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A permanent state of flux: Media, advertising and COVID-19

by Roland Abold , 03.02.2021

In September 2020, we brought together nine experts from the fields of media, advertising, research, and data for our fourth annual GfK Roundtable debate. Their mission was to assess the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on media and advertising. With consumers locked down in their own homes, and the coronavirus spreading across the globe, the media industry has proved to be invaluable for news and information as well as entertainment. In this session, we covered a wide range of topics, from the short-term to longer-term impacts of this monumental event.

Rethinking everything we knew about media

The crisis has been both a catalyst for changes in lifestyle and media consumption and a stimulus for escalating pre-existing trends. For instance, being cooped up in our homes provided an enforced opportunity to discover new content and technologies. People have not only tried new services, but also explored the capabilities of the connected devices they already owned. In the white paper, we examine what these trends mean for the growth of the media sector and for media measurement.

Advertising and media during COVID-19: the battle for screen time

Not surprisingly, many consumers chose to spend their time catching up on TV shows via streaming content. While the early days of the crisis underlined the primacy of television as the go-to medium, traditional media players and broadcasters have seen competition for viewers’ attention intensify as more people use SVOD and other streaming services.

With content at a premium, the crisis has further strengthened the global media conglomerates at the expense of national and regional media owners. National and regional media groups need to cooperate and collaborate on content, marketing and ad sales if they are to survive and succeed.

  • Creativity in content and advertising has flourished: Although there has been a short-term hiatus in content production, the crisis has fostered new, more agile, approaches to producing certain forms of content that our panelists believe will endure. Advertising has responded by becoming more authentic and creative, and we explore in the white paper how the sector has been forced to think on its feet.
  • Media owners are rethinking advertising: While the crisis has boosted SVOD subscriptions, our panelists were convinced that ad-funded models for media consumption will remain an essential part of the system, especially in the anticipated coming recession. Our experts believe media owners will see a decline in revenue generated from advertising, pushing players towards other revenue streams, such as subscriptions. Media owners are already squeezed, and so hybrid financing models will be the way of the future.

The challenge of media advertising from COVID-19

Media owners and planners will need to understand and adapt to the impact of post-COVID lifestyle changes. How will media fit into people’s lives? The ‘typical day’ will be even less relevant than before. This will impact key media of outdoor, radio and cinema, as discussed in the white paper:

  • Rethinking outdoor advertising: Outdoor is an industry that our panel agrees is facing significant and long-term restructuring. As more people work from home, consumers move away from cities and travel patterns change, the impact on outdoor advertising will be massive.
  • Radio making waves: There’s no doubt that the classic structure of the listening day, particularly drivetime, has radically changed. Streaming live radio and podcasts are also having a significant impact on listener behavior. How should media owners and advertisers respond?
  • Cinema takes a hit. As with TV advertising, a hybrid model may be the best fit for cinema, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. Not only have theatres been closed, but many have gone out of business. New models for the release of movies have been piloted, with attempts at direct-to-home release of major films.

    Above are just a teaser of the wide range of topics covered in the white paper around media, advertising and COVID-19. There’s no doubt that every corner of the media sector is undergoing rapid change, and our expert opinions do indeed shed some light on the subject. GfK’s expertise in media measurement will be an essential tool in tracking and understanding the significant changes in media consumption patterns that have been discussed and are emerging. We will be able to continuously assess and analyze the impact this will have on the entire media ecosystem.

    Learn what experts had to say about the COVID-19 impact on media and advertising

    Get the interactive white paper now