WFA sees ‘green shoots of recovery’ as marketer confidence increases

While ad spend is still well below pre-pandemic levels, major multinational marketers are starting to increase spending and feel more positive about the current business environment, according to a new survey from the World Federation of Advertisers.

While the study only looks at 35 major advertisers, they represent a massive combined ad spend of $67 billion. The research—the fourth iteration of WFA’s Crisis Response Tracker—was conducted between Sept. 17 and 27.

“We are starting to see some green shoots of recovery with more than half our members no longer holding their campaigns back as a result of the pandemic,” said WFA CEO Stephan Loerke. By contrast, just 8% of respondents said the impact had no impact on their campaigns.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty though and it’s unlikely we’ll be moving to ‘business as usual’ anytime soon,” he said.

Asked how they feel about the current business environment, 21% said they feel positive, up from just 8% in June. And while 44% said they still feel negative, that’s better than the 51% who felt that way at the start of the summer.

Asked to look forward six months, 23% said they feel positive, down from 27% in June. However, negative sentiment had also decreased: 33% currently feel negative about the next six months, compared to 46% in June. Nearly half of respondents said they feel neutral, up from 27% in June.

Respondents were also asked about the pandemic’s impact on different media in the first three quarters of the year. While most media is well below the forecasted spend prior to the crisis, both online display and online video have exceeded pre-pandemic expectations (6% and 9% respectively).

“We are also seeing an acceleration of the shift to digital channels, but it remains to be seen if this will be permanent,” said Loerke.

Impact of media spend Q1 to Q3 versus pre-pandemic plans:

  • Online Video: +9%
  • Online Display: +6%
  • Influencer: -11%
  • Point of Sale: -20%
  • Radio: -35%
  • TV: -25%
  • Print: -32%
  • Outdoor: -39%
  • Events/Experiential: -60%

The study also holds an important clue about the future of office life once the pandemic is under control. Asked if they were reconsidering the “purpose” of their offices, 30% of respondents said “Yes, globally,” and another 35% said “Yes, piloting new approaches in some markets.” Just 35% said they expect to return to their pre-COVID office approach.

David Brown