Many brands are still spending on media. Here’s how they’re changing it up

Agency and brand leaders share what considerations are being made, where spend is going and which campaigns they're taking out of rotation.

Although much of Canada is locked down, life goes on. Consumers are still shopping for essentials: food, cleaning products and (of course) toilet paper are in big demand. With people largely working from home and staying in place, brands that are still advertising definitely have a captive audience.

Scott Stewart, president of VMC Media, says media consumption has significantly increased across most channels – with the exception of cinema, OOH and live sports – including linear TV viewership, social media and daytime consumption.

“For the advertisers that are in-market right now on these channels, they are probably enjoying big returns on in-going audience estimates and over-deliveries, however I suspect more brands have halted advertising than the advertisers taking advantage of big audience increases and efficiency gains this week.”

Jenny Croswell, SVP of activation and trading at Horizon Media, says her agency is seeing all in-market activity reevaluated in some form or another.

Clients in categories that are particularly affected by the virus – travel, theatrical, retail and restaurants – are scaling back spend or focusing more on their messaging to ensure they are communicating in the right tone. “Other clients who are less impacted and may even be seeing an uptick in their business. E-commerce and delivery services for example, are staying the course. We are also seeing clients leveraging media that has more rapid turnaround times from a creative production and trafficking standpoint such as digital and radio.”

Kruger Products, maker of Purex, Cashmere, Sponge Towels and Scotties brands, continues to advertise, but has readjusted some campaigns to reflect the current situation. Susan Irving, CMO, says, “Given the spike in demand for our products and current shortage at the retail level, we have suspended our Cashmere television campaign. We have also paused our promotional advertising with some partners, given that their events are also on hold.”

Instead, she says, it’s kept campaigns on-air that are more values-based. “[We've kept] campaigns that communicate family living and are appropriate given times of social distancing and spending quality at home with our families. We have paused any advertising that has large gatherings in the creative.”

Irving says Kruger is investing in its business and there are no current plans to pull back on brand investment in the long term. “We will be strategic in our decisions by focusing on doing what is right for our consumers during these unprecedented times and ensuring that we have the right consumer facing messages. We are making decisions for the short term but being agile and ready to adjust for the long term.”

Sarah Thompson, CSO at Mindshare Canada, says the agency’s clients are still involved in paid media in some way. The differences right now are in the weights and channels brands are activating on.

 “Our clients are shifting to areas like TV and radio – but that is also dependent on what industry they are in and the message they are delivering. Where we are seeing shifts is in out-of-home activations because the timing, message and production times are a factor as well as the fact there is no commuting in our cities. Radio also has different listening times than before and we are keeping up with those shifts.”

Thompson says Mindshare research notes that Canadians want brands to act with a focus on vulnerable communities across our nation. They also want brands to balance this with some escapism to help manage the stress and anxiety. “Every brand needs to really focus on the message and the context of that message right now . . . What we are watching for now is news fatigue in media, and when that will set in with Canadians.”