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COVID-19

Big brands are telling TV networks they might not be buying as many ads as planned

David Brancaccio, Candace Manriquez Wrenn, Rose Conlon, and Alex Schroeder May 13, 2020
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As much as $1.5 billion in TV advertising spending could be pulled back. Pixabay
COVID-19

Big brands are telling TV networks they might not be buying as many ads as planned

David Brancaccio, Candace Manriquez Wrenn, Rose Conlon, and Alex Schroeder May 13, 2020
Heard on:
As much as $1.5 billion in TV advertising spending could be pulled back. Pixabay
HTML EMBED:
COPY

It’s hard to buy TV advertising if you don’t know if the sporting events will happen or the shows can actually be made.

Some prominent brands are reportedly cutting back on some of the advertising they had promised to buy on TV networks. The Wall Street Journal is mentioning names like Pepsi and General Motors among the companies that are saying, essentially, “Yeah, not as much as we had first signed up for.”

It’s about the inability to predict the future in this COVID-19 economy. We’re stuck at home with more time to watch TV than planned, so it’s not an audience thing. Instead, it’s that advertisers are having their own troubles and want to cut costs.

“There’s very little visibility right now, of course, not only for their own businesses ⁠— they don’t know how they’re going to be operating in a couple of months, so they’re looking to cut costs,” said Jeanine Poggi, a senior editor at Ad Age who is also seeing signs of a pullback in ad spending. “But then also from the TV perspective: Yes, absolutely, people are at home. They’re watching more content than ever, but come the fall, it’s unclear right now what content will even be able to be produced.”

Poggi also points out there’s a huge gap in the TV ecosystem with no live sports.

Can advertisers just do this, though? Say, “Sorry, we were committed to this, but now we’re not going to pay you as much”?

Poggi says yes, there is some flexibility in these ad deals. “Companies have the option to cancel up to 50% of their third-quarter ad spending, and that sort of went into effect ⁠— May 1 was the first time that they could pull out of some of these commitments,” she said.

It could be as much as $1.5 billion in advertising that is pulled back, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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