VIA BEETCAM — COVID-19 has come as a black swan the communication industry could have done without, one that has sent companies of all kinds worrying and scurrying for answers.

Amongst the questions brands are asking Forrester principal analyst Jim Nail – “What is everyone else doing?” and “Should I be cutting my advertising?”

In this video interview with Beet.TV, Nail says there are no historic models to look to for help – a coronavirus playbook cannot be found in 9/11 nor in the 2008 economic crash.

But Nail knows one thing. “I think the answer is pretty obvious,” he says. “In any sort of industry that requires gathering of people, sports, live entertainment, restaurants, travel, all of those things, you either pull it completely or you dial it back and you change your messaging.”

This week, Twitter revised-down its earlier guidance for Q1 2020 advertising growth, now anticipating a slight decline. eMarketer has revised-down its 2020 ad spend forecast.

Amid the crisis, many marketers are frantically trying to figure out how best to retain sales.

But Nail has another idea.

“Don’t even waste your time thinking about how can you stimulate demand in the short-term,” he says. “It’s just not going to happen, For people who were laid off, until they know how long they’re out of work, they are not going to spend a dime.

“Even those of us who are fortunate enough to still be getting a paycheck, it’s like we’re all going to be real cautious because we just have no idea. Rather than do that, you need to make decisions based on, how do you want your brand to be perceived when this is over and when we come out of it?”

The virus has prompted many brands to reconsider the creative they have out in the market.

Certain companies have pulled ads that depict hugging, hand-shaking or, in KFC’s case, finger-lickin’.

Coors Light has abandoned a campaign which would have depicted it as “the official beer of working remotely”, fearing being seen to make light of people self-isolating.

Forrester’s Nail thinks brands need to think beyond the current virus crisis, and tread carefully.

“Do you want your brand to be perceived as a brand that was helpful, that was empathetic, that understood and tried to support its customers and the community?,” he asks. “Or do you want to come across as a brand that was being very opportunistic and still trying to squeeze money out of people?

“Take that longer-term view and accept the idea that we’re going to go through this revenue chasm for the next number of weeks. Just don’t worry about that, but try to position yourself to be ready to capitalise when this is over. I expect there to be significant pent-up demand, and be there, be the kind of brand people will turn to when they’re ready to start spending again.”

Nail was interviewed remotely at home via the BeetCam.