While Covid-19 forced many brands to put their advertising campaigns on hold, savvy marketers responded by sharing useful, relevant content as audiences flocked to trusted media to find the latest information. At inTV, the International TV Group made up of CNBC, Deutsche Welle, Euronews, France 24, National Geographic Channel, Sky News, and TV5 Monde, we saw global viewing figures increase significantly across our channels as the pandemic hit.
February saw 50% growth across inTV digital channels, and the increase continued in March (+136%) and April (+100%). The same was true for social channels, which were up by 71% – 103% during the same time period, and these figures have maintained that growth as countries have come out of lockdown.
inTV conducted a survey amongst its advertisers to find out how they had fared and what insights they had learnt from the crisis. Those sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, like travel and finance, demonstrated agility and resourcefulness in adapting their marketing strategies to tap into audiences searching for high quality information. Here are some of the key learnings that marketers plan to take on board as we move forward into the next stage.
Diversifying media channels and budgets
Brands had to ensure their communications were highly focused, demonstrating empathy, and offering value during a time when there was a heightened awareness to every message.
It was essential for brand communication and messaging to have integrity; content and context became far more important than short-term sales. This was particularly true for finance companies, who switched to long-term brand building rather than short-term sales activation. While the pandemic led to an immediate lack of demand for financial services, the need to stay front-of-mind with customers had never been more essential.
For the global financial solutions provider, Refinitiv, that meant a shift from a quarterly media and content strategy to a more agile, always-on approach to content. Refinitiv had to think about what assets they had that were really relevant during the pandemic. They looked at how their data could help customers in such uncertain and volatile times, and their focus shifted towards providing in-the-moment, relevant insights to help audiences obtain the critical information they needed. Working with international news channels, Refinitiv provided financial data to feed the news stream via digital and on-air.
Key learning: An agile, multi-channel ‘test and adapt’ approach allows advertisers to constantly monitor performance and quickly optimise media and messaging execution based on results.
Engaging loyal customers
Similarly, the travel sector had to move away from immediate sales and provide relevant communications to customers. The airline Etihad changed its focus from brand communications to a wellness initiative with reassuring messages around safety, security and hygiene during the crisis.
More recently, its focus has been on offering flexibility and value through a 50% off voucher for future travel to tap into the four distinctive phases of the consumer journey: dreaming, planning, deciding and buying. During the crisis there were varying levels of planning, almost no deciding or buying, but lots of dreaming. Travel brands had to be ready for the moment travellers decide they want to move forward.
Dubai’s Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) also shifted its focus to loyal, engaged customers when the crisis hit. They pivoted their messaging to be in tune with what was happening, changing the focus to relevant and empathetic storytelling about being apart from loved ones. Communication evolved from “Till We Meet. Again” to “We Will See You Soon” and “Ready When You Are” as the city reopened to international tourism. They focused heavily on social channels and also partnered with international broadcasters including Euronews, to tell positive stories about Dubai’s response to the pandemic and the recovery initiatives that were making it safe.
Key Learning: Take time for reflection. A crisis presents an opportunity for brands to listen to how consumers are changing, and to clarify their brand positioning or offering.
A move from live events
With travel restrictions in place, the big change for many organisations has been moving from live events and conferences to digital and on-channel events or webinars with international partners who reach business audiences. This year, for example, the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2020 conference, which is usually held in Monaco, was hosted virtually and broadcast live by CNBC Catalyst.
The success of the event has highlighted an opportunity for more virtual or hybrid events moving forwards, even when people start to resume travel.
Key Learning: Rethinking traditional events has sparked innovative opportunities for marketers and media partners to come together to create alternatives that are just as effective.
The overwhelming feeling from everyone we surveyed was that the pandemic has given rise to new and better ways of working, which can continue to affect positive change to businesses. We don’t know what the future will hold, but the Covid crisis has taught us that the more scenarios marketers can anticipate and the better prepared we are, the faster we can react and respond to consumer needs as and when things change.
By Sonia Marguin, head of research and insight at Euronews and Africanews, and chair of the inTV Group
inTV is a cooperative group of independent channels and the objective of the group is to promote the benefits of international TV to the advertising/communications industry via the development of information based tools and unique research.