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Report: Global advertisers show guarded optimism

October 6, 2020

Major multinationals are starting to increase their ad spend but overall activity still remains lower across most channels compared to what was planned pre-pandemic, according to WFA’s latest Crisis Response Tracker.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents are no longer deferring campaigns and levels of optimism about the current business environment have improved. Twenty-one per cent now feel positive and 36 per cent feel neutral compared to only 8 per cent feeling positive and 41 per cent feeling neutral in June 2020, when the last wave of WFA research was conducted.

Nevertheless, actual spend remains lower than originally planned across the first three quarters of the year, with only online display (up 6 per cent) and online video (up 9 per cent) benefiting from higher levels of investment.

The results of Wave IV of the WFA Crisis Response Tracker are based on responses from senior executives at 35 major advertisers with a cumulative total annual ad spend of $67 billion. The research was carried out from September 17th to 27th with 75 per cent of respondents holding global roles and 25 per cent in regional roles.

Qualitative responses from multinationals highlight the shift to digital with many saying they have made a full transition to channel-agnostic video planning, boosted their focus on eCommerce, run more virtual/digital marketing activations and influencer events and rebalanced investments between experiential and digital.

Other major channels such as TV, out of home and point of sale are beginning to pick up from the historic lows experienced in the first half of the year. TV is still down 25 per cent for Q1-3 but showing better than the 33 per cent cut experienced in H1. Similarly, out of home is 39 per cent down on planned spend, an improvement on the H1 figure of 49 per cent and Point of Sale is down 20 per cent compared to a 23 per cent fall in H1.

After online video and online display, influencer marketing is closest to matching planned investment with an 11 per cent fall in Q1-3, compared to a 22 per cent drop in H1.

Worst hit were events/experiential (down 60 per cent across Q1-3 compared to -56 per cent across the first half of the year) and radio (down 35 per cent for Q1-3 compared to -25 per cent for H1), which continued to face declines in spend.

“We are starting to see some green shoots of recovery with more than half our members no longer holding their campaigns back as a result of the pandemic. There is still a lot of uncertainty though and it’s unlikely we’ll be moving to ‘business as usual’ anytime soon. We are also seeing an acceleration of the shift to digital channels but it remains to be seen if this will be permanent,” said Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA.


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