Multinational companies are turning to influencer events and virtual/digital marketing activations amidst the global pandemic, according to the latest study under the World Federations of Advertisers' (WFA) latest Crisis Response Tracker. This comes as there is a shift to digital, with multinational companies interviewed saying they have made a full transition to channel-agnostic video planning, as well as boosted their focus on eCommerce. Additionally, the companies have also rebalanced investments between experiential and digital marketing.
The report echoes an earlier finding by Gushcloud in its whitepaper which said that given that the influencer marketing industry is directly dependent on the health of respective industries that they work with, in its early days, the pandemic greatly affected influencer marketing especially in the fields of travel and lifestyle content. According to the report, across the board, 15% to 30% declines in digital advertising CPM rates were found. In markets such as Malaysia, Gushcloud Malaysia reported an estimation of about half of all campaigns paused when the pandemic first hit. For those that continued with the planned campaigns, the strategies had to change significantly. Meanwhile, Gushcloud Indonesia reported that most of its campaigns ran as per usual, although client spend was limited.
However, as Southeast Asia comes to grips with the pandemic, the report by Gushcloud said influencers and content creators have started adopting new media formats, thus creating new avenues to grow audiences and communities that complement its existing ones. This is in line with brands who have also started exploring new digital formats and platforms.
Spends starting to increase
WFA's study also found that major multinationals are starting to increase their ad spend but overall activity still remains lower across most channels compared to what was planned pre-pandemic. Out of the respondents, 54% are no longer deferring campaigns and levels of optimism about the current business environment have improved. Meanwhile, 21% now feel positive and 36% feel neutral, compared to only 8% feeling positive and 41% feeling neutral in June 2020, when the last wave of WFA research was conducted.
Despite the comparatively optimistic outlook, actual spend remains lower than originally planned across the first three quarters of the year, with only online display (which is up by 6%) and online video (which is up by 9%) benefiting from higher levels of investment. After online video and online display, influencer marketing is closest to matching planned investment with an 11% fall in the first three quarters of the year, compared to a 22% drop in H1.
Additionally, major channels such as TV, out-of-home and point-of-sale are also beginning to pick up from the first half of the year. While TV is still down 25% for the first three quarters of the year, it is showing better than the 33% cut experienced in H1 of 2020. Similarly, OOH is 39% down on planned spend, which is an improvement on the H1 figure of 49%. Point-of-sale is also down 20% compared to a 23% fall in H1.
According to the study, the worst hit avenues were events/experiential and radio. The events/experiential sector is down 60% across the first three quarters of the year compared to a 56% decrease across the first half of the year. Meanwhile, radio is down 35% compared to a 25% decrease for H1.
The results of Wave IV of the WFA Crisis Response Tracker are based on responses from senior executives at 35 major advertisers with a cumulative total annual ad spend of US$67 billion. The research was carried out from September 17 to 27 with 75% of respondents holding global roles and 25% in regional roles.
Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA, said: “We are starting to see some green shoots of recovery with more than half our members no longer holding their campaigns back as a result of the pandemic. There is still a lot of uncertainty though and it’s unlikely we’ll be moving to ‘business as usual’ anytime soon. We are also seeing an acceleration of the shift to digital channels but it remains to be seen if this will be permanent."
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