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How the pandemic is impacting the advertising business as sports TV viewing evaporates, events are cancelled, and people cut back on spending

Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, left, shoots as Denver Nuggets forward Torrey Craig, center, and forward Jerami Grant defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
  • The coronavirus pandemic is upending the advertising business, along with other swaths of the economy.
  • Here is a breakdown of how the pandemic is impacting advertising, from layoffs and furloughs to events cancellations to softening sales for startups.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The advertising business has been upended by the coronavirus, along with other sectors of the global economy. Advertisers have hit the breaks in spending as sales plummet, audiences for live sports have fallen, and layoffs rip through media and advertising agencies.
JPMorgan Chase analysts said the largest and most heavily leveraged companies, like WPP and Publicis, and those most exposed in Asia, like Dentsu, are most at risk from advertisers cutting spending, while IPG could fare better because of its data and healthcare business.
Read more:
  • 76% of companies plan to slash their advertising budgets this year — here's why their ad agencies could bear the brunt of the cuts
  • Layoffs and furloughs hit holding companies WPP, Omnicom, and MDC Partners as advertisers slash spending 
  • Analysts lay out the effects of the pandemic on the ad holding companies, with advertisers slashing TV and digital spending
Live events have been particularly devastated by the coronavirus as in-person gatherings have been cancelled to prevent the spread of the pandemic, leading events-dependent businesses like The Atlantic to lay off staff and others to shift to virtual events.
The cancelation of big sporting events is a headache for TV networks who are betting big on live sports for ad revenue and advertisers who have to find those audiences elsewhere. According to ad-buying agency Magna Global, the networks that were planned to air live sports will take a drastic viewership hit.
Read more:
  • Leaked document: Top ad agency predicts that cancelled NBA and NCAA events will cost TV networks up to a 25% drop in viewership
  • TV sports viewing will 'go from bad to abysmal' in the coming months, but analysts say NBCUniversal and Fox are best poised to weather the coronavirus
  • This year was supposed to be a banner year for sports TV. Now advertisers are scrambling to figure out where to put their money as live events get scrapped or postponed.
  • 16 media buyers identified the media companies that are poised to gain and lose the most as the pandemic upends advertising spending
  • Facebook and Google might get walloped by the thousands of small businesses impacted by the coronavirus, but their massive ad businesses will come out stronger in the end
Marketers are scrambling to make sure all their messaging is right for the moment, even pulling entire campaigns in some cases, while some are taking advantage of low ad rates to boost spending. Media buyers are trying to keep up with all the disruptions, and agencies are figuring out how to win new business through remote pitching.
Read further:
  • The coronavirus is upending advertising. Top marketers at Toyota, Burger King, and Hippo reveal how they're changing their ad strategies to keep up.
  • Online education startup MasterClass just raised $100 million. Its CMO reveals how the company is taking advantage of low TV ad rates to advertise to people at home during the pandemic.
  • Cancelled ad campaigns and 60% cuts in spending: Media buyers are scrambling to manage disruptions to their businesses amid the coronavirus crisis
  • Top consultants issue coronavirus guidelines for ad agencies as they pivot to remote pitches
The pandemic has stirred up debate about advertisers' practice of avoiding hard news, which is making it hard for news publishers from BuzzFeed to TheSkimm to monetize big readership gains. Meanwhile, investors offer advice for media companies on how to make it through the downturn.
Go deeper:
  • BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti faces his toughest leadership test ever as the media company could lose millions this year
  • Media companies have never had more readership, but a group of adtech companies are making it tough to monetize
  • Ad agencies are calling on advertisers to get comfortable with coronavirus news
  • Digital media companies are facing the worst downturn in a generation. Investors in Axios and The Athletic say what CEOs should do to survive.
Looking ahead, the coronavirus is expected to have a lasting impact on the advertising industry.
Read about the virus' long-term impact here:
  • The CEOs of WPP, Publicis, Edelman and more explain how the pandemic will change advertising, from shrinking office space to improving creative output
  • 'It will fundamentally reshape the advertising industry': Ad insiders from Burger King, Freshly, McCann, and Vita Coco say the coronavirus will radically change the business
  • CEOs of PR firms like Edelman and BCW reveal why they're focused on winning business from advertising and consulting companies coming out of the pandemic
  • In leaked memos, Sir Martin Sorrell frames the pandemic as an opportunity to acquire 'distressed' ad agencies and reveals that his firm S4 Capital has applied for government subsidies
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