Medialab COVID Tracker | 08.06.20

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We have now entered a more progressive phase of the easing of lockdown. Across the four home nations we can socialise more freely. Some school year-groups have partially returned. Non-essential retailers can open from 15th June. Pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, hotels, cinemas, and places of worship could open from 4th July at the earliest.

The challenge for marketing (as Martin Weigel pointed out in his August 2019 post, ‘The Tragic Horizon’) is that crises like COVID-19 and the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 shorten our horizon of effectiveness. In 2008, the combined impact of businesses going into ‘survival mode’, quarterly reporting, and the proliferation of data contributed to the reduction in planning horizons for many brands to short-term activation in ‘the next 3 months’.

The upshot of an exclusively short-term focus? The reduction of value generated by marketing in the long-term.

For marketing to reach its potential, we need our planning horizons to cover the short and long-term, as has been established in the seminal IPA works of Binet & Field, and in Ebiquity & Gain Theory’s Profit-ability, The Business Case for Advertising. As we begin the slow releasing of lockdown and audiences adapt their buying behaviour to new circumstances, the case for marketing that works both now and in the future has rarely been as strong.

To complement this longer-term view of effectiveness, we also provide some thoughts below on the trends that are likely to drive the development of the major media channels.


During lockdown, we have seen consumers returning to TV. Compared to 2019, across the lockdown period, TV viewing has increased dramatically. Viewers of all ages are watching more TV, for example younger viewers, many of whom have returned to live viewing at key times like Friday nights on Channel 4. As we look to the future, and TV screens continue to get smarter and cheaper, we expect them to become a natural, multi-use platform. But as we are seeing now, people will still demand high standards in content, and this is where the broadcast industry will remain compelling.


The rise in listening to radio and other audio services on connected devices has created new commercial opportunities for advertisers. Digital audio advertising placed into streamed or downloaded audio content on radio, on-demand music services, and podcasts are all examples of this. Radio operators will develop new initiatives, such as voice control moving into other locations (in-car and wearables) and the rise of dynamic creative within digital audio commercial breaks to stream the most pertinent version of a commercial.


While audience volumes have significantly reduced during lockdown, DOOH has adapted creatively, becoming an outlet for public announcements and clever launch activity. Post lockdown, we will continue to see the growth of automated OOH trading, with programmatic OOH (PROOH) developing. This will grow the Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) share of outdoor advertising from the current 52% to over 65%, fuelled by the conversion of static sites.


Throughout the turmoil of COVID-19, context and content have become even more important. The crisis has provided organisations with a relevant message (especially Government communications), opportunities to combine these two. As cookie-based targeting continues to diminish under the weight of GDPR, the power of contextual, dynamic creative will grow. Without a cookie to help direct ads to individuals, the placement of the ad (context) and the message of the brand (content) will be that much more important, and the overall media experience for the consumer will be what differentiates one brand from the next in a post-cookie world. 


The barriers to purchase created by lockdown have impacted newspaper circulations, and the speed and availability of news and information across social media and other digital platforms has led to an increase in the use of news brands’ online sites. The combination of trust, the ease of viewing news content on devices, and more flexible online subscription models creates a promising future for online news publishers. The challenge is whether advertising investment follows the audience and not the algorithm of the ad-blocking technology.

This COVID Tracker, along with the rest in the series is powered by Apollo, our data marketing platform, which hosts the Apollo Lockdown Live Dashboard. The dashboard provides users with a daily update on how audiences are searching online. It covers work, movement and travel, interests, social contact, and competitor activity. It aims to highlight important changes in these areas over the last 90 days. You can register for access to the dashboard at the following page:

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