Last year Gartner CMO Spend Survey revealed that – while marketing leaders were optimistic about their budgets – the actual budgets haven’t been at this level in 6 years.

Gartner wrote that despite facing perplexing external and internal environmental signals, almost 61% of CMOs expected their budgets to rebound in 2020.

That was before the pandemic.

Current forecasts are far gloomier as WARC adjusted its earlier projection for a 7,1% (YoY) increase in ad-spend globally to an -8,1% decrease. 

In the short-term, marketers are switching to online channels to boost demand during the downturn.

In the long run, projections seesaw between the cautiously optimistic – with budgets recovering by the end of 2020 – and the truly pessimistic: a recession in advertising investment lasting into mid-2021.

All isn’t lost, though.

Despite consumers being uncertain about economic recovery in Europe, we can look at how brands and consumers in Asia have responded to pandemics – COVID as well as MERS and SARS.

There’s ample evidence that halting investing in marketing during a downturn is a folly. 

It’s obvious that investing in digital is a lot safer than planning expensive offline campaigns but you need to do more than that if you want to come out on top.

To quote WPP’s Brian Wieser on CNBC; “Every brand should be questioning assumptions about their company’s competitive position. What are the ways in which you can reinvent the category? That the economy will be weak is a given, but any single business’s outcomes are not.”

Marketing always sits centre-stage.

And our decisions are reflected in every ad campaign and message we choose to put out. We set the tone for how customers perceive our brand during a difficult time.

I found this advice from Gartner the most useful:

  1. Engage in scenario planning.
  2. Listen to changes in consumer sentiment and behaviour.
  3. Prepare your operations to deal with uncertainty.
  4. Adapt your marketing plans.

Here’s one last piece of advice from me to you:

Invest in taking your data beyond CTR and Open Rates and actively prepare your teams and analysts to make use of data analysis.

Because Gartner’s 2018 Digital Maturity Assessment found that despite significant investment, organisations still lacked maturity in how they respond to a crisis. Don’t become the next Volkswagen caught in an emissions scandal or like Facebook with recurring foot-in-mouth disease.

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