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Advertising Policy and the Second Wave: a Catch-22 for Advertisers

Authored by Ovez Khan, Group CEO and Founder, Trivium Media Group

Advertising is less about what you show and more about what the other person understands and perceives from your messaging. Since it is such a pervasive field; to explain the impact of the Second Wave, let’s take a simple example. A school-going child suddenly receives an update that they have vacations for 3 months. In such a scenario, he/she can easily restructure and redesign their schedules to take up a full-time sport and hence, their calendar opens up and they are capable of training all day. However, after a year if the same student is asked to focus on such a time-consuming sport along with the academic schedules that cannot be relaxed; what happens then? 

The answer lies in what we see in the Advertising Industry today. Last year, when the first wave of COVID-19 hit and the entire world was at a standstill, the industry could easily put everything else on hold and deviate all its focus to pandemic-related content. However, the second wave hit at a time when businesses and industries had just started gaining pace. To make things worse, its intensity was such that advertisers could no longer afford to display a pretty picture of a pandemic-free world on screen.          

Advertising before and after covid has changed drastically. According to Integral Ad Science’s Media Report, the Desktop Digital Display Brand Risk rose from 3.2% to 5.8%. Meanwhile, brand risk on mobile video rose to 8%, making it an extremely dicey situation for the advertising industry post covid. The challenge lay in getting the same response from a vulnerable consumer base that has been locked in. Locked in and been deprived of the slightest in-person human interaction that they had. Deprived of any form of offline pleasure and simultaneously forced into the perils of working from home. 

Talking about numbers, advertising expenses are expected to follow the trend of GDP growth rates. Due to covid, when such growth rates were staggered, the Global Advertising Expenditures that were earlier projected to grow by approximately 30% are now being re-evaluated. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, almost a quarter (24%) of media buyers, planners, and brands have paused spending until the end of the 2nd quarter, while 46% indicated they would adjust their ad spend across the same. COVID-19 is expected to unleash a worse impact than the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 did on the Advertising Industry. 

How to strike a balance between the pandemic and advertising decisions remains to be a Catch 22 situation. In the current scenario putting all other campaigns on hold to focus on pandemic-related content is not viable and therefore a few questions did test the companies. Should they focus on their campaigns as it was earlier? Is there a need to go back to the ‘Show that you are doing good’ strategy? Do they want to rid people of seeing the grim realities in advertisements too, yet? Personally, the answer lies in our antediluvian education system’s one common phrase ‘go back to the basics’.                  

The myriad changes in consumer behaviour will have an impact on the answers to these questions. Be it the working class that has yet again lost their jobs, or the income inelastic class that has reduced its extravagant spending patterns; these are examples of such changes. 

This comes at a time when the new Advertising Policy has been released by Google. According to this policy, businesses will no longer be able to target individuals by age, gender, marital status, zip codes, etc. This comes in as an effort by Alphabet Co’s leading subsidiary to promote inclusiveness and end the usage of biases by certain product groups to further their ends.                    

As an advertiser, you will receive an update in your Google Ads section to acknowledge and accept the changes in the policy. You will no longer be able to use Cookies as you used to. If you do accept it and violate the new norms, your advertisements will not reach the public. However, if you fail to accept it all together, you would be unable to use the platform for this purpose in the future. The elephant in the room is, now what? 

Just like when all goes wrong, we tend to go to an experienced entity for a solution; similarly, businesses will now have to go to the experts of Advertising- Agencies. The agencies that not only focus on getting a certain number of advertisements out there but also look for giving you a good reputation, relationships, stability as well as growth. The ones that know different techniques such as SEO, SEM, SMM, etc.                    

The policy may come as a rude awakening to businesses that felt they do not necessarily need to outsource a critical task like Advertising, but it is a big step to replace third-party cookie filter with new and more acceptable user-identifier techniques. However, Google has made it very clear that this is about how they choose to proceed with their products and will not restrict how other parties use Chrome. The company said it would not use Unified ID 2.0 or LiveRamp ATS in its products but would not speak specifically about any one initiative.                   

While major advertising agencies see this policy as a boost to their customer base, businesses may not receive it well and they have good reason to do so. In a situation where they are plagued by the worry of sustaining themselves during a Global Pandemic, incorporating additional advertising expense is not the most ideal scenario for them. However, Google’s policy was planned at a time where a pandemic was unpredictable, therefore the company cannot get be blamed.                 

Nonetheless, the key takeaway is that Advertising will have to become more user-friendly taking into account that users are living in lockdowns and being deprived of ordinary conditions.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and does not necessarily subscribe to it. 


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