Media owners urge brands to not go dark during pandemic

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 4 May 2020
Michael Miller and Kim Portrate

Media owners are pushing for brands to maintain advertising investment during the coronavirus pandemic with a new joint campaign.

COVID-19 has caused many brands to pull back on advertising which has hit media owners across Australia. Publishers, such as Nine and News Corp Australia, have had to pause print productions, while others, such as Seven West Media, have asked staff to take pay cuts to deal with weaker advertising revenue.

In response, the recently launched Premium Content Alliance is urging brands to keep ads running by highlighting the growth opportunities for brands that continue to advertise while others go quiet during difficult economic conditions. Premium Content Alliance members include Nine, Seven West Media, Ten, News Corp Australia and Foxtel.

The "When they go dark, the spotlight is yours campaign", which launches today, is inspired by an initiative from the UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and draws on independent analysis of advertising spend patterns during the 2008 recession which found that brands that maintained or increased advertising investment, relative to competitors, were the ones to gain market share during and following the downturn.

“Providing safe and trusted environments for brands is crucial in times of crisis and that is exactly what The Premium Content Alliance does reaching four out of five adult Australians every week,’ says Michael Miller, News Corp Australiasia executive chair and The Premium Content Alliance chair.

“The evidence from previous periods of economic downturn confirms that now is the time for advertisers to shine, not go dark, and the campaign clearly communicates this message.”

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The campaign was produced in-house and is running across digital, print, TV and BVOD across Foxtel Group, Foxtel Media, Network 10, News Corp Australia, Nine and Seven West Media.

It will be updated in the coming months as economic conditions are expected to improve.

“We know what a difficult time this is for advertisers and consumers,” says The Premium Content Alliance CEO Kim Portrate.

“We firmly believe advertising is a business driver that has a flow on effect for brands, and the evidence supports the need for marketers to continue to connect with audiences. Brands that connect in trusted premium content environments will be best placed when the worst of the COVID-19 crisis is behind us.

“While this isn’t creative developed with a Gold Lion in mind, it clearly conveys an important message in a simple and concise way that is appropriate for the times.”

The pandemic has been particularly challenging for media owners as it’s impacted almost every sector across Australia, and completely halted key advertising industries such as travel.

Booking in late March, when lockdowns across the globe came into effect, were down for many businesses, including Google and Facebook. Recent SMI figures show that Australian media agency bookings fell 10.6% in March, with a steeper drop expected for April.

Media owners were already facing a slow market even before the pandemic hit. Last December they united to launch the Advertise or Die campaign to try to boost advertising from brands.

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