4 Tips for Navigating an Increasingly Complicated 2020 Media Landscape

We may also see consumers supporting brands like never before

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Rethink that hard sell because brand values and purpose matter now more than ever. Getty Images
Headshot of Grace Teng

Even before this global pandemic, 2020 was going to be a challenging year. Now, in this unprecedented time, we can help our clients navigate the media landscape by employing empathy, creativity and flexibility. This ranges from continuously checking the pulse of the public to leaning into what is working to quickly pivoting our strategies.

Here are a few things to consider when decoding this hyper-complex media landscape:

Media habits are changing by the second 

The rules of engagement are rapidly changing, and with so much in flux, timing is everything. Consider developing a month-to-month media strategy with the flexibility to quickly change with the times and with consumer consumption. For example, some platforms, like online video, are performing well right now as more people are streaming content than ever before.

OOH, on the other hand, isn’t getting many eyeballs these days. That may all change in the warm summer months, however, as people will likely seek some way of getting outside after a season of sheltering in place. Social media is firmly in the spotlight as the great connector, but once we get back to some version of normal, that may change.

If you haven’t already, up your digital experience and ecommerce game as more people shop online. As our lifestyles and media consumption and habits evolve during business unusual, embrace the change while monitoring the media very carefully.

Rethink that hard sell because brand values and purpose matter now more than ever.

Maximize your media buys

With all of the changes that have happened, many media buys that you had planned may no longer make sense or be available. If you made a buy that no longer works with life on pause, change your approach and adapt.

Take sports brands. They can maximize that buy after all sporting events have been canceled or postponed by shifting to engagement and sales from an event or in-store focus in addition to encouraging app downloads and content plays. For example, sports organizations may be considering a strategic switch of messaging from the live game that no longer exists to directing fans to download content and creating digital experiences. Another interesting thing right now is thinking about how experiences like live gaming and playing with friends can help as we socially distance and how engaging website experiences can give a stressed out public a welcome distraction and sense of community.

Additionally, be kind and compassionate. Provide financial relief and find ways to engage by doing good. Fireball Whiskey created the biggest tip jar through GoFundMe for service workers who have lost wages as a result of bar and restaurant closures. Ford is giving payment support and credit relief, while Netflix is pledging $100 million to emergency support for workers on its productions, including electricians, carpenters and drivers. Rethink that hard sell because brand values and purpose matter now more than ever.

And if you need to push that buy back, negotiate as much as you can. Play nice with your media partners and treat all vendors with respect, and they will surely work harder to get you better opportunities in the future.

It’s a relationship business, after all, and we’re all in this together.

Vote for what works 

As if 2020 hasn’t been wild enough, it’s also an election year. So, what’s the state of your union in this hot and heavy political environment? Is this a place where your brand’s voice should be heard?

For some, this will be the time for finding a niche and exploring new avenues to cut through the clutter. Think about how people can escape the noise, like content and podcasts where advertising is limited. Retail brands could consider selective audio and OOH as people are driving to destinations again. And as people seek human interest, run ads or create lookalike audiences in or based on ancillary environments. Think of lifting people up in a noisy time; it’s a great opportunity for sports, food or music brands to find common ground.

For others, a presidential election is exactly where they should be. Leaning into the political culture with creative messaging or using humor to bring people together could be a way to showcase the brand. And for brands that don’t want to be in the thick of politics, consider going lighter in media presence to save dollars. Save your money until it can make a substantial impact, which could simply mean pushing your buy two weeks after the election. Buys during the height of the election are expensive and may not be a great fit.

Looking forward 

These are uncharted waters, and in the days and months to come, we’ll need to be nimble and adapt. Because despite the uncertainty of these times, there are real possibilities for new and innovative ways of doing business.

Maybe our modern streaming society will birth a new generation of micro-influencers to provide a fresh perspective and outlet. Think about the experiential space in everything from workout classes to live events and how everything may now have a digital or streaming experience to redefine live.

Perhaps there will also be good news for brands that were facing a very skeptical public before the crisis. There’s a genuine possibility that consumers will feel empathy for brands that are honest with them about the legitimate struggle the Covid-19 era has created. Because this virus has been so hard on business, consumers may support brands in ways we haven’t seen before. That’s why clear communication is vital.

As we reset our mindset, we’re going to get more selective in terms of what media we want to consume. And whether it’s less is more or a full-tilt approach, being an intuitive, strategic partner to your clients and vendors is critical. Strategy, empathy and creativity will resonate with consumers in this challenging moment in culture and crisis.


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Grace Teng is executive director, media and analytics at Zambezi, a certified woman-owned creative agency.
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