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Media Future of TV Media Planning and Buying

Broadcasters, publishers and platforms pause ads following Queen Elizabeth II’s death


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

September 8, 2022 | 6 min read

Following the news of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, media owners across the UK are ripping up their schedules and pausing advertising. Here’s everything we know so far from the likes of ITV, Channel 4 and Twitter.

JCDecaux Media advertising paused after Queen's death

Media platforms pause ads in respect to the Queen

Update: How brands are blacking out for the Queen's state funeral

The UK’s broadcasters, publishers and platforms have scrambled to pause advertising in the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s death at the age of 96.

ITV, the country's biggest commercial broadcaster, will run with no commercial breaks on its main TV channel until at least the end of Friday as it instead dedicates its entire schedule to rolling news coverage and special programming commemorating the Queen’s life and 70-year reign.

Channel 4 has confirmed that “all advertising and sponsorship has been temporarily suspended on Channel 4 and All 4” while Bauer Media, one of the UK’s biggest commercial radio networks, said it will suspend regular programming and introduce an obituary schedule. For a time, all commercial messaging including airtime, sponsorships and promotions will be suspended.

Meanwhile, Sky News said it will not carry ads across this weekend or throughout Monday. The exact timings for when advertising will resume on the channel will be confirmed early next week.

Social platforms are also putting in place a moratorium on advertising, with Twitter understood to be turning off ads in the UK for 48 hours. The Drum has learned that Snapchat has also now informed media buyers of a pause to all advertisements across its news and public service broadcaster content on Discover in the UK for 24 hours.

The Daily Mail is among publishers pausing advertising on its website, with its news coverage overwhelmingly dominated by the reaction to the monarch’s passing.

Clear Channel, one of the biggest out-of-home networks in the UK, has suspended all ads on its digital displays. “As a sign of respect for the passing of Her Majesty The Queen, all Clear Channel UK digital displays will be blacked out until 6am on Saturday,“ it said.

Fellow OOH network JCDecaux said it will not post any new advertising and will pause all commercial advertising on its digital screens for 24 hours. All of its digital screens will show a tribute to the Queen - some will display the official portrait provided by Buckingham Palace (pictured above), while others will show tributes from landlord partners. It will also pause commercial digital advertising on the day of the state funeral and will be blanking all posters along the funeral route.

The Queen’s passing was confirmed by the Palace at 6.30pm on Thursday September 8. Coverage of the monarch’s deteriorating health dominated news outlets in the hours preceding the announcement, while behind the scenes publishers and platforms got to work putting in place guidance for their advertisers.

Many of those advertisers are now moving to postpone the roll-out of campaigns scheduled to break this week. Moonpig, for example, was prepared to launch the next phase of a major marketing push on Friday September 9 but has now opted to delay until further notice. Lexus has similarly postponed new work set to launch this week.

We will continue to update this story as we learn more from media owners.

How media agencies are advising clients

Multiple buyers told The Drum they had been inundated with requests for support from concerned advertisers as news of the Queen’s health spread, with one saying the “clients have been ringing all day for advice on what to do“.

One leading media agency, which asked to remain anonymous, said it had created a playbook for clients. It included advice on how broadcasters, publishers and platforms were likely to respond and what would happen to their ad spend in the short-term, including a temporary postponement or move to alternative inventory.

Another buyer told The Drum clients had indicated that a temporary decline in measurement metrics would not be met with concern.

There is some precedent for this event. Princess Diana’s death in 1997 rocked the nation. There wasn’t a huge advertising disruption, but many advertisers in insurance, auto and alcohol chose to withdraw their ads and distance themselves from any unfortunate comparisons.

More recently, the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh in 2021 saw regular programming and ad breaks dropped by ITV. In contrast, Channel 4 had minimal disruption. Media owners were flexible with buyers, keen to reimburse clients for lost inventory.

The passing of a monarch who has reigned for 70 years represents uncharted territory for marketers and media buyers, but many will arrive at the same conclusion about halting their activities.

On Prince Phillip’s passing, David Mulrenan, head of investment at Zenith, said: “Clients may want to pause their activity as a mark of respect or because they feel the public would not be in the mindset to receive commercial messages.”

Tamara Littleton, chief executive and founder of The Social Element, previously told The Drum on this subject: “Never try to sell something on the back of a tragedy or death – ever.”

Additional reporting by Jen Faull.

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