Planners have a way of “living in the future.”  We develop plans and strategies that will impact campaigns scheduled to launch weeks and months down the road.

While the digital landscape has changed that slightly and we can now buy in real-time and shift messages and budgets in real-time, there is still research, planning and development of audiences and multiple media channels coming together to form an efficient and smart media plan.

And until a few weeks ago, that was acceptable.  No longer.  As our lives are changing daily and we are adjusting to the “new normal,” media planning also has to change.

No more sports, no more Olympics, no more summer travel for targeted messaging. And to make things even more uncertain in our advertising world, we have a MAJOR presidential election coming up in November.  In normal times, this election forces us to adjust budgets and timing to work in tandem with the political landscape and carefully plan media placements so not to get lost in the rhetoric.  I think it’s safe to say we have NO IDEA how this election season will look.  Election advertising will pick up just as we are hopefully getting back to our normal routines and trying to recover economically. To say it will be the advertising “wild west” is an understatement.

There are a lot of unknowns in our advertising futures, even in our advertising present. Now more than ever, we are working with our clients to help each other navigate the marketplace and manage the pros and cons of advertising during this time.  For some advertisers, now is not the time to shy away from their consumers but stay with them through the turmoil. For others, it’s better to take a step back and reevaluate messaging once we get through this unique time.

eMarketer recently posed the question of how media plans were being affected during this time:


We have decided with our client partners to either pause campaigns (makes sense for some industries) or shift media weight to media that people are consuming in their homes. Streaming has seen a huge spike along with linear TV and digital with people who are practicing social distancing watching 60-70% more video channels than before the outbreak, according to Hub Research.

We’ve cut back on radio, but still recognize its value in this work-from-home environment.  While not listening in the car as much, we still see high usage on the digital streaming platforms.

We’ve pulled most budgets from out-of-home (OOH), especially in the Washington DC market where the majority of inventory is with mass transit.  But overall, OOH is definitely the media losing its share of the media budget.  No longer can it provide the impressions that it once did and we do not know when it will again.

Digital platforms are where we can move quickly and efficiently with our campaigns.  We rely on programmatic trading practices to reach our audience as well as to update our messages quickly as circumstances change in the market.  But it is still a fragmented advertising space and does not provide mass reach like TV and radio can.  It’s an important piece to our plans but it is rarely the only piece.

Each of our partners have their own individual challenges during this time – determining what action they need to take: pause, stay the course or even heavy up advertising.  Media plans are typically built on research and past performance.   We have very little of that right now as it relates to advertising during a pandemic. We are learning and adjusting as we go. Relying on new technology like real-time optimization and old-school media fundamentals like reach and frequency to navigate through this new and challenging time. In a rapidly evolving media landscape, a day equals a week and a month could be an entire campaign as we don’t know what the following month will bring.

It’s a challenging time but one that we are prepared to face and tackle each day. Consumers need normalcy, they need reassurance that not everything has changed.  Brands can be a part of that message. A recognized jingle, tagline or familiar face popping up on TV or in your ongoing search for news and entertainment reassures us that this is temporary, and the brands that we rely on will still be there when we come out on the other side of this.