In a time of no live sports and heightened sensitivity to brand messaging, many companies have had to completely rethink their marketing strategies. In an interview with Beet.TV,  Donnie Williams, executive vice president and chief digital officer at Horizon Media, explored how the consultative lever of the industry has been busier than ever trying to help brands pivot accordingly.

Consulting is one of the many parts of Horizon’s business model, and it’s one where Williams sees a great opportunity. There are a lot of businesses whose core value propositions aren’t relevant or can’t exist right now because of COVID-19, so there’s a great need for realizing a marketing and communications strategy that helps to pivot their business in an effective way.

“For us, there are countless brands that have been sidelined because of this pandemic,” Williams says. “And instead of it being kind of a management of a portfolio of media investments, it becomes kind of a consultative approach to understanding the business viability and the opportunity to shift strategy from an operations standpoint.”

For many brands who have relied heavily on sporting events to stay relevant and convey value, Williams said that they have had to reimagine how to pivot these brands to get in front of the right audience and keep the scale and volume required to drive the same level of success.

“It’s been a lot of optimizing around consumer behavior – leaning into digital channels,” Williams says. “And then it’s been a lot of pivoting around messaging so that there’s something more relevant and potentially less opportunistic to share out during this sensitive period of time.”

One example that Williams gives is brands shifting the focus of TV ads from a promotional value proposition to providing more consumer options around things like payment flexibility or low-contact delivery.

Some brands, however, have been fully sidelined by COVID-19, and Williams says that this is a problem across the industry. Still, many of the responses from advertisers have been unsurprising.

“You’ve seen folks gravitate towards more measurable and accountable channels,” Williams says. “We’ve seen some drop off in traditional media; we’ve seen some recovery in what have historically been referred to as lower-funnel marketing activities including affiliate marketing and surge marketing and to a lesser extent social marketing as well. I think you’re going to see folks gravitate towards those types of performance-related channels because they’re flexible and they’re dynamic both on the messaging side of things and on the media side of things.”

These lower-risk advertisements give way to a great importance around measurement and data. Williams says that all of the data and performance-based parts of Horizon Media are high traffic right now because marketers are needing greater insight more than ever. While these insights won’t be fully clear until the third quarter, Williams has already picked up on some trends.

“I think you’re going to see people really lean into some of the behaviors we’re seeing including connected and OTT inventory really spiking,” Williams says. “Marketers are going to figure out how to use dynamic assets in those environments in a scalable way so that spend should pick up pretty quickly as well.”

This video is part of a Beet.TV series titled “Audience, in Context,” presented by Xandr. For more videos please visit this page.   

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