Agencies Adapt to Messaging Demands and Changing Consumer Viewing Habits

At this year's NewFronts, the emphasis is on 'flexibility'

Screenshot from IAB NewFronts
Amplifi US, Dentsu Aegis Network and IAB talk 'flexibility' at NewFronts. IAB
Headshot of Scott Nover

Over the past few months, marketers seem to be constantly “pausing” and “pivoting,” first with the onset of the pandemic and the realities of quarantine, and more recently in response to the Black Lives Matter protests that have dominated national discourse. 

At the delayed 2020 Digital Content NewFronts, now a virtual five-day event, Eric John, deputy director of the video center at IAB, led a panel discussion about the state of the video advertising ecosystem and how two agency leads are talking their clients through dramatic shifts in how people are using technology and responding to the world around them.

Mike Law, president of Amplifi US, the media investment and innovation arm of Dentsu Aegis Network, said the first major shift was in March when the pandemic first started to spread in the U.S. This changed not only how brands talked to consumers, but also how they responded to dynamic viewing habits.

“What we needed to figure out was where will those changes be sticking and where are they short-term implications,” Law said.

Tweaked marketing budgets are expected to, in part, cause a $11 billion drop in ad revenue for media owners in 2020. Linear TV ad revenue is projected to be among the categories hardest hit, seeing a 17% drop—excluding political ads—this year, compared to 2019, according to the most recent forecast from Magna Global.

While streaming video and traditional TV viewership were up initially, Law said traditional TV has since fallen back down to “pre-Covid” numbers, though he hopes those numbers rise again as live sports come back to TV in the coming weeks.

Cara Lewis, evp of video investment at Amplifi, said it’s all about “flexibility, flexibility, flexibility” for brands who have already adapted their video strategy and want to keep up momentum into the third quarter of the year.

The topic then switched to the advent of connected TV, which the panelists noted is now a regular part of the digital marketing repertoire. “This is what happened to cable in the early 80s. We had specialized cable buyers, now he had specialized connected TV buyers,” Law said, noting buyers need to follow consumers where they are going. 

Early predictions from Nielsen also suggest that the pandemic migration from linear TV to streaming might accelerate.

Lewis noted that viewers aren’t opposed to seeing the right commercial on connected TV either. “We’ve seen some research that says 75% of consumers that watch video on connected TV actually don’t mind a reduced ad load,” she said. 

The way advertisers approach messaging is most important right now, Lewis said, and with the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, her clients are thinking more about personalized communication that hits the “right message, right time, right place, right consumer” than ever before.

@ScottNover Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.