Changing Media Viewing Habits Will Be Just the Beginning

By John Oxford

With so many marketers and consultants trying to prognosticate about a post-COVID-19 environment, which we not even close to yet, and with something almost unthinkable happening nearly every week, for this column, we’ve decided to go with a bit of a marketing potpourri.

No, not the stuff that you put in your house to smell good but a mixture of things that are going on right now that could impact your marketing. Let’s get to the point(s):

Cable switching appears to be at an all-time high as shelter-in-place, decreasing incomes and shifting viewing habits have caused cord movement to rapidly increase. This is not cord cutting by definition. It’s more of a shift to streaming platforms and a narrowing of content viewing habits. When Bruce Springsteen 25 years ago sang “57 channels and nothing on,” he deftly described a pre- on-demand streaming TV universe, which thankfully now allows for consumers to actually find something on.

How does this impact marketers? If you buy TV media, it can make a huge difference in spending choices on broadcast, cable, satellite and OTT/streaming media placement. Although I cannot answer how you should adjust your media buying for your specific bank, that’s what you and your agency get the big bucks to do. Your mass media buying strategy, if you play in this arena, may need a refreshed look over the coming months.

A few important questions: Are prices shifting to represent changing subscribers? Are there more efficient media buying tactics than just placing 30 second TV spots? And, unless you’re a strong national or regional brand, is TV even still a good marketing medium for you when digital and social media marketing allow for more efficient targeting, pricing and even conversion? And this leads us to looking at our marketing budgets.

With budget season right around the corner, again, one could assume the economic impact of COVID-19 will bring about budget decreases for many companies and industries. Now is the time to start thinking about where you can shave down contracts and cut the fat on anything that is not truly essential to your branding and sales strategic goals. Pro tip: Go look at your contracts now because some have 90/60/30-day windows which might get forgotten until it’s too late.

Speaking of forgotten, I had almost forgotten the term “force majeure” until looking at marketing contracts during the pandemic. Have legal review all of that language in your contracts, otherwise you may get stuck with a bunch of “make-goods” which you would not have chosen to spend your budget on.

Another recent observation in media viewing habits is the sort of a shock that live sports are not getting the big ratings most thought they would receive when restarting from COVID-19. This is probably a combination of summer time activities, a shift away from slow-to-return sports, a mix of political choices and a shift in interest to cable news outlets during an election year. (This Forbes article discusses this theory.)

These changes in viewing habits should also be taken into account when looking at where the eyes are going for mass branding campaigns. While I don’t think we should pull the plug on sports as a marketing medium just yet, we should be aware of the drop in viewership and pricing consolations should follow. But beyond marketing, the shock here is that big sports are not getting the love they once did nor thought they would receive in coming back from COVID-19-forced suspensions.

Finally do not forget to take into account the anxiety many of your clients and employees are facing. From what’s looking to be a crazy election year to COVID-19-fears, back-to-school issues, 16 million people out of work, some states rolling back opening plans and Congress currently stalled out on yet another relief package, there is much to worry about.

Ensure empathy and sympathy remain in your messaging, both internally and externally. As an industry that took a reputational hit a decade ago, helping our clients through these crazy times is a redemption opportunity of which, for all the right reasons, we should be able to take advantage.

To hear more on random marketing thoughts and media viewing, listen to this week’s marketing money podcast with Josh Mabus of the Mabus Agency and me here:

John Oxford, director of marketing at Renasant Bank, and Josh Mabus, president of the Mabus Agency, are co-hosts of the Marketing Money Podcast.