Ad Spend Falls, Media Habits Change Due to Pandemic – 5 Tips for Show Organizers

Apr 23

Ad Spend Falls, Media Habits Change Due to Pandemic – 5 Tips for Show Organizers

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a major disruption to the U.S. advertising market with billions of dollars being wiped off the table.

Spending on digital ads for March/April is down 38%, linear TV is off 41%, terrestrial radio has fallen 45%, print has dropped 43%, and traditional outdoor is off 51%, according to a recent report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), an online-ad industry trade group.  The May/June projections while better than these are still down significantly. 

The pandemic will continue to cause disruption in near-term advertising demand but what will the second half of the year look like? 

There are lots of unknowns but here are some points to consider.  Q4 is usually a higher ad demand period due to the holiday season.  There will also be a substantial boost in spend this year due to political advertising.  In addition, ad dollars not spent in the spring may be reallocated to capture pent-up consumer demand as the economy reopens.

We share five general takeaways from conversations we have recently had with our exhibition and event clients to facilitate planning amidst the uncertainty.

1) Reduced ad spend and increased ad inventory due to people spending more time with certain media since the pandemic started has radically shifted supply and demand curves making near-term ad rates very attractive, especially digital CPMs. Prices stabilize the further out you buy. The softer ad market has also opened up new opportunities that would not otherwise be possible, especially for virtual events.

2) While there is limited visibility into market conditions later this year, the best ad inventory will still go first.  If you are looking to buy premium placements on leading websites, key programming on major TV/cable nets, billboards in high-traffic locations, etc., you should still buy earlier rather than later.

3) Mitigate your financial risk by understanding and managing advertising cancellation terms. Based on ad contracts we have had to unwind or renegotiate due to event cancellations and postponements, we have found media companies to be more flexible during the pandemic. However, you need to work with your advertising partners in advance on mutually beneficial options if you need to cancel or postpone your event to avoid costly solutions down the road.

4) Media consumption has changed during the current crisis.  For example, streaming video has skyrocketed, and traffic on newspaper websites and major digital publishers has surged.  Some trends may continue and others may not.  Understand your audiences’ evolving media habits and factor them into your media planning.

5) Adjust creative to reflect current realities in the markets you serve.  Make sure your messaging isn’t tone deaf.  Follow forward-thinking marketers.  Check out what other show organizers are doing.  Use Google Trends to see what’s on people’s minds.

Keep your visitor marketing strategy as fluid as possible to best navigate these challenging times and maximize your budget.

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