When the IAB examined large brands that responded to the survey, half said they would spend about the same in 2020 as they did in 2019. Another 26% of big brands said they would increase their budgets, while 23% planned declines.
Linear TV’s upfront marketplace remains stable
TV overall remains strong through the pandemic.
Twenty-two percent of buyers plan to increase their linear TV budgets in the second half of the year compared to the prior year, the most of any traditional channels, which also includes radio, direct mail, print and out of home. Buyers expect that their linear TV budgets would remain unchanged for Q3 and then decline just 6% in Q4, the softest decline of the traditional channels.
Though the ANA called last week for TV networks to delay their upfronts, buyers have largely followed the TV networks’ timeline so far, according to the survey.
One-third of buyers said they expected to follow the upfront schedule, which is in line with prior levels. Though 29% of buyers said they bought on the scatter market historically, that number increased slightly to 32% for the 2020-2021 season. And the 37% of buyers that said they historically bought on a calendar year decreased to 36%.
“We were surprised at how remarkably stable the breakdown of the upfronts appears,” Cohen said. He expected more money to move to later in the year because of the uncertainty created by the pandemic.
“I don’t have a good hypothesis as to why that is happening, other than buyers hearing that others are moving in the marketplace and not wanting to lose the opportunity to buy,” he offered.
Despite entering the upfront market, buyers said their 2021 budgets were far from finalized. Fifty-eight percent of ad buyers were unsure or very unsure about their 2021 budgets. Plus, 51% remain unsure or very unsure about their budgets for the rest of 2020. Having so many buyers sit on the fence for so long – as illustrated in several of the IAB’s post-pandemic surveys – strikes IAB SVP of research Sue Hogan as notable.
“We are still in a time of flux,” she said.