Let Us Not Retreat From The Good Of Advertising In A Crisis

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On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video. 

Today’s column is written by Kevin Krim, CEO at EDO.

In a short period, COVID-19 has taken an enormous human toll and massively disrupted the status quo of our daily lives. It is an understandable reaction to pull back during an unprecedented crisis with the world facing huge potential socioeconomic damage.

The media and advertising industry should resist that impulse, not with a spirit of defiance or bravado, but rather with a sense of the service we can perform and the good we can drive in our society and economy.

A perfect example of using advertising to do good to is NBCUniversal’s new “The More You Know” PSAs in partnership with the Ad Council, CDC, Department of Health and Human Services and the White House. The network launched English and Spanish-language TV spots featuring its stars sharing important information about COVID-19 and encouraging social distancing and wellness practices. Multiple brands also took part by donating airtime and service fees, with some even running the PSAs on their own platforms.

For the TV advertising industry, we’re seeing unprecedented disruptions that are completely altering the way networks and brands approach their marketing plans and budgets. The cancellations of sports and live events are seismic for TV networks and advertisers who rely on them.

Canceling March Madness, for instance, has dramatic implications, with more than $1.1 billion spent on 2019 March Madness TV advertising. Several automotive companies were planning significant campaigns during March Madness to launch new models. Behind these campaigns are new vehicles sitting on lots of closed dealerships. Almost 10 million people in the United States work for or have jobs impacted by automakers and related businesses. When this pandemic passes, these people will need our help to drive consumer demand again.

Similarly, the National Restaurant Association reported that in just three weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, 47% of restaurant operators had to temporarily or permanently close their facilities, with 11% more expecting to permanently close in the next month. With a loss of more than $25 billion in sales over that period, the pandemic has already had a devastating impact on an industry that employs 10% of the US workforce, or 15.6 million people. These businesses and employees are dependent on consumers continuing to order from restaurants through social distancing-approved methods during the pandemic, and restaurants need advertising to help inform consumers about these options.

TV, with its massive reach and immediacy, is uniquely essential as an advertising medium for large brands. Many advertisers I’ve spoken with have begun to pause and adjust creative tone and messaging while also figuring out how to shift TV spend to other programming to sustain their businesses. Some are considering how to cancel or postpone media plans that they had made assuming a very different environment.

It’s important for brands to adapt to these new circumstances rather than retreat.

The first thing TV advertisers can and should do in light of the current environment is to retool their creative toward sensitive and effective messaging. This is a time to promote helpful information and services and the opportunity to help others. Successful brands will reflect these values and ideas in the tone of their new or updated creative content and seek to avoid the perception of tone-deaf or exploitative brand marketing during this time. We have a responsibility to our communities, customers, colleagues, partners and our overall society to continue doing business responsibly. Our customers still need what we offer. And it is our responsibility to use our platforms to help and reassure our communities in this time of crisis.

It’s therefore imperative to continue to connect with viewers, who are still turning on their TVs in huge numbers, by re-planning media placements to most effectively reach consumers where they are. For example, we’ve seen news viewership increasing as consumers seek to stay informed. Accordingly, Disney announced it’s expanding daytime news programming and directing live sports advertisers to “Good Morning America” and high-performing entertainment programs.

In line with this trend, categories such as financial services, automotive and telecom are moving ad spend to news programming, which has the capacity to take in displaced live sports advertisers. QSR, pizza and fast casual brands have moved ad spend to broadcast entertainment programming where they can continue to seek viewer engagement with popular, unaffected shows. Beverage brands are increasing ad spend during movies on cable networks, which have become a reliable source of entertainment for people sheltering at home. And as viewers are also spending more time on streaming platforms, ad-supported streaming offers another venue for advertisers to reallocate their media. With viewers at home in greater numbers and for longer periods than before, advertisers can still reach consumers on the platforms that have become staples of our new normal: linear and nonlinear TV, plus search, social and digital content.

The cancellation of live sports and events is unquestionably an unprecedented disruption for TV advertising and brand marketing, but nimble, data-driven brands will find a way to adapt to these new circumstances and continue to meaningfully engage, assist and reassure viewers with the right tone and content. The health of their businesses, brand perception and the economy will depend on it.

Follow Kevin Krim (@kevinkrim), EDO (@edo_data) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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