Four out of five (81%) marketers from major multinationals are deferring planned campaigns as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. A research by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) revealed that a third (34%) have initiated short one- to two-month delays, while 28% are holding off for a full quarter and 13% will wait for six months before bringing campaigns back to market.
The numbers are based on a survey of 32 WFA member companies with a collective annual marketing spend of nearly US$60bn across 10 industry sectors. The data was collected between 25 to 30 March 2020. About 69% of respondents had global responsibilities with 31% in regional roles.
While marketers are reluctant to run planned campaigns, about 79% are creating new messages that respond directly to the huge impact of the crisis on the people who use their products and services. About 50% of these new messages have already started running or are about to go live and a further 29% plan to start creating new messages soon, according to WFA.
The net result of these changes, however, is a drop in annual marketing budgets with 57% of respondents saying they are cutting spend, and 32% showing no change.
In a separate poll of 58 media leaders conducted during a WFA member webinar on 31 March, respondents anticipated an average reduction in media budgets of 23% while 21% predicted cuts of 40% or more. The survey also found that marketers have been mindful of the impact of the cut in spend on their industry partners, and 80% say they have already “provided guidance to industry partners” relating to this and how they plan to operate in the short-term.
In addition, anecdotal responses to the survey indicate a notable focus on “zero-based thinking”, with members looking to be useful to their people, customers and partners in the short term, whilst planning effectively for the longer term.
Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA said that despite the huge constraints on members’ businesses, brands are mobilising with empathy and utility on a scale hitherto unseen. “Brands around the world are adopting very human, often brave, approaches to supporting society at a time of dire need. Critically, many are equally showing solidarity to their agencies and partners understanding that their supply chains need their support now more than ever,” he added.
Recently, several brands have shifted their marketing budget to support COVID-19 preventions and to send the right message to members of the public. Beverage giant The Coca-Cola Company halted all commercial advertising of Coca Cola and all its other brands in the Philippines, to commit its advertising space and budgets towards supporting COVID-19 relief and response efforts for the most affected communities.
In a Facebook post, Coca Cola Philippines said it will be re-channeling PhP 150 million (SG$4.2 million) to provision of protective equipment, and beverage for health workers, delivery of food packs to the most vulnerable families, and support for affected small retailers. "Together, we can make a difference," the post read.
Closer to home, StarHub yesterday unveiled that its SG$200,000 marketing budget for its 20th anniversary celebrations will be donated to support students in their home-based learning (HBL). Under this initiative, the telco will be sponsoring instantaneous mobile broadband connectivity to students from lower-income families who do not have access to broadband at home. The latest move is in addition to the newly-created StarHub Cares COVID-19 Fund supporting initiatives that help cushion the impact on healthcare staff, patients, lower-income seniors in rental flats and lower-income households.