Marketers urged to keep up brand messaging during Covid-19

New campaign says now is not the time to turn off advertising

A new campaign backed by an alliance of media outlets is urging brands not to wind back their marketing and advertising efforts in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The ‘When they go dark, the spotlight is yours’ campaign, inspired by a similar initiative from the UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), says brands can gain competitive advantage by maintaining advertising during this crisis.

Premium Content Alliance CEO, Kim Portrate, told CMO “an analysis of advertising spend during past recessions shows brands that continue to advertise when their competitors go dark see increased market share". 

“In categories where a brand’s competitors also stay on air, a shift in investment to upweight channels with greater proven reach and effectiveness may be required as well as a shift in the creative approach,” Portrate said.

It comes after it was revealed 86 per cent of brands have changed their digital ad spend since the crisis took hold in March, with more than half reporting they are reviewing advertising plans on a daily basis, according to the COVID-19 Digital Ad Impact survey conducted by IAB Australia. The survey also found 21 per cent of respondents have paused all ad spend, while just over half have decreased some ad spend and 15 per cent have either increased or maintained their spend.

When it comes to the choice of creative, Portrate said consumers don’t expect brands to change their messaging, but if they do and opt to speak to the Covid-19 specific issues, it cannot be tokenistic. 

“It must be helpful and genuine without seeming to be opportunistic," she said. Brands such as BCF have seen great impact from changing the messaging to speak to the current climate.

"In BCF’s case, this involved creating a campaign that encouraged Aussie families to camp in their backyard over Easter. But other brands are seeing good results from using existing creative such as St George. The bank launched a new brand-building campaign during the crisis and didn’t change a thing.”

Premium Content Alliance cites analysis from renowned marketing guru Peter Field from the UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), which finds it could take up to five years to recover from the impact of going dark. And in further proof of the risk of going quiet, the Alliance points to a study by the Advertising Research Foundation of consumer packaged goods brands that found reduced advertising spend over a period of two years led to a sales loss of US$8.6 million per brand.

“We know what a difficult time this is for advertisers and consumers. We firmly believe advertising is a business driver that has a flow-on effect for brands, and the evidence supports the need for marketers to continue to connect with audiences. Brands that connect in trusted premium content environments will be best placed when the worst of the COVID-19 crisis is behind us,” said Portrate.

The IPA’s report, When others go quiet, your voice gets louder, said the Covid-induced economic downturn is like any other recession, even though it’s come about through a health crisis and not a financial crisis or falling consumer demand. It says unless businesses are saving money just to survive, cutting advertising is a mistake.

“Evidence collated by the IPA and its partners shows that such a move exposes firms to losing market share, foregoing sales and delaying the recovery of profits in the long-term,” according to its report. 

Its data shows businesses which increased marketing spend, as a proportion of market size, reported higher market share growth in the first two years of recovery than those cutting or maintaining budgets. However, just throwing dollars into marketing and advertising isn’t a guarantee of success. The IAP report says, by itself, spend is a less important driver of effective advertising than creativity when it comes to recession-era campaigns.

It cites examples of UK brand advertising which memorably drew on their brand heritage to get talked about again, and make an emotional connection with consumers that revived brand preference during the Global Financial Crisis.

The ‘When they go dark, the spotlight is yours’ Premium Content Alliance campaign launches today and runs across the digital, print, TV and video on-demand across Foxtel, Network 10, Nine, Seven West Media and News Corp Australia.

Portrate explained in the early days of the pandemic, brands may have needed to pause advertising while dealing with increased demand, for instance, but now it’s some months in, it’s time to turn attention to advertising. 

“As we move towards recovery, this dynamic is likely to shift again. What we do know is that for brands to come out the other side strong, they need to maintain or grow their share of voice and advertising in channels with broad reach is an effective way to do this,” she said.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.


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