Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Advertisers, agencies and publishers have responded quickly to Covid crisis, says Digiday chief

Publishers have led the way with “interesting pivots” in response to the impacts of Covid-19, while advertisers and agencies are coming up with “creative solutions” to the unprecedented challenges facing them, according to Digiday’s Editor-in-Chief, Jim Cooper.

Speaking as part of Outbrain’s Unveil event, and interviewed by his Digiday colleague David Amrani, Cooper said: “The last year has been completely unprecedented for the advertising industry. Lots of money just disappeared out of the market, with events particularly being hit hard. Publishing and television advertising experienced lots of problems at the very outset of pandemic but, very quickly, the industry started to rebound.

“Publishers did lots of interesting pivots that they wouldn’t have before, around things like subscriptions and eCommerce and affiliate channels, that really opened up some promising new revenue plays. Everything accelerated: five-month projects became five-week projects.”

Amrani noted that while many agencies had suffered painful cuts to headcount, in many cases the resultant consolidation of buying ad planning teams has led to less fragmentation between those functions.

Cookies and creativity

Cooper also addressed how advertisers and agencies alike were currently “racking their brains” and taking positive steps to address the impending death of the third-party cookie. He said: “Advertiser really look to have turned the corner and started to show genuine concern and respect for their customer’s data and their privacy.

It’s a big issue in terms of morals and ethics, but brands and agencies have started to create solution kits, which rely more on their own first party data, to provide sort of a hybrid fix.

“There are all sorts of interesting and, frankly, quite creative solutions being worked out right now across the media marketing spectrum to make sure marketers can continue to connect with the consumer journey in a way that’s authentic and unobtrusive.”

Cooper and Amrani also discussed the unique situation in 2020 where online publishers were experiencing their highest readership numbers ever, however much of the content they were carrying (on subjects such as Covid-19, the killing of George Floyd, and the US election race) was potentially “toxic” to brands. Cooper said: “It was a very complicated year for brand marketers to message to consumers, but moving forward into 2021, I think there’s a lot of optimism out there.

“The industry spent 2020 basically trying to ‘hack’ the impacts of Coronavirus and I think we’ll continue to see lots of experimentation this year. Programmatic is having a real moment right now thanks to the flexibility it offers advertisers and agencies. Brands and agencies will continue to move quickly but there will be an element of caution as the consumer has more power than ever before.”

The Outbrain Unveil event also featured information about Outbrain’s latest product launches.