Uptick in marketer confidence as fewer brands postpone spend

Less than half of multinationals now deferring campaigns, compared with more than 90% in June.

Green shoots: fewer campaigns are being deferred indefinitely (Picture: Pixabay.com)
Green shoots: fewer campaigns are being deferred indefinitely (Picture: Pixabay.com)

More than half of international companies are no longer holding off on media spend amid an improvement in marketers’ confidence in the current business environment, a major global survey has revealed.

The World Federation of Advertisers’ latest Crisis Response Tracker reports that less than half (46%) of multinational companies are deferring marketing campaigns as of the end of September. 

This is a considerable change from a previous WFA report in June, when the overwhelming majority (92%) said they would defer campaigns as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Notably, there seem to be more companies at this point in the pandemic that are choosing to defer campaigns for short-term periods. Just 13% of those surveyed say they are no longer holding off on pausing activity for one or two months, down from 34% in June. 

Marketers are generally either neutral or negative about the current business environment – as well as prospects for the next six months – but optimism appears to be rising. More than one in five (21%) is positive about the current picture, compared with just 8% in June. 

Stephen Loerke, chief executive of the WFA, said: “We are starting to see some green shoots of recovery, with more than half our members no longer holding their campaigns back as a result of the pandemic.”

However, he warned: “There is still a lot of uncertainty, though, and it’s unlikely we’ll be moving to ‘business as usual’ any time soon. We are also seeing an acceleration of the shift to digital channels but it remains to be seen if this will be permanent.”

Compared with marketers' plans that were made before the pandemic, media investment is down for the first three-quarters of the year – with the worst-hit sectors including events/experiential (down 60%), and outdoor (down 39%).

The pandemic has seen even more spend shift towards digital than previously planned, with online video up 9% and online display up 6%. TV is still down 25% for Q1 to Q3, but this is an improvement on the 33% cut experienced in the first six months of the year. 

Sam Hawkey, UK chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi, said he recognised that fewer clients are deferring campaigns compared with previous months this year, but that they are spending less on the whole. 

He explained: “People are getting back out and making campaigns, they’re making stuff and looking ahead – albeit maybe 10-15% lower than they would have done before.”

Instead of optimism, Hawkey said the sentiment among marketers he has spoken to is: “There’s a feeling of we’ve got to get on with it." 

He added: “We’ve been dealt a certain set of cards and we’ve got to make those work for us. We talk a lot about how you can make the context of this set of cards work for your brand. The difference, now, is that you’ve got to be careful with what you spend, you’ve got to be more responsible than you’ve ever been, which means putting a lot of scrutiny on proof and making sure it’s going to pay back.”

More than two-thirds of brands surveyed are also considering the purpose of their offices, with just over one-third (35%) saying they aim to return to a pre-pandemic approach. The same number revealed they are piloting new approaches in some markets, with slightly less (30%) going for a global repurposing of offices. 

The WFA survey draws from a small but important pool of members, comprising 39 senior marketers from 35 companies that collectively are responsible for $67bn (£51bn) in annual media and marketing spend.

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