By all accounts, and as predicated by multiple news outlets earlier this month, COVID-19 may have a substantial and chilling effect on advertising. Adweek, for example, wrote an article in early March predicting how the coronavirus would disrupt the global advertising industry, not merely by major events being cancelled but also by a potential decrease in advertising spend and by new challenges in advertising production. However, Adweek poignantly notes that TV advertising may not suffer as consumers increasingly choose to engage in social distancing at home.
A more recent article by Digital Doughnut explains how ecommerce and digital marketing is being affected. The article predicts an increased shift to online shopping but also a potential reduction in the availability of goods, which could lead companies to withhold advertising dollars. Ending the article, Digital Doughnut provides some salient advice: “For brands, the key to mitigating the impact of coronavirus lies in putting the customer at the heart of marketing and keeping an eye on changing customer behaviour, particularly in response to changing ecommerce trends.” It’s advice like this that has resulted in CEOs of countless major companies sending emails to consumers assuring them of their commitment to consumer health, safety, and well-being.
Some brands are choosing to close their retail stores in an effort to minimize social interaction and keep their own employees healthy, and certain companies (particularly restaurants and bars) are being forced to close. If not open, why advertise? Yet other brands (think those selling disinfecting/sanitizing products, staple food items, video conferencing services, and, strangely, toilet paper) seem to be thriving without having to spend a single extra advertising dollar. I also personally wonder if Covid, Inc., the Arizona-based A/V connectivity solutions company, has seen a positive or negative effect from internet search traffic. Then of course there is Constellation Brands, the company that owns the Corona beer brand, which has been the subject of countless internet articles, prompting the company to issue a press release at the end of February confirming its strong performance despite the virus.
As the coronavirus continues to spread and as news continues to unfold about its effect on the human population and on the operation of small businesses, we’ll likely see additional impacts on brands, advertising, and consumer behavior.