaged audience more than ever before, at a time when people are receptive and open to new information.

3. Advertisers are being overly cautious
Advertisers are starting to pull back on advertising in an effort to bring investment in line with consumption. This raises issues for brands, as the increased media consumption that we’re seeing is likely to be the perfect time to brand build and interact with an engaged audience. They want a brand to be empathetic and help them solve problems they’re encountering, not go into hiding or disappear. The Ipsos consumer research from 25 to 27 March 2020, indicates there is clear opportunity for organisations to continue doing a range of activities including conducting market, social and opinion research. These times could be a window of opportunity for organisations to obtain a greater level of cognitive engagement on a range of issues or opinions, resulting in greater clarity and more informed responses simply because people have been jolted out of their normal daily lives.

Many organisations have a healthy fear of being viewed as inappropriately opportunistic if they maintain normal activities in a time of crisis, however, while it is vital to avoid being perceived as a crisis profiteer, organisations should not let this caution dissuade them from being active in the market. It also opens possibilities for brands that do advertise to have more cut-through in a less-cluttered and competitive environment.

4. Knowledge is power
Understanding how audience behaviours are changing is a powerful tool – something which clients can access through media partners and agencies. Using this knowledge and working with a team of experts to define the best way to move forward, will not only see brands come out the other side of this crisis stronger, but allow them to nurture and review new potential audiences and identify the best ways to reach them.

5. People want a brand they can trust
Brands providing quality products and customer service, as well as understanding how people need to access information, will demonstrate their responsiveness to customer needs’, therefore building brand loyalty and trust. Offering solutions like online free delivery, or bonus consultations, or virtual training to replace face-to-face meetings, will help with easing concerns and building certainty.

6. We need stability
Currently consumer confidence is low, therefore brands that continue to prove to customers their value, will build confidence in the marketplace. History has shown that in stressful and uncertain times, brands that continue to advertise will see results. Companies will find it harder to re-emerge successfully if they are not regularly promoting themselves to both new and existing customers.

7. The workforce is going to become more skilled
As many people begin to have more time on their hands through reductions in working hours, people will be looking for ways to fill this extra time and already more people are turning to online courses and training in an effort to upskill in their existing or new fields. For organisations, this means a bigger, and more highly skilled workforce will be available when the employment market starts to improve, so ensuring strong and consistent brand messaging will ensure front-of-mind awareness in the future.

8. Understanding customers is more crucial than ever
Brands that show they understand the difficulty of the current situation being faced by many, such as banks holding off on loan repayments in the short term, will build brand loyalty, while other organisations that do not respond quickly or appropriately, are likely to do themselves significant reputational damage. Property developers are a great example of businesses that are adapting to the conditions by increasing their video content and promoting virtual tours to their clients, meaning people are still able to enjoy the “house hunting” process while at home.

Yes, brands need to refocus and look at shifting the focus of their business goals and how they’re going to achieve them, but we need to ensure we’re not acting in haste and missing opportunities. Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive – if you have a solid strategy and clear objectives then anything is possible, regardless of how much you want to spend. We’re helping clients review what they’re currently doing, identifying what’s working and what’s not relevant for these times. We’re adapting client strategies to the current market conditions and identifying new ways to reach potential customers with a relevant and engaging message. Quality over quantity is key at a time like this, and content should be inspiring and of value.

The impact of this COVID-19 virus has been widespread and the speed at which it has occurred, has meant a rapid change to our normal way of life. We all know we will overcome this situation, however in the meantime, we will adapt to new ways of living and our relationships with brands will become more important. Those brands that listen and respond appropriately to our needs, will have the opportunity to foster and enhance a new level of brand loyalty.


Sources: Nielsen Digital Content Ratings (March 2020), NewsCorp (April 2020), Nine Network (March 2020), Seven Network (March 2020), Ipsos Consumer Research (25-27 March 2020), Realestate.com.au Developer Insights Seminar (March 2019)

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