COVID effect: Ad spend data shows effect of pandemic

Latest Standard Media Index data shows that COVID-related delays to sporting events have pushed all forms of advertising lower

The delays to the AFL and NRL finals in September, driven by Coronavirus lockdowns, have resulted in an abnormal decline in Australian media Agency ad spend in the month, according to the latest Standard Media Index (SMI) numbers.

Yet it has also boosted early October advertising demand with bookings already the strongest since COVID began.

The move of the AFL and NRL final series and Grand Finals into October was the main reason for a 19.5 per cent fall in television ad spend in September, with digital media emerging as the best performing for the month with ad spend back just 2.7 per cent.  

Digital’s growth is being driven by a continuing increase in ad spend to all forms of social media, with SMI’s social media sector data reporting growth of 47.8 per cent in September and 28.9 per cent for the September quarter as companies such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn all delivering large increases in ad spend.  

On the September results, Ractliffe said there were also other significant timing issues affecting the market with the Rugby World Cup broadcast in September last year and an extra Monday last September, which especially affects radio given the increased level of week commencing bookings included in the September 2019 result.  

SMI’s early October data shows the shift of the sporting-related ad spend into that month, with TV bookings already up 8.8 per cent , which has in turn ensured early October market bookings being back just 14 per cent. SMI AU/NZ MD, Jane Ractliffe, said the trend was continuing, with confirmed November bookings strengthening by almost three percentage points in the past two weeks to be 7.6 percentage points ahead of the same time last year.  

"SMI’s forward booking data shows advertising demand for November returning to pre-COVID levels with more than 60 per cent of the value of last November’s total ad spend already confirmed before the month’s trading has even begun,’’ Ractliffe said.  

Ractliffe also said TV ad spend looks set to report another growth month in November given 90 per cent of the value of last November’s total bookings have already been paid for. “And across the market we can see other media poised to also do well as key categories such as Food/Produce/Dairy, Technology, Gambling and Household Supplies are already reporting higher year-on-year media investment in November,” she said.

The improvement in the Australian market mirrors that seen in other global advertising markets, with SMI reporting a 22.3 per cent fall in NZ ad demand in September, but in New Zealand the early October figures show the market only back 11 per cent. Yet in markets unaffected by movements in sports events, SMI has seen a clearer improvement in ad spend, with the value of US ad spend back just 2.7 per cent in September and Canadian ad spend was back just 5.7 per cent.  

However, the worst isn’t over and SMI predicted the impact of the COVID pandemic will be seen in the longer term figures, with the September quarter decline hitting 22.4 per cent and the decline in ad spend over the past nine months is now at 23.4 per cent.

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