Marketing Strategies When Up Is Down, Left Is Right

Around this time of year, many advertisers are planning two key elements of their marketing plans. Number one is finalizing their strategy for the upfronts and/or digital upfronts. And number two is the start of the budget planning process for the next calendar year.

But how do you do that when everything you thought you knew is no longer right? And to add to the confusion, how do you manage all of this when the new normal is probably not the new normal long-term, it’s just the normal for now?

With regards to the upfronts, the way they are conducted has obviously changed. They have moved completely online. That makes a lot of sense, and in another post, I have talked about how that might be the model for the future anyway. 

But that does not solve for the fact that, as a marketer, you will need to decide “now” on a future that is very unpredictable. There are a million questions to which the honest answer probably is “Who knows?”



Like: Current viewing trends are changing dramatically, but will they simply revert to what it was when normalcy returns? Or are we learning new viewing behaviors that will stick? Current video inventory pricing is trending down dramatically, because… low demand. But what will happen with demand going forward? 

I have heard rumblings that there is some slack in decision-making around the timing of making upfront commitments. But commitments will have to be made. One alternate strategy is to NOT make commitments and bet on there being a glut of inventory that will go cheap in Q3 and Q4. But — who knows?

And then to the larger question of starting strategy planning for the next calendar year. Typically, this is done by looking at results for last year, last quarter or last 12 months rolling. But last year seems like to have taken place in a different universe and is nice to remember (we hope) but not relevant, or at best marginally relevant, to your future plans.

For marketers I’ve spoken with, the general approach is that they start planning for “something,” but at the same time are ensuring that all  stakeholders across the whole ecosystem understand that whatever it is they are planning now might be obsolete in a months’ time.

The current situation is teaching us the real benefit of marketing agility. Even the most rigid of organizations has had to adapt. New creative has been developed and put out in very little time. Some of it has worked, some of it has not.

And that is fine, because we are shooting new commercial content on our iPhones from home, so we can move fast! Revised budget strategies have been developed and run through the internal approval process in record time. We have cut here and increased there. Agencies have been on their toes to roll with the punches. Media companies have reacted and responded in real time.

We should not lose any of that going forward. Sure, a little less craziness is probably preferred, but many companies will benefit from maintaining their newfound marketing agility even when we settle in a more permanent form of new normal.

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