Green shoots: Publishers see ad activity return in China
Bloomberg CEO Justin Smith said it’s seeing Asia open up again and the beginnings of more activity happening there. One major international news brand is expecting to sign three contracts last week from three of the biggest countries in China and the immediate area (one has already been signed). Another major international news publisher said a campaign from Hong Kong that was on pause has been restarted.
“Anyone who’s been following China closely the last few months would have gone through this phase of horror. And then fear, and then more fear. And then finally optimism,” said Brian Wieser, global president, business intelligence, GroupM. “We saw the future in the past. And towards the end of February, they could see that light at the end of the tunnel. They really did do as much as they could to hibernate the economy.”
To be clear, publishers are mostly reeling from the shocks of the virus devastating ad revenue: an executive at a large digital publisher said it’s seeing 30% lower CPMs on coronavirus pages versus non-coronavirus pages. In a Digiday poll of 50 publishers, 86% said advertising had been negatively impacted by coronavirus, (27% branded content, 18% commerce and 6% subscriptions). In another study, 88% of publishers expect to miss forecasts this year as a result.
“It’s tough, globally, for everyone. At the moment it would be wrong to say that the green shoots are balancing that out,” said the first publishing executive who expected three signed contracts last week. “Teams of commercial salespeople are resilient and pragmatic, and we are having a number of challenging conversations; our job is to use our expertise to guide our clients around how best to benefit from our highly engaged audiences and what the most appropriate messaging is at this time.”
Advertising conversations always center on the audience size and the messaging, but like with most current ways of working, they have got harder. News publishers especially are seeing record traffic months but some consider it gauche to crow about how well business is doing during pandemic panic. For campaigns that are still active, agencies and publishers are modifying the message with their ad partners to make sure it’s appropriate.
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