Media Planning In COVID-19

6/05/2020 10:00 AM - Updated: 3 years ago

By Tim Hinton

Media Planning In COVID-19

In November 2020 the UK re-entered lockdown, and as we re-equate ourselves with this scenario the biggest challenge for the advertising market remains how to plan media when there is uncertainty around the full reopening of the economy.

Media Planning In COVID-19

What We Advise

We are advising clients to look at multiple options on all their media planning to help them to pivot quickly when the time arrives to restart advertising.

Our focus is on tactical and practical guidance so through media you can continue to grow your business. What we are all in agreement with is that the lockdown will not last forever and there is no magic bullet for media planning – sorry.


  1. Look at a range of media strategies, ask your media agency to plan around differing market scenarios and pricing opportunities.
  2.  Ask your media agency to show you their rationale for using certain media; how it covers efficient buying within COVID-19 period and how the costing will then also lead to an effective communication strategy for your brand.  
  3. Make sure that your media agency is instilling commercial urgency with their media planning and buying.
  4. Make sure you can pivot and respond quickly to stepping up media communications very short term, this will include low spend SEO, social media engagement and other quick forms of digital advertising that can you can quickly stop and start.

So, What’s the Top Line Summary for Media?

Media Usage

Lockdown 1 taught us that TV viewing, social media, streaming, radio, online newspapers all showed double-digit increases in viewers/users.


Advertising revenue has dropped significantly across all sectors especially on traditional media

Reach and Frequency

Platform to deliver product message out to my customers.

Inflation / Deflation

Declining revenue with increased viewing will lead to a cheaper cost when advertising = Market Deflation.

Time to Advertise?

Cheaper advertising costs and increased viewing should still make this statistically a good time to plan a campaign.

Historical Data

This would also follow previous reports that advertising in a downturn will lead to stronger brand awareness and ultimately sales performance in the longer term.

UK Q420 Ad Revenue


+40 +30 +20 +10 NEUTRAL -5 -10 -15 -20 -25 -30 -40 -50 -60 -70 -80


+40 +30 +20 +10 NEUTRAL -5 -10 -15 -20 -25 -30 -40 -50 -60 -70 -80


+40 +30 +20 +10 NEUTRAL -5 -10 -15 -20 -25 -30 -40 -50 -60 -70 -80


+40 +30 +20 +10 NEUTRAL -5 -10 -15 -20 -25 -30 -40 -50 -60 -70 -80


+40 +30 +20 +10 NEUTRAL -5 -10 -15 -20 -25 -30 -40 -50 -60 -70 -80


+40 +30 +20 +10 NEUTRAL -5 -10 -15 -20 -25 -30 -40 -50 -60 -70 -80

So, what’s the problem?

  • We find ourselves in Lockdown again
  • The travel sector has paused & airlines are all but grounded
  • Most high street shops are closed
  • Leisure activities and sporting events are being cancelled again
  • Job security and confidence are lower than any previous downturns

Therefore, if you are an advertiser that cannot sell anything it is very difficult to be swayed by an argument that you should continue advertising your product to people that can’t buy it. It makes sense as the immediate priority for businesses to pause marketing activity while they sort out their internal structures. The advice to keep spending as per other downturns is too simplistic and any approach has to be tailored to now.


  1. Provide your media agency with an outline of where your business currently is based on your internal data and feedback. Tell them what you require to make strategic decisions regarding advertising. What is now clear is everything previously carried out has now changed.
  2. Using point 1 as a start then a range of strategic options are required from your media agent.
  3. Make sure you are being provided with the updated market, price data and information relevant to your business and sector.
  4. Ask your media agency – are my competitors still advertising?
  5. Finally assess the responses to make sure your media agency is adding value and they understand what you require as a business?

What’s the Solution?

Well, it’s certainly not about just holding your nerve and advertising where possible for long-term results and it’s not about driving a share of voice to drive share of the market with results that brands who continue to invest in downturns will come out stronger.

Brands have to adapt and to adapt they have to think differently.
Tim Hinton – 23 Media Audits

The crises we are facing will go through four distinct moments that all require their own set of guidelines for developing media planning & strategy.



If advertisers have the resources then now is an opportunity to look at media strategy and advertising costs via our COVID-19 media audit.


Short Term Q420

With the potential re-opening of some businesses aligned with social distancing – What are my options if I want to advertise? What will the effect be on current viewing habits? E.G will TV viewing drop and advertisers come back on-air with a partial reopening? How can I get my media agency to provide a risk assessment on my potential budgets if the market moves? What are my options?


Medium Term Q1/Q2 2021

When the current lockdown is revoked and businesses begin to reopen advertisers will need to be ready to start advertising from current holding strategies to a wider more focused communication strategy. Media strategy and planning will still need to be different to account for how society is attempting to slow the spread of COVID19 and this is key your media agency is aligned to this thinking.


Longer Term 2021

The “New Normal” this will come from all the experiences of 2020 and how media agencies and advertisers have adapted their thinking to best practise for the longer term.

Final Thoughts

No individual, business or category has a magic bullet for resolving COVID-19 and its yet unknown longer-term effects. The challenges are complex and the advertising industry has seen a significant change in its media operations, media supply, revenues and work patterns. However, by learning to adapt and think differently brands can emerge from this crisis stronger and through a strong partnership with all media, stakeholders can create something improved, more inclusive and more valued once this moment has passed.

Want more insights on where the market stands and how to plan through COVID-19?
Download our COVID-19 Advertising Report and bookmark our COVID-19 tracker for regular updates.