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Why marketers should be afraid of the dark

April 20, 2020 | By Stephen DiMarco, Chief Digital Officer, NA – Kantar @Kantar_Media

It’s not news that we’re in uncharted territory. Covid-19 has shut down entire countries and the impact on our daily lives is unprecedented. For marketers, there’s uncertainty and fear. Many are wondering, “Should we be advertising at all during this time? And if so, “What type of messages and content are consumers are going to be receptive to?” For those in the former group, indications are clear: You should be afraid of going dark.

In a pre-Covid-19 world, marketers faced plenty of challenges in creating breakthrough marketing that reaches consumers, impacts their behaviors, and ultimately results in increases for their businesses. In Kantar’s Getting Media Right study (Oct 2019), 47% of advertisers polled indicated that they weren’t confident their organization is able to integrate multiple data sources to produce actionable insights. This indicates that even in “normal” times, it’s difficult to be successful.

Business, just not as usual

While it may seem like the safe bet is to pause, or go dark, brands that do so stand to risk much, especially in the long-term. Overall, US advertisers are spending less, however, no single industry has gone completely “dark.”

US media spend (Source: Kantar AdScope)

And in fact, some industries are on the rise and spending more than this time last year, such as household supplies. This category includes products like batteries, paper goods and cleaning products, which have become some of the most crucial items in our “shelter in place” environment.

US media spend, household supplies (Source: Kantar Adscope)

Brands are still advertising, but with adjusted or revamped messaging. In certain verticals, advertisers are beginning to reinvest dollars in media, most notably: household supplies, pharma, automotive, and consumables. Seeing this ad spend growth holds the promise of working toward a recovery.

Consumers are listening

And consumers want to hear from brands right now too. Research out of Kantar’s Covid-19 Barometer from March indicates that only 6% of Americans surveyed say brands should stop advertising. Additionally, around 80% of those surveyed want advertisers to continue communicating in an educational and encouraging way, without exploiting the crisis.

Kantar’s Link™ database has shown that when an ad connects with people through emotions and makes them “feel good.” This, in turn, helps drive preference and choice at the time of purchase. Ads that appeal emotionally and authentically are more likely to result in increased short-term sales and long-term brand equity.

In support against going dark during this time is the simple fact that audiences are spending more time with media and content than ever before – especially those which can be consumed at home. In the past month, consumers indicated 30%+ increases in TV and TV On-demand/streaming and 26% increase in online video consumption.

Increased media usage in past month (Source: Kantar Covid-19 Barometer, 2020)

Connecting with consumers

Advertisers have an opportunity to expand into platforms where consumers are spending more time. So, they need to retool planning and funnel media dollars into these channels. Those who are ahead of their peers, having increased budget and optimized content to emotionally support their audiences, are beginning to expand into premium channels and platforms – like OTT – where they can effectively target more niche audiences. On average, premium online video is nearly 50% more impactful for brands than standard online media. Streaming and over-the-top content can also help drive measures like brand awareness and key message associations at nearly twice the average.

Average brand impact across channels (Source: Kantar MarketNorms® 2020)

More time, more attention – more opportunities to connect with consumers, even if the sale isn’t immediate. Now is the time to grow relationships and lay the groundwork for future prosperity. Over 80% of marketers recognize the need to consider ROI as a mix of both short-term (sales) and long-term (brand). However, only 54% actually measure a mix, with a large portion – 38% – focused primarily on short-term as an indication of success (Source: Kantar’s Getting Media Right, Oct 2019). At a time like this, that may not be realistic for all industries, so consider how best to measure the effectiveness of your efforts.

It’s true, it’s a scary time. It’s easy to let fear and uncertainty take hold and influence decision-making. But, if you can overcome that fear, peel back the curtain and let in the light, you don’t need to be afraid of the dark.

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