2020 is coming to an end, and the world is both hopeful and chaotic, especially after promising news about coronavirus vaccines.
For companies in the marketing industry, an effective and widely distributed vaccine could mean major changes to how marketers do business and their strategies for reaching consumers who have been stuck at home.
Take the marketing of movies, for example. Warner Brothers’ “Wonder Woman 1984” moved its theatrical release from the summer to the fall, then pushed it back to Christmas, and will also stream the film on HBO Max. Cinema owners have given their full blessing to a concurrent cinema and streaming release—a major change from earlier this year, when Universal released “Trolls World Tour” only on streaming.
A post-vaccine era may lead to expectations that consumers will return to old habits, like going to movie theaters. But does it make sense to expect that? “We can’t expect to go back to the pre-COVID world as we have been tempered by our pandemic experiences,” says AJ Mathew, senior vice president for Ipsos Media Development. “Humans are creatures of habit—the pandemic broke our habits and we formed new ones. It will be difficult to revert what has been developed.”
Nearly four in ten U.S. adults report that they have settled into new routines, according to an Ipsos study fielded in September. The Ipsos September study also found that if there is a COVID-19 vaccine declared safe and effective, and most people in the U.S. take it, more than a quarter of U.S. adults still will not feel safe going to work.
These Ipsos findings mean marketers must prepare for a post-vaccine world of tight marketing budgets, scrutiny over every decision and the persistence of consumer media habits created during lockdowns.
THE EXPERIENCE ECONOMY
In content production and releases, windowing strategies, the term given to the cycle when content is released in theaters, or on TV or to streaming platforms, will continue to change as studios and platforms work together to maximize revenue and engagement.
Right now, more than half of U.S. adults are unlikely to go to an indoor entertainment center like movie theaters or concerts in the next month, according to September findings from Ipsos’ Coronavirus Consumer Tracker. These lingering concerns about safety may result in lower attendance, which will force producers to consider if theaters are the best outlet for their films.
“Churn will be the biggest concern for platform providers in a post-vaccine world,” explains Virginia Lennon, senior vice president of Ipsos Media Development.
TOO MUCH CONTENT?
Recent Ipsos research found that four of the top five ways people look to help manage stress during the pandemic are media-related, with 48 percent of respondents watching more online videos or streaming TV. But as consumers sample streaming entertainment, they may reach a point where they feel overwhelmed by the glut of options.
That means platforms need to provide value to subscribers through regularly released offerings, further building them out. It also means demand for aggregators may increase as viewers look for ways to manage and organize their services, potentially bringing consumers back to a TV model.
“The streaming industry may compress back down as platforms have to prove their value to consumers,” says Aron Galonsky, senior vice president at Ipsos Media Development. “We already saw the rise and fall of Quibi in a short six-month period.”
FINDING THE RIGHT PLATFORMS
The pandemic accelerated marketers’ move to digital. While TV will likely remain relevant for reaching the masses for some time, marketers will remain focused on digital platforms in a post-vaccine world.
Despite budget cuts and the economic repercussions of the pandemic, digital media ad spending is anticipated to grow by 7.5 percent in the U.S. in 2020, the only media platform where ad spending will grow this year, according to eMarketer. A large shift in media ad spending share is predicted to start in 2020. Digital ad spending share will move from 54.7 percent in 2019 to 61.3 percent in 2020, with continued growth going forward.
Spending on TV will drop from 29.1 percent in 2019 to 25.8 percent this year and is expected to keep declining in the coming years, according to October findings from eMarketer.
One concept marketers can focus on in a post-vaccine era, no matter how much uncertainty there is: Premium ad placements across platforms.
“TV has historically been viewed as a premium, brand-safe platform. When digital becomes a priority, marketers are going to need to know their ads are being run alongside safe content,” Mathew says. “Transparency around ad placements, as well as tracking and measurement of ad views, will be key to marketers.”