Coronavirus causing ‘unprecedented volatility’ in online marketing

Performance marketers have reported a high volume of volatility, which is expected to continue as the crisis deepens.

Twitter’s announcement last night serves as an early warning that digital marketing is not immune to the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Despite a clear uptick in social media growth (Twitter reported a 23% growth in year-on-year “monetisable daily users”), the platform is being hit by reduced adspend as brands pause or pull marketing activity generally.

Nevertheless, performance marketing could also come to the fore now as people live more of their lives online and consume digital channels for which marketing activity can be measured and optimised.

The problem is that so much of performance activity involves driving online users to offline behaviour, such as visiting shops or attending events, which is now impossible for an increasing number of sectors of the economy. It’s a rapidy evolving situation, too, as government advice changes by the day: last night Boris Johnson announced strict stay-at-home guidelines in the UK and that non-essential shops should close.

With the crisis worsening dramatically in the UK over the past two weeks, performance marketers have reported a high volume of volatility, which is expected to continue. While it’s too early to attach many meaningful numbers to the trends that performance specialists are seeing, some patterns are emerging.

Inventory is competitive but consumers are responsive
The agency’s head of media, Andrew Platt, reports a significant drop in cost per clicks and cost per mille on online platforms this month and expects this downward trend on online inventory to continue.

“In the past three weeks, Italy and Spain have seen a drop in CPM of around 20%. We expect this to continue, although we’re not sure to what extent as you would also expect the self-attributed networks [Google and Facebook] to have some protection in place,” Platt says.

At the same time, consumers appear to be more responsive to digital marketing as more of their lives are lived online. Location data tech company Blis reports that click-through rates almost doubled in the US as of the end of last week (over a period of 10 days), while in the UK there was a 60% increase in CTR in a six-day period.

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