IX Perspectives

Alone, Together – Marketplace Pulse: May 14

Alone, Together

I can’t help but to think we are uniquely suited to this moment. We are being asked to stay at home when it has never been easier to be at home. Sometimes it feels like the last decade of tech has been moving in a straight line towards the reality we find ourselves. Delivery services, streaming platforms, video conferencing services, corporate cloud applications — all powered by massive WiFi bandwidth; all so ubiquitous it’s easy to take them for granted or forget what marvels they are. We have a distorted sense of their place in our lives because they entered seamlessly, and quietly. As consumers, we don’t experience disruption. Disruption happens to businesses or industries. We simply feel the innocuous integration into our daily lives. It’s easy to forget this is all so new, and it’s hard to remember life without it.

Tech, for all its problems, is allowing us to ride out the pandemic in a way impossible less than ten years ago. It is a panacea. We still see our co-workers every day. We have apps to keep us in shape. We have streaming to keep us entertained. Delivery apps keep our shelves stocked. Education programs keep our kids learning. As bad as this has been – and it has been bad – it’s hard not to be grateful that we have so many tools at our disposal that are allowing us to ride this storm out. Alone, Together.

Sidenote: Has anyone else realised they could absolutely handle being sentenced to house arrest? Or is that just me? I’m not thinking of any low-grade crimes I could do where house arrest would be the likely sentence or anything. But it hasn’t not crossed my mind either.

Hope you are Staying Safe, Healthy, and Happy.

Will Doherty
EVP, Global Marketplace Development
Index Exchange

The Data

Graph displaying Buyer category spend trends from March till May.
*Tom Hanks is when this got real. Wilson is when things went flat. SNL aligns with hope starting to return, albeit slowly.

We saw a fairly normal first week of the month; it was overall stable. Business had a slight dip to start the month, but it’s picking back up. Other categories had normal spend fluctuations associated with the start of the new month.

Sub-categories of Buyer Spend trends during the month of April

USA Today article covering the future of the cruise industry.
Source: USA Today, Chris Woodyard (Los Angeles Bureau Chief)

We haven’t dug into Travel in some time because there weren’t any notable updates. There have been a couple of interesting developments. The chart above shows the # of advertisers in the category – not ad spend. A few cruise lines announced they would start sailing again in Summer / Fall.

Subsequently, we saw a number of advertisers come back in this category. I think this will be a new trend for Travel: Restrictions ease, Ad Spend follows. There was also a flurry of spend surrounding one airline’s Summer sale.

This leads me to an important point: as things slowly open up, Travel will come back and it will need to advertise to do so. These little spikes are just the beginning. Travellers will fall into new categories. Leisure and non-business travellers will be sorted in a new spectrum, and companies will need to figure out how to retool and reach this new crop of travellers with the right message.

  • The eager will see reduced costs as an opportunity to get on a plane and/or book new experiences based on the relative impact of COVID-19 on the destination. Places that have light to moderate impact will try to entice this group with unique experiences that only a half-filled hotel could provide.
  • The reluctant will need to be prodded. Hotels, airlines, etc. will need to message safety, cleanliness, and new protocols that will reduce and minimise any risk. A strong creative and communications strategy will be key here.
  • Business travellers will probably be the last to consider. Even when safety issues recede, there will not be the same kind of economic activity (like conferences) that will put this segment back on the road quickly. The effectiveness of video conferencing, webinars and remote work also calls into question the expense for the moment. CFOs are going to be slow to open this Spend. I don’t think this will be a long-term trend. Business travel will resume, but it may not be as frothy as it once was.

The Impact of Commuting on Consumption 

Graph displaying Internet/Website traffic by the hour daily

Like you, my morning commute is a breeze these days. Since we only need to cover the distance from one end of our homes to the other to start our day, I was curious about what kind of impact this would have on media consumption.

Website Traffic is up considerably: specifically, I’ve seen mid-single digits during certain morning hours. That may not seem material, but these are big numbers all things considered. The variations are substantial, though Ad Spend doesn’t necessarily follow.

Folks are also ending their days earlier. I’m someone who spends a lot of time in front of the screen, in a quiet barrage of video conferencing meetings where one blends into the next, without the momentary distraction of a coworker to signal a break between the meeting that just ended and the one that began. It all gently piles up so that by five o’clock, a time that once seemed “early,” is now my desired cutoff.

TLDR: For Buyers, it’s probably time to rethink how you are dayparting your campaigns.

Closing

I am keeping this week’s update pretty light. I’m looking forward to seeing more industries shake loose as many social restrictions are easing across the country. Since COVID, we’ve seen budget variation occur more in two-week increments than monthly or quarterly time frames. The mid-month pulse will tell us more about May than the first week. Overall, I am happy with the stability of Ad Spend. This continues to confirm our belief that we saw the worst of it in April, particularly in the first week of the month and quarter. That was the bottom, and we now await recovery. Here’s to less variation and far less volatility ahead.

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