Ad-Tech Companies Are Finding Their ‘New Normal’ Amid Coronavirus Uncertainty

Sales reps are still figuring out best practices when working from home

Hands holding a tablet in an office
Some sales people have said videoconferencing can be more efficient than in-person alternatives. Getty Images

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When the shockwaves of the coronavirus pandemic first hit the ad world, ad-tech firms said they hadn’t yet felt a drastic impact to their businesses.

But a lot can change in just two weeks.

“We’re definitely in a very fluid situation,” said Adam Lowy, chief commercial officer of Telaria. “Each week, each day has been different.”

It’s in these uncertain times, Lowy said, when the art of the sale comes into play. As marketers evaluate their budgets and the work-from-home life upends typical sales protocols, ad-tech companies have to find new ways to get deals done.

Pennsylvania-based Goodway Group’s employees have operated remotely for over 10 years and earlier this week, the company hosted a webinar to share some best practices on working from home.

Goodway Group vp Ami Sirlin, who works from her home in Georgia, said she typically videoconferences into a roomful of clients when going over plans with them. Now, the calls are filled with “little Brady Bunch window boxes” as more and more people work from home.

“While that has been our normal, it is a lot of people’s new normal,” Sirlin said.

Sirlin said she’s starting to see marketers pull back spend, and she expects that to continue.

Rick Cardenas, svp and CFO of Darden Restaurants, said on Thursday’s earnings call that it has “dramatically reduced” ad spend and has focused its marketing on to-go offerings, especially for Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, in light of the coronavirus.

Sirlin said ad dollars could start shifting to connected TV or programmatic audio as marketers reevaluate their strategies in these uncertain times.

Lowy, too, claimed CTV could see a boost as more people look for ways to stay occupied at home. The trick will be for Telaria’s sales reps to figure out how to get buyers and sellers on board when almost every sales meeting has turned into a videoconference.

“Don’t go into business right away,” he said, adding that he’s encouraging his team to keep in mind the “human side” of their clients.

Telaria has also been holding virtual happy hours with clients to lighten the mood and foster connectivity while everyone self-isolates.

Peter Crofut, director of partner relationships at Google marketing platform Adswerve, said face time within the online advertising world has always been important, but the days of wining and dining prospective clients have been winding down over the past few years.

Having only a dedicated window to get business done can prove productive, especially when the sharing functions within these conferencing tools allow Crofut and his colleagues to provide a demo of the Adswerve platform.

“We’ve been able to be more efficient because we’ve been able to have more meetings,” Crofut said, adding that it’s still important to be yourself in what would otherwise be a robotic video call.

Scott Sullivan, chief of sales at Adswerve, did note a shift in ad spend. He said that while each brand vertical is operating differently, there’s still strong spend overall in Google search ads. But he has seen a notable pullback from its demand-side platform DV360.

“A lot of concerns are there,” said Sullivan, who added that he’s seen a recent rise in CTV spend through DV360.

@andrewblustein Andrew Blustein is a programmatic reporter at Adweek.