Maintaining closeness with consumers amid social distancing will mean changing your media mix

Social distancing is necessary. Self-isolation and quarantining are common. And working from home is the new normal. McCann's Emma Black and George Groves analyse the performance of various media channels over the past month to illustrate where ad dollars are working hardest during this crisis.

Over the past few days, we have been gauging the role of paid media and its ability to support brands to connect with consumers in the middle of COVID-19.

Consumers are, and will continue to, spend more time inside. And, accordingly, the way consumers interact with media channels will change, adapting to these different lifestyles.

Brands considering the reduction, or removal, of all paid media during this period of uncertainty should look back at 2008’s global financial crisis. A heavy-handed approach to scaling down activity only resulted in long-term damage for brands.

In order to navigate the impacts of COVID-19, brands must be ready and willing to change their media mix

At the same time, for many categories, it will not be beneficial to maintain the same level of investment if consumers are unwilling or unable to buy your products. In unchartered times like this, a pragmatic approach is to maintain brand saliency, so consumers will be more likely to return to your brand once we come out the other side.

The current landscape we are facing is unprecedented, but not unmanageable.

In line with that, we foresee several shifts in human behaviour that will also provide paid media insight:

  • Social distancing won’t mean distancing from social media. Messaging apps will be an important way for friends and loved ones to stay in contact with one another. Social media feeds will remain a connector to the outside world and a way to share in our collective humanity in a troubling time;
  • As more people spend time at home, we can assume consumption of entertainment media sources will increase. Paid linear TV, broadcast video on demand (BVOD), and streaming video on demand (SVOD) will likely experience gradual increases in consumption in coming weeks. While production of most new content is on hold, subscription services with a strong back-catalogue of bingeable shows will likely see success; and
  • News organisations will see bumper traffic figures, as it becomes more important than ever to be up-to-date and informed.

Through our digital media trade desk, we have analysed the past four weeks of market impression data to understand how the current situation is translating into consumption trends in online environments.


Source: McCann. (Click to enlarge)

Impression availability for video has increased 13% week-on-week. A big contributor here is an increase in BVOD consumption, which saw a 16% increase, and in-stream/ pre-roll video placements across news websites.

If your brand runs activity on linear TV, consider adding BVOD and in-stream video to your paid media mix. Brands that combine TV and BVOD can achieve twice the impact of the traditional TV and social combination.


Source: McCann. (Click to enlarge)

Increased web traffic is helping native ad networks like Outbrain see a surge in available inventory for marketers to buy. The week commencing 8 March alone saw a 42% jump in available impressions compared to the week prior.

Unsurprisingly, the largest amount of impressions are available against the news vertical. However, entertainment and technology also represent a large portion of available impressions. This is showing that consumers are not only prioritising coronavirus updates, but are also looking for more content to watch or read.

Consider using paid native media strategies to capture this consumer intent to interact with content that interests them.


Source: McCann. Click to enlarge

While not as big of a jump as native, thanks to increasing consumption of news media we have seen available display impressions increase 16% week-on-week.

Unless your brand specifically cannot appear next to coronavirus-related content, running paid display activity across news environments will be a strong way to maintain a high level of audience reach.


Source: McCann. (Click to enlarge)

Lastly, ad impression availability across streaming services, podcasting and catch-up radio is relatively stable, with the exception of a sharp increase week commencing 23 February.

Investing in paid digital audio placements can be a sound investment for most brands. It is well known that audio advertising has high effectiveness rates, and in the current environment should be a consistently delivering channel for brands.

Emma Black is media lead at McCann Melbourne and George Groves is digital account director at McCann Melbourne

McCann will be posting updates on media trends every Tuesday on its LinkedIn and Facebook pages


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