COVID-19's Lasting Impact On Media Now And In The Future

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world, there’s hardly an industry untouched, including media and advertising. When we emerge from this situation, and we will, the dynamics of the media ecosystem will be vastly different. 

What should we be considering? What changes are here to stay? And what is the long term impact? 

Here are four expectations to consider when navigating the current media landscape: 

Maintaining relevance in local markets. 

The virus’ impact has differed throughout the country -- both in timing and severity of the outbreak. Further, states have varying restrictions and timelines as we emerge from shelter in place. This becomes particularly challenging for brands operating in multiple and diverse geography. Now more than ever, an understanding of local markets and an ability to adapt quickly (both media and message) will be critical. Hot spots will also continue to emerge, and with them new restrictions. In these instances, even a hyper-local approach may be warranted. 



Shelter-in-place has altered consumer behavior including media consumption habits.

Since our country virtually shut down with shelter-in-place, consumer behaviors have since changed over the course of a few months, including media consumption habits (Tiger King anyone?). As restrictions are lifted, there’s an industry expectation some changes may “right” themselves over time, but others are here to stay. 

The industry has been buzzing about OTT/CTV for a while now and 2020 (pre-COVID) was showing dramatic growth. But wow, did shelter-in-place mandates ever accelerate the adoption of OTT. Nielsen recently reported that streaming to TVs has more than doubled during the pandemic. If OTT hasn’t been part of your plan, it’s become a must buy. And OTT isn’t the only big news. Linear TV viewing is up as well in all dayparts. It’s been referred to as the 7-day weekend (sounds great), with dayparts like daytime trending up year-over-year. Will this trend remain as more embrace the work from home lifestyle? 

Not surprisingly, social media is seeing record usage as people seek to connect and share during the pandemic. As consumers venture into a post shelter-in-place world, social in particular will offer brands a great opportunity to connect and communicate with their customers as we navigate through this new normal. Leveraging social to stay top of mind with a more captive audience is also here to stay for the long-term. 

Reimagining our target audience cannot be overlooked. 

This shared experience of COVID-19 will leave everyone fundamentally different. As we look forward to a post-COVID era, media planners must consider businesses are changing their models and reimagine targeting parameters given changes in consumer behavior and mindset around remote work, shopping preferences (online versus in-store) and general consumer expectations from a brand.

Further, we need to recognize attitudinal changes with 34% of consumers indicating “their world is forever altered and I feel uneasy.” With this group in particular, anticipate seeing them change their behaviors, likely requiring an adjustment in how marketers speak to them. 

Flexibility and Nimbleness like never before.

Media teams have undoubtedly spent the last couple of months in an unending cycle of moving, cancelling, re-planning, repeat. If we learned anything in the early days of this pandemic, it’s that we must be able to adapt quickly on behalf of our clients. The uncertainty of a COVID-19 resurgence in the Fall has left many uneasy and unsure of how to forecast future planning needs. And as we move forward, our negotiations will change as we seek protection for our clients. We’ll look to tactics that lend themselves to quick creative adjustments should market dynamics change quickly. 

Over the past 10 weeks, we’ve been navigating uncharted waters. As a world. As a nation. And as an industry. We’ll find ourselves on the other side of this pandemic, and when we do it’ll be interesting to reflect on COVID-19’s impact on the media landscape for years to come.


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