INMA Road to recovery with Earl Wilkinson

The economic effects of COVID-19 on communities worldwide are wreaking havoc on the advertising marketplaces on which media companies rely to fund journalism, according to speakers addressing the first day of the INMA Virtual World Congress.

The road to recovery is unclear and may never return to pre-COVID levels.

The third of nine World Congress modules featured analyses by Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, and Prohaska Consulting, as well as case studies from Gannett | USA Today Network, Infoglobo, South China Morning Post and The Irish Times.

The effects of the downturn and lockdown are generating fluidity among categories and media. Print, TV, and radio media are expected to see minimal rebounds in 2020-2021 with secular trends accelerating and leaving legacy platforms with perhaps only 80 per cent of their pre-COVID ad revenues.

As advertisers are cancelling contracts and adapting their marketing strategies in the face of the coronavirus crisis, mission- and cause-related messaging is witnessing an increase.

Consistent with trends over 20 years, digital advertising is the most resilient during downturns, though even online budgets are not immune. CPMs are low, and advertisers continue to worry about brand safety around coronavirus news coverage. In fact, digital advertising spending is already experiencing a slight rebound, though it's still off-plan for the year. Premium publishers are experiencing a slight rebound in ad spend projections, too.

Key takeaways from advertising module

Synthesising key developments from Monday's World Congress sessions focused on advertising:

The shape of the V recovery: Boston Consulting Group sees a recovery somewhere between a "light V" and "strong V," while Deloitte confirmed projections of a V-shaped recovery.

Building relationships: Case studies by the Irish Times, Gannett, and Infoglobo stressed a desire to build relationships -- not transactions -- with advertisers through the crisis.

Scale players and market share: "Scale players" are pushing for market share during the crisis by super-serving client, proving their value, and forming publisher consortia to scale ad sales, according to BCG.

Agility will pay off: Channels with greater agility in creating, editing, and optimsing creative will lose less advertising during the downturn, according to Prohaska Consulting.

Ad-supported video services: Time spent with ad-supported video services will be up 40 per cent, but the question is whether the rest of the world will catch up with Asia ad spending in this space, Deloitte reported.

Optimism and pessimism among consumers: There is a dichotomy between mature and emerging markets: Consumers are expected to cut spending in mature markets, while they are aiming to increase spending in emerging markets.

Work-from-home necessities: The work-from-home development is about to face a new twist: While efficiencies are being realised, WFH will soon be a necessity as companies welcome back people to an office environment. The problem is companies can only house 50 per cent of what they did before social distancing. Thus, WFM becomes a requirement.

BCG looked at global advertising category winners and losers. Winners include food delivery, in-home entertainment, household care, fresh foods, and vitamins/supplements. Losing categories include travel, dine-in restaurants, public transport, out-of-home entertainment, luxury and fashion, home décor, and cars.

The BCG point about cars being a losing advertising category was muddied by Deloitte's view that public distrust of public transport due to COVID-19 could spark a rise in private car sales later in the year.

Recommendations for ad sellers

Tying together BCG recommendations for ad sellers with other World Congress sessions, we took away:

Over-serve your customers: Gannett's comprehensive national efforts across three major initiatives is an example.

Develop new ad products: Deloitte's views on ad-supported video services.

Push further into branded or service content: Infoglobo and The Irish Times presented cases on this.

Third-party sellers or consortium selling: INMA is hearing this in the United Kingdom, India, and elsewhere.

Legislate for fairness with Google and Facebook: This idea was supported in the recent INMA report, 'How to Decode the Publisher-Platform Relationship".

Shift to consumer pay models: INMA's Reader First Initiative, outlined at Thursday's Congress sessions, is the industry standard on this recommendation.

Practice smart pricing.

Buying or partnering for scale.

Marketplace trends

One of the advantages to an INMA World Congress is the breadth of knowledge. That is especially true of the analysts and forecasters giving their views. We found some contradictions and augmentations today, especially via the Deloitte presentation compared with the eMarketer presentation six days earlier:

Cord-cutting: Both Deloitte and eMarketer acknowledged cord-cutting is accelerating because of COVID, though Deloitte said Monday traditional TV has surprising staying power.

Podcasting during lockdown: Podcasting in the United States is down 10 per cent due to fewer commuters in cars and during transit, which is impacting podcast advertising, Deloitte reported. Yet eMarketer said the rise of audio on mobile during the downturn is at least partly mitigating this.

Transport during COVID: Deloitte reported that use of private cars will be up dramatically as bus/metro ridership will be down dramatically -- thus, new car purchase intention will be up. This conflicts with BCG's negative car advertising projections.

5G: eMarketer reported last week that 5G, short-term, is about latency and not speed. Yet Deloitte laid out the long-term vision through 2035 as a big enabler of manufacturing, transport, construction, utilities, and mining. There was even a suggestion that publishers trial private 5G with their printing plans.

Case studies of advertising success

The first day's World Congress concluded with case studies from Gannett | USA Today Network, Infoglobo, and the Irish Times.

At the South China Morning Post the focus was on optimising programmatic adtech including floor prices, ad log data as a tool, supply path optimisation and consolidation, limiting liability, and product innovation.

Wilkinson credits Gannett's Kevin Gentzel with 'the line of the day' that "the future is June - then we'll recalibrate through August".

Click here for complete information and to register online. In addition to the livestream World Congress, delegates receive a recording of all sessions and speaker presentations.

INMA/Earl Wilkionson

Banner image StockSnap from Pixabay.

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