By at least one important measure -- their plans to attend in-person industry events -- the sentiment of U.S. ad executives has improved markedly over the past couple of months.
Interviewed by Advertiser Perceptions in early April vs. a similar study in early February, the percentage of ad execs -- more advertisers and agency media people -- plan to attend in-person events in the third and fourth quarters of this year, while fewer have plans to defer in-person appearances to the second quarter of 2022 or beyond.
The studies also asked ad execs whether and when they planned to sponsor and/or create in-person industry events and found similar changes (see percentage-point change between February and April for attending, sponsoring and/or creating in-person industry events at bottom).
While the findings don't necessarily signal anything about their sentiment for the consumer advertising marketplace, it is an important leading indicator about the personal comfort levels that some of the ad industry's top executives have in going back to business-as-usual.
Advertiser Perceptions did not ask the executives whether they have been partially or fully vaccinated, or what kind of public health and/or social distancing protocols they expect to resume in-person events, but the Association of National Advertisers initiated a survey of its past event attendees late last week asking exactly that -- so it will be interesting to see what it finds, if it releases that data in the future.
Speaking for myself, I am now fully vaccinated, but would still require some important public health protocols to feel comfortable attending in-person industry events -- not just for my personal safety, but because I don't want to participate in unnecessarily spreading the COVID-19 virus to others.
I'm not sure what other industry organizations are planning, but as a member of MediaPost's management team, I am also heartened to see our own company taking some baby steps, including at least two "hybrid" upcoming events this year in which the sessions that would normally take place in closed in-door quarters (panels and keynotes) are being done virtually, but the public activities (dining, golf, etc.) take place outdoors. It seems like the right way to go for now, and hopefully, sometime in the not-too-distant future, we can all go from this "new normal" back to our old normal.