The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has affected almost every area of life and commerce as we know it. Across the globe, people have been forced to drastically alter their lifestyles and the way they work due to necessary measures imposed to help slow the spread of the virus. The advertising industry is no exception, with spending on advertising dropping significantly.
As of June 2020, just around the time when lockdown measures were beginning to be slowly eased in many countries, average advertising spend across Europe was down by 9%. However, digital marketing consultant James Hopkins, creator of the Lifestyle Marketeer programme, is one of many working in the digital advertising space that is able to see the possibilities ahead.
Digital media consumption has grown rather than fallen during the pandemic, as more people have been forced to rely on the internet for communication, shopping, entertainment and other aspects of daily life. On top of this, advertising costs have been slashed. While the amount of time people spend on social media has increased, the cost of placing adverts on social media networks has fallen. Not only have price points been lowered, but indirect costs such as engagement have also dropped. With more people using social media regularly, there is more potential than ever before for brands to engage with customers without increasing costs.
With the recent Google announcement that third-party cookies will be phased out on Chrome browsers by 2022, advertisers are now switching focus to contextual advertising. Issues around information gathering due to the loss of the cookie and increased regulatory compliance have led many marketing teams to concentrate more on the context in which an advertisement is seen, rather than targeting a specific audience. Those companies that were already working on contextual strategies have been well placed to avoid advertising their brands next stories about deaths and other pandemic-related disasters.
The necessary changes in consumer habits caused by lockdown have also altered the consumer landscape, with many businesses making short-term adaptations to marketing strategies to appeal to people with more time on their hands, less opportunity to socialise outside the home, and seeking innovative products and services that will relieve their boredom and make life at home more palatable. With no-one yet knowing how long it will take before we can get the virus under control, these short-term adaptations could become longer-term strategies in some sectors.
Marketing costs have generally been reduced, but so have marketing budgets. Cost-efficiency is therefore key when considering marketing any product or service in 2020. However, there is also something to be said for maintaining a strong marketing budget at a time when media price points for advertising are at historic lows. There is a window of opportunity for those companies that can develop cost-efficient marketing strategies that take advantage of certain aspects of the pandemic, such as increased social media use.