When COVID-19 struck the UK market in March, the advertising landscape shifted in a way we’ve never seen before. Ad spend on traditional media – for example, TV, radio and outdoor – halved year-on-year (YoY) according to Nielsen figures. From a marketing budget perspective, TV bore the brunt of the cuts, with total spend down by almost £500m YoY, as my colleague Liam Cronin touched on in his recent article.
Change in media spend YoY UK wide (Nielsen)
The difference versus the financial crash in 2008 (which saw similar levels of marketing spend cuts), was how TV viewing skyrocketed simultaneously. The market became inverted, with impacts galore and a reduction in the number of advertisers who wanted to buy them. Given the supply and demand model of TV trading, this meant that market tolerant pricing inevitably moved in the buyer’s favour. ITV pricing for example was down on average 50% YoY at the height of lockdown in April and May, leaving a significant opportunity for those brands where sentiment had grown, or at least not shrunk, for their product or service.
This is where new advertisers, if their offering was suitable, had and continue to have a unique opportunity in which to launch onto TV. With ad revenue dropping so significantly, broadcasters began to offer incentives to attract new advertisers. These included the removal of late booking fees, pricing initiatives, small business support schemes and ad production incentives to name a few.
With these incentives also came improved flexibility, something that a new-to-TV advertiser can use to their advantage. Shorter booking deadlines means that new advertisers are able to gauge response to their campaign on a weekly basis, deciding when to dial their TV spend up or down as sentiment shifts. Reduced pricing lowered the risk of their first chunk of TV investment as they were getting more impacts for their money. The upward shift in TV viewership meant that new and existing advertisers could reach the eyeballs of those who have historically been more difficult to access on linear TV, with the percentage increase more heavily towards a younger, more upscale audience.
All Response Media viewpoint
From April to August, we have seen a multitude of new advertisers from different sectors launch on TV for the first time. These range from life insurance brands to dog food and charities, to name a few. Although the market is certainly not as soft as it was at the height of lockdown, it’s without a doubt not back to where it was pre-COVID. We’re still using the opportunities in-market, from ad creation packages, reduced pricing incentives, late booking deadlines, to ensure these new advertisers (and all our existing clients) use this opportunity to grow their brand and business. As they’ve been able to get onto the screen at lower rates and with improved flexibility, we’ve seen some extremely strong initial TV results. Gaining these learnings at a time when the market is soft means that when things do, inevitably, return to ‘normal’, we can optimise our campaigns with robust insight to continue to grow in a post-COVID world.
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