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A glance across the media landscape for 2021

By Steve Chambers

Bray Leino


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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December 15, 2020 | 6 min read

2020 saw the largest upheaval in media spend in living memory. In order to understand the media landscape for 2021, we need to explore what happened this year, because although the Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly affected audience behaviour in the short term, it is likely to have ramifications well into the future.

Bray Leino look at the trends that dominated 2020 and predict what lies ahead for the coming year.

Bray Leino look at the trends that dominated 2020 and predict what lies ahead for the coming year.

When lockdown was announced on 16 March, the industry remained fairly calm for the first week as the news and potential implications began to sink in. Then all hell let loose, with advertisers from most categories deciding that the safest option was to pull activity. The reality of cancellation terms then kicked in and advertisers were faced with the choice of cancelling with penalties (sometimes as much as 100%) or working with media owners and deferring until later in the year. The result? Overall expenditure April-September 2020 Vs 2019 was down 27% with all channels affected (Source Nielsen excl. search & social).

  • Cinema advertising has been decimated, despite attempts to bring it back following lockdown, the public are nervous about returning to the auditorium. Spend was down -98% YoY since April.

  • OOH has been hit by both the national and regional lockdowns, particularly commuter formats, despite claims that travelling is back to near 80% of pre-COVID levels. The base for these surveys is in fact January & February, which are never representative of the annual average.

  • Radio claims to have received a boost, and contradicting suggestions that increased listening at home is making up for reduced in-car listening cannot be clarified as the RAJAR listening survey has been put on hold. Radio has also benefitted from the huge amount spent by the Government on COVID-19 public information messages (and Brexit).

  • Subsequently the media currencies that both OOH and radio trading relies on are being questioned, causing further lack of confidence.

  • Magazine publishers continue to contract, reflecting the contraction in their readers and businesses.

  • Newsbrands experienced an increase based on their digital properties and both national and local news also benefitted from COVID-19 campaigns.

  • Overall consumption of digital media increased, and despite a Q2 drop, this was reversed very quickly in Q3, reflected in the financial performance of the big tech companies.

  • It was widely publicised that TV & VOD audiences increased significantly across all age groups during lockdown and the lack of advertiser demand meant prices fell by as much as 50%. Audience growth, particularly in daytime, has continued, driven by the increase in working from home and furloughed audiences.

Advertisers are still very nervous.

Latter 2020 has seen some advertisers come back with spend, but some categories - such as travel & tourism - are pretty much on hold, and that’s unlikely to change until the pandemic has ended; others, such as e-commerce, will continue to grow.

Despite Binet & Field’s advice, clients are withdrawing from brand building, and the situation has heightened the focus on short term activation and sales. This also has potential implications for channel selection and subsequent production budgets.

Clients continue to be highly nervous about budget allocations and commitments. Although media owners have shown flexibility, they also need to protect their own businesses, many of which are under huge financial pressure, and so clients will still need to abide by the conventions of each channel and be wary of cancellation terms. We must work with media owners to get the best possible outcome for clients.

2021 predictions for media by channel

  • Cinema is likely to suffer a lasting effect, but we can see a big bounce back when this is over, likely to be Q4 and signified by the launch of Bond.

  • OOH will see increased use of digital formats allowing greater flexibility, and putting pressure on availability. City centre and commuter focused formats will continue to suffer until the pandemic is over. Even after, working patterns are likely to change which could affect exposure in the long term.

  • Print-wise, both news & magazines will continue the downward trajectory with digital not making up for lost revenues.

  • TV will continue to operate on shorter-term measures meaning some advertisers will book late, making planning cost estimations more difficult, especially if we bump along in and out of lockdowns. The growth in VOD is showing signs that it could be here to stay.

  • Radio will continue to remain robust given the short lead times for booking and creative supply, although it remains to be seen if local advertisers will have the funds to return and fill the gap that will be left once the UK Government money reduces. Once the RAJAR survey is up and running we should get a view on what the ‘real’ new listening patterns look like, again reflected in working patterns and behaviours.

  • Digital is likely to continue its overall growth, albeit on what was already a declining trajectory, but with the big tech companies taking an ever-larger proportion of spend. Much of this is being driven by the increase in e-commerce brand spends.

To find out more about Bray Leino’s integrated media offering, contact our business development director, Austen Donnellan.

Steve Chambers, media director at Bray Leino.


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Bray Leino

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