Maximum impact – making the most of your media during COVID-19

Mark Henning
By Mark Henning | 21 April 2020
Mark Henning

Mark Henning, Executive Director – Media and Digital, Kantar

COVID-19 has instantly changed the way we live, highlighting the importance and intensity of making decisions and acting quickly. As we live through this socially distant ‘acute’ outbreak phase, brands must listen to people and work towards building resilience – and this has a direct impact on media too.

82% of Aussies actually want to hear from brands during COVID-19
Kantar’s COVID-19 Barometer reveals that Aussies feel brands should continue their advertising. For many, the sentiment is ‘life and the economy must go on’ prompting a continued demand for products and services. This gives brands that permission to communicate. For others, advertising provides a distraction or escape by delivering entertainment and normality – playing a powerful role.

Media spend will of course change for those brands in categories where it doesn’t feel appropriate to advertise; yet, consumers say as long as brands do not exploit the situation, downplay or mock the crisis or actively encourage restricted behaviour, then they can continue to communicate with them.

Brands can and should continue to advertise where possible, but media consumption is fast changing
Ads help consumers mentally escape from the crisis, point them to helpful products, or simply provide comfort and support. Content doesn’t need to be new for most brands. Old ads and footage can work just as well with tweaks if necessary. People also don’t seem to be sensitive to scenes that show banned or restricted behaviours due to the crisis. However, if the brand is undergoing a fundamental change in its circumstances, consider how to create and reinforce brand meaning.

The crisis is resulting in fast-changing media habits comprising a combination of accelerating macro trends and more immediate consumption behaviour shifts. So, how should brands behave in this environment to get the most of (reduced) media budgets? Kantar’s global 2020 media predictions released in November 2019 included three key predicted trends now primed for acceleration due to coronavirus. We expect they will be longer lasting and lead to actual long-term changes in behaviour.

1. Continued growth of streaming content on the TV
There’s been an expansion of the number of providers in market, but with people spending more time at home, demand is increasing for streaming content, i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Stan. But it's not simply about the paid-for streaming services. Catch-up services or advertising supported video on-demand are also commanding significant growth. For example, Think TV reported that Broadcast Video on Demand (BVOD) consumption grew almost 30 per cent in minutes streamed over the last couple of weeks. So strong growth is happening on streaming TV services, which we expect to continue in the future.

2. Content meeting trade
This is all about the drive towards eCommerce – not just from a presence perspective, but the utilisation of eCommerce media opportunities available. eCommerce is growing in certain sectors and those brands already set up will be the quickest to benefit from this trend (i.e. Amazon, Gumtree, eBay, Nike,etc). Unfortunately, we're also seeing a lot of physical stores being closed but their online businesses remaining open. Many will need to do some fast learning to keep up and catch up as the trend to online shopping continues to rise.

3. Getting ready to play
The growth of eSports and online gaming is rapidly rising. Formula One is a great example of capitalising on this platform. While the live championship has been cancelled, F1 have set up a "virtual championship" with the real drivers competing, keeping fans engaged and maintaining interest in the sport. A similar example in cricket saw the Australia/New Zealand series completed through a virtual simulation with highlights released for fans. This new sports environment presents ongoing opportunities for brand advertisers.

Significant changes to people’s media habits have been brought on by social distancing
Claimed usage of TV streaming is up 42%, social media up 47% and online video up 44% with internet browsing, instant messaging, podcasts and streaming music all also rising in consumption significantly since social distancing measures were introduced. However, marketers should also look beyond obvious growth areas for media opportunities; for example, out-of-home. While less people are out and about regularly there are still captive pockets of opportunities. People are still going to the grocery store and with purchase limits in place, frequency is also changing. So out-of-home placements nearby grocery stores can still represent good value for marketers. eSports sponsorship and/or interaction with athletes also provides new possibilities in an environment where live sports are no longer available.

75% of impact comes from non-paid, owned and earned touchpoints. In the non-media environment, utilise non-traditional channels and touchpoints as a way to build your brand. For example, McDonalds using their drive-thru menu to communicate the availability of milk and bread shows that they are caring for and playing a vital community role – a very powerful message that's also driving long-term brand equity.

Getting the most out of media budgets in this environment is critical
Consider your media channels and how they combine to maximise reach – overlap between media and incremental reach of different platforms is key to reaching a large audience cross-section, especially if you’re using a different combination or allocation of media spend. And it is not just all about reach. Recognise how media combinations work together – media synergy contributes more than 50 per cent of overall brand impact based on CrossMedia effectiveness work we’ve done in Australia. Focus on the overlapping areas and maximise how media combine to drive the best result. To do that successfully, be conscious of how you manage your creative across the different touchpoints – especially when some might be new to you or you are using them differently.

Campaigns get 57% better results when integrated and customised across platforms
Integration is the common thread driving campaign creative across all touchpoints while customisation is treating each platform on its own merits with creative designed to address the way people consume content on that platform. And both are crucial to success. Campaigns that are both well integrated and customised to the platform perform 57 per cent better.

Smart media planning can also help you stretch your budget. Complementary scheduling of the different media channels – for example, starting a campaign with a burst of TV, but then layering in other media in staggered periods over the campaign – can help you capitalise on the synergy between media and also maximise your length of time in market.

Be cautious of frequency, especially if you are changing channels and using some media for the first time. Each media is consumed differently, and the costs vary. Simply transferring budget from one media to another doesn't work exactly the same, so consider how you're working in those media. Don’t overdo frequencies in lower cost media. Talking to people too often in a particular channel because you're unfamiliar with how to use it causes wastage – manage the frequencies across each channel along the way.

Remember, consumers demand authentic action so focus on communicating value
It is ok to keep advertising if relevant; but apply common sense to your content. Consider that now is a good time to strengthen your brand meaning, but make sure you are human and stay "on brand". And with rapidly changing media consumption, adjust your media principles to fit your new channel mix.

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