If you ask a few media owners the question, "Is COVID-19 affecting your business?" you will get an unanimous, "Yes." But it is not necessarily all bad. Some media platforms (and therefore their advertisers) are going to benefit from all of this, while others are not going to fare as well.

One of the platforms that are likely going to be negatively affected is OOH. Air travel is being massively impacted by COVID-19 with international travel bans and strong recommendations to avoid domestic travel where possible. This will see passenger numbers decrease. 

Commuter transport will also, in time, be affected by COVID-19, with a lot fewer commuters traveling to work as companies start allowing people to work from home. Dwell time in the ranks is currently around 20 minutes. Going forward, commuter queues will be shorter with less dwell time, therefore giving advertisers less time to get their messages across.

Activations have already started being put on hold, making it more and more difficult for advertisers to connect with their audiences. More people working from home means that fewer are people on the roads and, therefore, fewer people will interact with roadside billboards. A smaller audience means that advertisers may start to see OOH as a less attractive media option for their messaging and so spend might be affected. 

Our suggestion is for advertisers to go back to basics. Creative works in these spaces are going to have to be clever, eye-catching with engaging so that messages stand out and get noticed.

Those in OOH must use both static and digital sites (although with the resumption of load shedding, perhaps static OOH is a slightly more attractive option at the moment). They should also buy sites where people are. This could be street poles and city lights in suburbs, as more and more people are going to be home-based. 

Another medium to condsider is radio. If people aren't commuting to and from the office as much, what will the effect on radio be? Well, when you look at the RAMS data of where people claim to be actually listening to the radio, it turns out that listening in-car is not as big as one might have assumed (only 30% according to the latest RAMS release).

The majority of listening is claimed to be at home, so radio should be largely unaffected. It is suggested that we look at alternative time channels and mid-morning and early afternoon time slots, which is outside of drive time and is typically less expensive. This will make radio advertising more cost-effective with lower CPMs than in drive time.

With more people staying at home and self-isolating, television is probably one of the platforms best placed to benefit from the effects of COVID-19. TV in South Africa has been performing well over the past few years, and local prime-time programming on SABC and ETV will continue to do well.

However, we may well see shoulder time starting to become a more attractive proposition for advertisers, as home-bound audiences start to tune in earlier in the day — boosting audiences in what is already a cost-effective time channel.

The broadcaster we do worry most about however is Dstv. It is a well-known fact that sport is a primary driver of Dstv subscriptions. However, what the corona virus has done is effectively shut down all sports world-wide.

In the last week alone, we have seen the outright cancellation of:
  • Super Rugby
  • the Two Oceans Marathon
  • the Cape Epic
  • the Over-50 Cricket World Cup
  • the Protea’s tour of India
  • the IPL, and
  • the Masters Golf in the United States of America.
We have also seen the postponement of the South African PSL, the English Premier League, EUFA and Formula 1 — all of these codes are currently holding talks about cancelling out-right. 

And of course, the fate of the Olympic Games still hangs heavily in the balance. With effectively no sport to broadcast, how is Dstv going to encourage subscribers not to cancel their subscriptions and move across to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime?

This brings us to digital. Aside from TV, digital is probably going to be the biggest winner amongst all of the COVID-19 chaos. News has always been an important driver of online content consumption but we believe that the newsworthiness of COVID-19 will drive increased traffic to news sites like:
  • News24
  • IOL, and 
  • EWN.
Advertisers targeting news verticals and interest categories can pick up big audiences here. As self-isolation increases, people will turn to social media channels to keep in touch, which will mean an increase in traffic across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Online entertainment will also be in high demand, which will benefit video content providers such as YouTube and Viu. With thousands of people staying home, we predict that there will be an uptake in online shopping for fresh goods, with the likes of Checkers already grappling with the high demand and inventory issues and a two-hour delay in delivery.

Online search advertising may well benefit as more people turn to the web to find out where to buy their goods online, giving a great opportunity for advertisers to target relevant keywords to ensure visibility in this virtual shop window. Some researchers predict that companies that adapt to online trading will be the least impacted by a potential recession. 

While we are all home-bound for the foreseeable future, we do believe that we are going to see some interesting shifts in the way people consume media in the short to medium term.

It is going to be interesting to see how advertisers navigate this crisis and how we emerge from it on the other side, and whether we see any long-term changes to consumer media behaviour.

For more information, visit www.metamedia.co.za. You can also follow Meta Media on Facebook or on Twitter.