86% Of News Pubs Faced Canceled Ad Campaigns, According To IAB


Publishers are feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their ad revenue.

An IAB survey of 200 publishers and sell-side programmatic players found that 70% of the group were revising their Q2 forecasts post-pandemic.

News pubs hit hardest

News publishers in particular are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, since many brands don’t want to be near coronavirus-related content.

Eighty-eight percent of news publishers reported that buyers asked to cancel campaigns, compared to 70% of all publishers. Eighty-six percent of news publishers fielded requests from buyers to pause campaigns, compared to 70% of publishers overall. And 17% of news publishers said advertisers blacklisting their inventory was preventing them from doing business as usual, compared to 8% of non-news publishers.

Sellers are more optimistic than buyers

Even as sellers face canceled and paused campaigns, they’re still more optimistic than the buyers the IAB surveyed a few weeks ago about how far revenue will fall.

Sellers planned to revise their Q2 digital media forecasts down by 21%, while the buyers in the IAB’s survey expected to spend 33% less on digital media in Q2. Sellers expected traditional media to decline 30%, while buyers put the number at 29%.

The disparity between the projections could mean that sellers don’t have the most up-to-date information, IAB President David Cohen said. “Typically, clients and agencies put together a plan that gets communicated to sellers, so there is a gap in time between when buyers know what’s happening and when sellers are informed.” 

Publishers trying to accommodate buy-side

Despite the negative economic impact of paused or canceled ad campaigns, publishers are working to accommodate these buyer requests.

“Publishers are bending over backward to work with buyers and agencies to be more consultative and solutions-oriented,” Cohen said. “We’ve heard that anecdotally, and the data bears that out.”

For example, 80% of publishers are engaging clients without pitching them, 78% are allowing more leniency to cancel or pause campaigns, and 70% said they were taking a more cautious or tactful approach with buyers.

News publishers were even more willing to provide such solutions to buyers. Two-thirds of news publishers allowed buyers to push campaigns to a later date, compared to 58% of non-news publishers. About half of news publishers created new or different content adjacency opportunities for buyers, compared to just over one-third of non-news publishers.

“There is closer relationship building,” said Sue Hogan, IAB SVP of measurement. “It’s not just the sellers trying hard, but also the buyers relying on them a bit more.

Publishers were less likely to resort to pricing changes to satisfy buyers – unless they were in news. Among non-news publishers, 32% offered lower rates and 31% offered more added value. Both those numbers rose to 45% for news publishers.

Programmatic immunity

Programmatic appeared to be less affected by buyer cancellations and pausing. When the IAB sliced the data to examine how many programmatic specialists (SSPs, ad networks and exchanges) were asked to pause campaigns, only 60% replied yes, compared to 82% of the publisher group. Only half of programmatic companies had buyers request cancellations, compared to 77% of publishers.

“Our hypothesis is that there is a flexibility, adaptability and cancellability of programmatic today that is appealing,” Cohen said.

In its previous report, the IAB found that most buyers hadn’t made decisions about Q3 and Q4 yet. Sellers also hadn’t made hard decisions about the rest of the year yet in the survey, which gives Cohen optimism about how much ad revenue could recover in 2020.

Thirty percent of sellers revised their Q3 forecasts and 22% revised their Q4 forecasts already, similar to the numbers of buyers who have already made decisions about how they will spend through the rest of the year.

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