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The Perceived Problem Of Advertising Around Coronavirus

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Amid reductions in both spend as well as placing around the topic of COVID-19, digital advertising is being hit hard, with knock-on impact on news sites and the broader ecosystem.

Serious downward revisions of adspend in hard-hit industries, along with a deeper uncertainty about how to respond.

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This is not just a crisis of brands that are continuing to advertise. Part of a broader emerging problem is a downward revision of ad forecasts appearing from ad-buyers.

On Thursday, Magna Global, IPG Mediabrands’ media intelligence and investment arm said it would be revising ad spending in the US downwards by 2.8% this year. In part it is in anticipation of struggles in big spending though hard-hit industries such as travel.

“The closest historical equivalent would be a combination of the Great Recession and 9/11,” said Vincent Letang, Magna’s executive vice president of global market research told the Wall Street Journal. “This is not a normal economic crisis, it is far more complex. It’s a demand crisis, a supply crisis and a psychological crisis.”

Meanwhile, revelations about major brands pulling spend on major publishers, according to Buzzfeed, illustrates the pressure on websites including  the New York Times, CNN, USA Today, and the Washington Post, as news organisations rush to cover the pandemic, just as some advertisers refuse to allow their ads to appear next to stories about the illness through blacklisting of the topic.

This is according to data obtained by the news service pertaining to ad placements for a Fortune 50 company that spends around $3m a month on ads in news and tech websites.

Figures from Integral Ad Science show that this is not a singular phenomenon as Coronavirus recently surpassed Trump as the most-blocked keyword in its system.

While some of these decisions will be temporary, as brands evaluate their stances on advertising around the topic, the real danger is of starving news organisations of revenue at the moment they are most needed. (For more on this, read WARC’s exclusive on de-risking activity around COVID-19 disruption.)

Data is emerging about how customers want brands to respond. Figures from Kantar released last week indicate how people, first and foremost, expect companies to look after their people and don’t see advertising as a problem.

Understandably, brands want to avoid being seen to exploit the situation, but brand advertising remains important now and to improve brands’ chances of a successful recovery.

Credit:  WARC

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