Advertisers review strategy amid Covid-19 outbreak

Joseph Lim: The outlook for ad spend can be gloomy as we brace for a possible recession globally,resulting in advertiserz tightening spend, and only spend where it is necessary.

PETALING JAYA: In view of the escalation of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in the country, advertisers are reviewing their ad strategy for the year.

Among others, this may involve shifting of ad spend and spending where it is really necessary, resulting in further tightening of advertising expenditure (adex).

Tune Talk Sdn Bhd chief marketing officer Joseph Lim told StarBiz that the company has reviewed its ad spend strategy and approach for the year as Covid-19 has impacted not only nationwide but globally as well.

“This involves shifting of ad spend from different mediums into more relevant ones depending on how the public is consuming media, especially with the current partial lockdown of the nation.

“The estimated global ad spend for 2020 according to market research company eMarketer has also been revised and reduced by US$20.3bil which speaks a lot in terms of advertisers being more cautious about their spending.

“The outlook for ad spend can be gloomy as we brace for a possible recession globally, resulting in advertisers tightening its spend, and only spend where it is necessary, ” he said.

As Covid-19 is now at a pandemic level, the company would want to cautious about all celebrative events, festive ads and greetings as it might seem insensitive to the current situation.

Hence, Lim said at Tune Talk the company would like to align itself to focus on serving the public and delivering any possible support and services required during this trying time.

He said the ad spend for now would be to focus on the necessary public service announcement and product related promotions which could benefit the public.

The company, he said, was monitoring the current outbreak closely with daily feeds and updates of the situation as well as public sentiment towards it.

“We are definitely threading in a time of instability and growing anxiety. The top of mind for the public would be any Covid-19 related news and content, therefore it is crucial that we are sensitive enough to curate our message and content before advertising.

“I will be taking an observation stance to understand the public’s media consumption and lifestyle change to plan the advertising strategy to better reach the company’s target audience.

“I am keeping my advertising plans very fluid to ensure we could react to the market’s consumption based on daily updates of Covid-19, ” Lim added.

McDonald’s regional marketing director (Asia) Eugene Lee said the company’s ad spend has been reviewed since February this year.

“We have already started to rechannel our media spend into pushing safer and more convenient consumer touch points such as McDelivery and Drive-Thru.

“The company has been keeping an extremely close eye on everything that is going on, and adjusting the media budgets and channels accordingly.

“For instance, we have seen a surge in digital traffic and digital media consumption in the past few weeks, largely due to more companies deploying ‘work from home’ policies, and with Malaysians staying at home more to practice social distancing.

“These adjustments in consumer behaviour impacts our decisions on which mediums we will choose to engage with consumers, ” he noted.

Lee added that the switch in advertising channels is not a drastic one, however, the company has been actively switching its messaging focus.

Instead of encouraging customers to visit McDonald’s restaurants, he said the company is promoting its McDelivery and Drive-Thru services as this is the safest, most worry-free way customers can continue to get their favourite food.

Lee stressed: “Consumer and employee safety is our utmost concern in the current Covid-19 situation. We place quality, safety and cleanliness above all else to ensure that all Malaysians are kept safe in the current situation. This applies to our advertising and promotions as well where we have switched our messaging to encourage everyone to utilise our McDelivery & Drive-Thru services to stay as safe as possible.”

On the ad platforms, Tune Talk’s Lim said the few platforms that in his view would be directly impacted from the outbreak would be out- of-home (OHH) or outdoor advertising, traditional print media and event sponsorships where large gatherings are discouraged. He expects digital advertising mainly via programmatic to be more effective amid the pandemic.

“In times of uncertainty and fear, resulting in a tighter budget and cautioned spending for all marketers, we will strive for better accountability and agility.

“Programmatic in general is more data-driven and result based formula that feeds certain algorithms based on criteria where results are directly related to spend, which in turn could be justified.

“Programmatic buys are highly flexible which provides that instantaneous control over your campaigns which you can on, off and constantly optimise depending on results, ” Lim said.

Meanwhile, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) said the most urgent and dramatic responses in view of the Covid-19 were reported by local marketers in China with amended marketing plans already in play, followed by regional marketers who have regional plans under close observation and prepared for amendments, with global marketers taking a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude.

“It’s a fine balance between identifying opportunities and being opportunistic: as much as a brand might find the silver lining in the situation, this should be managed with sensitivity, caution and respect to both competitors and consumers alike.

“As much as some members of the Federation are considering reducing media investment, some are also starting to budget for unplanned, increased spending in the area of promotional campaigns where relevant as well as ‘recovery’ campaigns, it noted.

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