Why COVID-19 makes it more important than ever to move at the speed of the consumer

Emma Macey

With 15 years of media agency experience, Emma’s skillset is both broad and deep across trading, strategy and client consultancy. Emma is dedicated to driving business results achieved through strategic media solutions for her clients and has worked on various categories including retail, FMCG, finance, entertainment, education and government. Emma is passionate about the role of media agencies in an ever complex communications landscape.

There is no doubt the challenges we are facing as businesses, advertisers and audiences with COVID-19 are all unprecedented. But with this comes an opportunity to take stock and re-evaluate current strategies, plans and processes to drive efficiencies and relevance in today's market.  

We’ve identified four key points that need addressing:  

1. Understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic will change audience behaviour and consumption
2. Ensuring your organisation has the right team to implement change at the speed of consumer
3. Proving agency value
4. Planning ahead post-COVID-19

1. Understand how the COVID-19 pandemic will change audience behaviour and consumption  

It is not a matter of if, but when. We know change is coming and we know it is coming soon. And we can look to other markets to quickly understand how this change is likely to impact our day-to-day lives.   

Being inside is going to become the norm until this passes, which may not be for a while if we don’t expect the peak of COVID-19 to hit our shores until May 2020. The first and most obvious channel in trouble is outdoor. For advertisers already committed to outdoor campaigns over coming months, how will vendors manage contracts? What’s more, honouring T&Cs will have an impact on supply and demand when campaigns are re-planned.  

The second channel to consider is audio. Live Australian radio accounts for 61.3 per cent of audio listenership, with 48.5 per cent of this audience listening outside of the home. Key listening times are 8-11am Mon-Fri and 10am-11am Sat-Sun, consistent with commute times. In contrast, home is the most popular location for podcast engagement, representing 42 per cent of listens.  (Source: 20I9 GfK Share of Audio)  

What we could expect is audio streaming listens to increase and live radio to take a hit. With more flexible trading terms on radio, recommendations would be to re-evaluate spend on each channel aligning with where the audience will be. Again, this will pose issues with demand when we see behaviour return to normal.  

Print is going to suffer, there is no doubt. Printing and distribution will be an issue and we expect online consumption to skyrocket even further. A couple of things driving this will be:

  • Questions of if production of print is deemed necessary when content is available online without handling and;
  • People are anxious and don’t want to wait.  Now more than ever on demand content will be consumed frequency and feeds will be constantly refreshed to understand what is happening on a global and local level.  

This presents a huge opportunity for social and trusted news publisher sites.  It is important to make sure your message is relevant, and you have considered the type of content it may appear adjacent to.  

For all the naysayers that have said TV is dead, it may be time to eat your words. On 13 March, we saw Nine News bring in a metro audience of 1.096m viewers, up from 836,000 last week, followed by Seven News with 978,000, up from 902,000 last week (Source: Oztam overnight data).   

We are likely to also see a shift in peak trends, with high numbers tuning in for live COVID-19 updates and daytime news bulletins pulling in additional viewers. While we expect BVOD and SVOD services will likely see increased viewership with those that can afford to keep their subscriptions, for many Australians now unable to work as a result of this pandemic, free-to-air TV and online video consumption may be the only options.  

Our recommendation for advertisers still in market is to re-look at their strategies and plans to take advantage of these opportunities. But more importantly, make sure you have a relevant message that resonates with how we are all feeling now and ensure brand saliency as we move out of this unprecedented time.  

2. Ensure the right team to implement change at the speed of consumer

As we transition into flexible working arrangements, it is important to have a small, experienced team working for you that understands your business challenges and can respond to your needs quickly. Now isn’t the time to have hierarchical teams drip feeding information to each other.   

Brands need one point of contact and may not necessarily have time to wait until the agency’s team can align before work progresses. Efficiencies will also be lost when junior staff don’t have instant access to senior heads. Experienced planners are another must as old planning tools become irrelevant.   

Another factor is that consumer confidence, attitude and consumption will change. These changes need to be made to campaigns immediately and each channel's challenges, opportunities and trading terms needs to be well considered before quickly responding.  

3. Proving agency value more than ever

We know media is such a small part of marketers’ remit and in times like these, board meetings and strategic decisions factoring in so many variables need to take priority. Marketing leaders need their agencies to step up and provide informed, data-driven scenario plans and recommendations that can be fed up the chain in a format easy to digest and equally difficult to be refuted.  

Marketing functions will come under scrutiny as the bottom line is examined to find savings. Agencies will need to help CMOs justify the continued investment in brand while finding short-term optimisation opportunities that also take into account the recently changed media consumption patterns.  

When the market starts to return to normal, further updates to the media plan may be needed to account for changes in consumer behaviour, economic conditions and media availability. Supply chain disruption may mean throwing the old plans out the window and starting from scratch with a whole new set of targets.  

4. Planning ahead post-COVID-19

We will recover from this and when we do, it is important to understand how the short-term challenges will play out when this is over. With advertisers pulling out of the market and contractual obligations to honour, we may be looking at a saturated market with not enough supply to meet demand. Understanding your contracts and negotiating future placement now will be important for advertisers.  

From a market focused on ‘short termism’, we see an opportunity for clients to continue investing into brand and taking advantage of reaching an audience that will be at home, consuming content and looking to media and brands for reassurance and positive messages in this time of crisis.

Tags: advertising, digital advertising, agency relationships, media strategy, marketing strategy

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