Picture: 123RF/lightwise
Picture: 123RF/lightwise

Covid-19 has brought with it a new world-wide reality, and as the virus hits local shores and South Africans adjust to new lifestyle habits to halt the spread, media habits too will undergo an unavoidable change.

We foresee a number of ways in which these changes will cause a shift in the media environment.

There is no doubt that the economy will be adversely affected. And with businesses making less money, it’s inevitable that they will spend less on advertising. Traditionally marketing spend relates directly to sales revenue, which means that over the next six months marketing spend will be curtailed to make up for a decrease in revenue. Moreover, there is a knock-on effect – we have had global clients cut back local spend due to the impact of lost sales in China.

Media owners too, will be affected, and because their profits are declining, they will be offering discounts or protecting their margins. It’s a time when relationships between media owners, media agencies and clients will be pushed to their limits as each negotiates for their own survival.

With gatherings of more than 100 people in any one space prohibited, media outlets such as cinemas are certain to experience severe repercussions. Already audiences have dwindled; and some of the major movie titles that were expected to launch over this time – including the new James Bond movie – have been delayed. Advertising in this space will also be affected.

Sports sponsorships will be hit hard; 2020 looked to be a promising year for sport, with billions invested by sponsors.  And with sporting and other major events being cancelled, suppliers of services, such as events companies and related providers, are losing money as what they offer becomes irrelevant for consumers for the present.

On the upside, as people work from home where possible and schools are closed for the foreseeable future, day television could be in for some significant growth. Moreover, with the lack of live sport on TV and people looking for an escape from reality, entertainment viewing may be seen as the next best thing. Also in TV’s favour is the possibility of growth in news viewership; President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent Sunday evening announcement being a case in point. It is expected that there will be more of this.

With larger numbers of people watching TV, there should be an increase in streaming viewing and growth in platforms such as Showmax and Netflix. It is also predicted that social media will expand, in terms of both audience and time spent on these platforms. Twitter will be increasingly used as a news source, while Facebook and Instagram will be seen as ways of staying in touch with friends and family without seeing them in person.

There is also set to be a growth in gaming, for the same reason – as a way to socialise remotely and as an alternative form of entertainment.

WhatsApp will continue to grow in popularity, both as a source of news and as a business tool. It doesn’t allow advertising; however, it informs data for Facebook and Instagram. What this means is that these platforms will grow as they learn more about their users and their habits.

The picture is less rosy for roadside out-of-home advertising. More people will be working from home, schools are closed and social distancing is being encouraged, all of which means there are fewer people on the road to view outdoor media.

The same is true for shopping malls. With fewer people leaving their homes to do shopping, there is an increase in online transactions. Online grocery platforms such as the Checkers 60inSixty will grow in demand, while mall media will be seen by fewer people.

Uber is also set to feel the pinch. Not only are people limiting social interaction, they are also less comfortable using public transport and being in confined spaces with strangers. Public transport on the whole should expect a decline as people look to avoid contact with other, potentially sick, commuters, and with this, any form of advertising that uses this form of transport to communicate with consumers will decline as well.

Radio listenership in cars will decrease as people work from home. But radio listening will be used to catch up on news and information – growth is predicted particularly for SABC local language platforms.

Print is expected to suffer too. Fewer people in the shops mean that there are fewer people around to buy newspapers and magazines – another blow for the already beleaguered medium.

Things are not looking good for search either. As the growth of advertising as a whole declines, it’s likely that search advertising will show an even greater drop. For one thing, it’s the easiest form of advertising to cancel. It’s also more vulnerable when travel slows, and travel is one of the sectors that has been most affected.

The big take-out:

As consumers adjust their lifestyle habits in light of the threat of Covid-19, their media habits will also change; creating very real consequences for the media industry.

Within the current climate, messaging adaptability is crucial. Think themes such as “sharing” or offering travel as a competition prize. Brands will need to relook these messages to remain relevant in the lives of their consumers. Digital media may be the answer brands are seeking, with its capacity for quick changes and low production costs.

It is also likely that the consumer journey will evolve. Instead of browsing online to buy offline, there could be a shift to browse online to buy online. 

A growing interest in podcasts to gain access to specialist information – such as the latest stats and spread of the coronavirus – is predicted. Now is the time to find content that caters to every consumer’s particular interest.

As consumers adapt their lifestyle habits for now, we could also be looking at a long-term change in habits. It is imperative to keep abreast of shifts in media habits, make the relevant adjustments and keep in mind what we know works best. 

  • Chris Botha is group MD at Park Advertising.


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