LONDON via BEETCAM — For a media industry that has long been used to enduring disruption, the coronavirus pandemic has hit like the most disruptive wave yet.

Many brands, especially in hardest-hit verticals like travel, are pulling back ad budgets or blacklisting inventory adjacent to virus news, placing media companies under pressure.

But there are also opportunities for brands that can navigate their way through the pandemic.

Liz Duff wants to help them do so. In this video interview with Beet.TV’s Jon Watts, the head of media and investment at Total Media, a UK-based media planning agency, observes a number of sometimes-competing trends.

Total Media has been publishing many insights on how COVID-19 is affecting media and marketing.

1. TV ad prices falling

(TV ad prices) are down about 50, 55% in the coming months, which is ridiculously low in terms of value for TV,” Duff says. “TV sales houses are … waiving … late booking charges. They’re offering additional discounts, added value.

“For advertisers who can spend and can see the value of it, they’ll get amazing share of voice in a really trusted, engaging environment.”

2. Digital CPMs declining

“We’re seeing traffic going up, we’re seeing mobile traffic going up, we’re seeing the use of social and use of apps obviously really flowing,” Duff says. “But, when we look at CPMs, again, they’re dropping, because the demand is just going down.

“I think it’s a combination of (ad) people blocking certain types of content (and) people not knowing what to advertise or how to talk to people at moment.”

3. Agencies will change

“We’ve discovered that we don’t all need to work exactly the same hours and be in the office all together, all at the same time, and actually we can be very productive,” Duff adds.

“We’ve done three new-business pitches on video call, which was slightly odd, but it does actually work. I think there will be more remote working, but also you will see some people just going back to where they were before.

“What it will drive is sort of a change or shift in agency commercial models potentially and shifting away from less of a commission-based and much more sort of based on actual output.”

4. Will new habits stick?

“A lot of people will be using a lot of e-commerce that they were potentially nervous about before. We’re seeing older audiences engaging in more digital (media),” says Duff. “But we’re also seeing things like engagement with Facebook is actually dropping, and people are moving to different formats.

“I think what it really depends on is if people stick to the new habits that they pick up during this time or if they just go back to what they were doing before. Once they can leave their houses again, their (shopping) habits might revert to where they were.”

4. Guiding lights reap rewards

Total Media is using tactics like sentiment analysis and social listening to discover how consumers are behaving, passing that insight on to brands.

Duff thinks that agencies are being forced to step up and become more advisory in their approach right now.

“We’re also going to see a change in the understanding of the value that agencies can provide guidance, because we’re certainly having different conversations with our clients than we were in the past,” she says.

The interview was conducted remotely.

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