The Top Three Ways Coronavirus Has Impacted Television Advertising


Even if you’ve been locked in a closet for the past two weeks, you still know that our lives have been irrevocably changed. At the very least, someone may have locked the door to prevent you from coming out. If you’re in the advertising industry, or really any industry, you’re wondering how this will affect your future. I can’t speak for other industries, but below are my top three observations, based on my 25 plus years of experience in the television industry, and what I’ve observed with our campaigns over the past two weeks.

1. TV viewership has increased.

According to Comscore, the four major broadcasters have seen the largest increase of viewership, during the daytime and early fringe dayparts, up 31.3% and 35.2% year over year, respectively. In all, live TV viewership rose 18.5%. It’s been quite some time since television has seen such a rebirth. Comscore also reported that live TV viewing across seven cable news networks saw “a massive 102.6% increase during the daytime period”. Although it seems obvious that more people are watching television while they are trapped in their homes, the fact that many Americans are tuning into live television speaks to one thing: News. People want to know what’s going on out there. “CBS Sunday Morning” just had its biggest audience since 1994 while “Face the Nation” had its best numbers since 1991. In short, right now more people are watching live television than we’ve seen in quite some time. What does this mean for current advertisers?

2. Overall viewer engagement has decreased.

One of my favorite one-liners when speaking with clients is “Not all audiences are created equal.” This is my way of saying that some audiences are responsive and will call, while others just simply won’t respond. This has everything to do with the environment in which your commercial airs. Some programming sets the mood while other programming causes viewer “shutdown.” People need to be in the right frame of mind to properly engage and then respond to your commercial. When they’re happy and content, they’re spending money and responsive. If they’re upset and depressed, they’ll only call if you’re promoting something that will help them – immediately. We’re only human after all, so mood matters. So how can we still prosper when viewers are less likely to respond?

3. There are fewer advertisers, as in A LOT fewer.

In this new world, many advertisers have been forced to go dark. How many folks are ordering furniture right now? How about carpeting? Restaurants and movies? Seems like a waste of money to promote most activities during this pandemic. This has created an opportunity for savvy media buyers. Consumers are still responding to relevant offers. Things that save them money, time, make their lives safer and more enjoyable at home. If you have something that may be appealing to viewers during this crisis, this is a unique opportunity to reach the masses at a very steep discount. Some media that we couldn’t touch a few weeks ago is now welcoming our business, viewers are watching and responding. This won’t last forever so don’t get spoiled by these low rates and cheap eyeballs. This too shall pass.

So what does all of this mean? Pick your battles wisely. Test small and buy big during this limited window. While some campaigns will suffer, invest wisely in those campaigns that are still successful. It’s a challenging environment but we can get through this and come out of it smarter, healthier and wiser.