Coronavirus crisis: Brands urged to continue advertising

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on March 27, 2020

As the world moves deeper into the pandemic and more people stay home, media usage continues to grow. It is precisely at times like these brands need to continue advertising, state experts. They believe that the risks of going dark by cutting back costs radically during the Coronavirus crisis could be huge in the long-term. As the analysis and data, relating to the first ever year-on-year (yoy) decline of the advertising industry, significantly impacted by expenditure cuts on the part of advertisers is currently being gathered, the spotlight has turned on advertisers' general anxiety and reluctance to advertise during this time.

"All brand heads are either in suspended animation or confused. All are claiming introspection as the response, though no one knows how. This is the time each brand has to become the catalyst of action, for only action will give the brand any chance of success," N Chandramouli, CEO of TRA Research, told BusinessLine.

While brands are being advised to maintain salience through considerate branding activities several adtech and martech companies are pointing out that it is a crucial time to connect with the audiences and to not let go of the clear opportunity that the pandemic presents. With audiences tuning to digital media for critical content, experts say that this presents a unique opportunity for brands to share how they are being helpful and attentive to consumer concerns.

Data, insights and consulting company, Kantar, has urged companies to double down and continue advertising at this time for the long-term. Revealing how only eight per cent of consumers expect brands to cut advertising, Kantar has noted in a report that there is little risk of it being read as insensitive.

However, the risks of going dark at this time could be huge, warns the agency. According to the longstanding Kantar figures, when a brand stops advertising, brand health tends to become vulnerable, resulting in declines in purchase behaviour. The data also shows that bigger brands are more likely to suffer a decline than smaller brands. The report estimates that brands taking a six-month absence (from TV) are bound to see a 39 per cent reduction in total brand communication awareness, which could potentially delay recovery in a post-pandemic world. Chandramouli says it is the right time to engage.

"While the problem all brands face are common, the solutions to engage will be unique, so marketers need to discover unique solutions to engage with their customers. It is also imperative to first understand what stake-holders expect from the brand, now, and in the post-covid scenario," he said.

China's marketers are being urged to plan ahead. Interestingly, China, the country most affected by the coronavirus, also supports how advertisers have battled the crisis. Early March, Kantar China interviewed business leaders in China and found that 23 per cent expected the negative impact on businesses to be over by the end of April, while another 29 percent said the worst would be over by the end of May. Some 13 per cent of those surveyed said it would be end of June before things normalised.

Kantar has noted that the start of the commercial impact in China was in December, making the length of disruption to be estimated between 5-7 months. Its research showed that though spending decreased for most categories, it increased for those tied to cleaning, health, medicine, food, insurance and online entertainment. However, it is not just these categories that stand to benefit.

At the end of February, ad major Dentstu Aegis Network asked its customers from China how the current situation is affecting their advertising activities, strategies and results. Their survey showed not all advertisers are being adversely affected by the caronavirus. The results did not relate just to the producers of medicines or cleaning products, but also brands less related to health and safety, such as Netflix, which ended up becoming an accidental beneficiary of the current crisis.

Published on March 27, 2020

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