The Impact of the Covid Pandemic on the Advertising Market

Mediahuis  | April 2021

Mediahuis in conjunction with Amarach conducted qualitative research in H1 2021 amongst agencies and advertisers to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on both behaviour and decision making. It highlighted that both advertiser and agencies are broadly optimistic about post lockdown prospects in the second half of 2021.

This high level of optimism among agencies on behalf of their clients is partly because most agencies have clients who have had a ‘good covid’ and are therefore enjoying higher than expected growth.   Even those clients who have struggled through the pandemic (hospitality, non-essential retail, travel, motor) are planning on a strong second half and have budgets committed to that purpose – all of the agencies surveyed appear to be busy and quietly confident about the outlook.

Remarkably few clients/agencies talked about more defensive viewpoints – those that have survived the pandemic are in good enough shape to pursue growth as soon as possible.  The main distinction is between those sectors/brands that expect a surge followed by strong growth (e.g.: travel) and those who simply expect strong growth without the surge (e.g.: alcohol brands in the ontrade).

A common theme that emerged is that brands understand the importance of continued investment to maintain equity and are not cutting back on brand advertising like they did during the financial crisis. Karen Preston, Mediahuis Group Advertising Director commented ‘’The agency side optimism partly reflects the intentions of their clients, and while there is a need to be more flexible about planning the mood is nothing like that of 12 months ago nor even 12 years ago’.

Nevertheless, there have been extraordinary changes to the media landscape in general and most expressed limited prospects for a ‘return’ to how things were before Covid-19. Many of the changes brought by the pandemic are now endemic, and most expect a degree of continuity between 2020 and 2021 in terms of media choices.

A key consideration amongst brand and agencies is the demise of third-party cookies and re-targeting later in the year.  Most expect this to lead to an evolution rather than a revolution in media planning choices, but nevertheless it is anticipated that it will benefit publishers in particular as agencies and brands seek ways to work around or through the end of the cookie.

It is clear that despite the pivot to digital, Irish media play an integral part in current and future plans.  There is a clear, commercial recognition that Irish media are essential to advertising and brand success in 2021 and beyond and that isn’t about to change.