Can ‘hard news’ be brand safe? Download the free BBC white paper for exclusive research into brand-building during a recession

In 2020 the media ecosystem faced an enormous challenge: an influx in breaking stories, and evaporation of the advertising dollars that fund their telling. Part of this halt on spend was attributable to uncertainty around how the crisis would impact consumer behaviour. As we settle into the new normal, the BBC has commissioned research into consumer engagement with news advertising and its relevance for brand safety and ad spend. To download the report, fill out the form below.

In January this year, impeachment in the US, Brexit in Europe, and bushfires at home dominated media channels. Then, Coronavirus created chaos in shopping aisles and the halls of parliament. Consumers were glued to the news, with Nielsen reporting a 52% YOY rise in news consumption in Australia in March 2020 (the US, during the same period, saw a 215% rise). But while consumers were engaging with news and media like never before, advertisers were facing a crisis of context. Campaigns in the pipeline were rendered
redundant, and advertisers were wary of seeing their brands amongst the influx of negative news stories. On top of this, predicting how consumers, who had had their lives turned upside down, might think, act, and feel was as impossible to predict as the crisis’s path.

As we have adjusted to the uncertainty of living with COVID-19, patterns in consumption habits have emerged which should offer hope to marketers. Some of these patterns can be found in the BBC’s whitepaper. They have commissioned research into how consumers are responding to advertising during major news events and how marketers can maximise their ad-spend. The free whitepaper details the impacts of COVID-19, and the recession, on audience behaviour and sentiment. It also examines the way brands can, and should, be widening their margins and building brand equity during this time.

Most advertisers know the value of staying in market for as long as possible during tough economic periods. They also know that consumer spending doesn’t always mirror the market. During the 2008-09 global recession advertising spend decreased, but consumer spending remained positive, resulting in an exceptional gain of market share for those who continued to advertise. These brands recovered better than their counterparts that paused spend altogether.

Additionally, hard news environments might not be bad news for brands. One of the key findings of the report is around consumer engagement. BBC found that the emotional intensity a news story elicits and the mindset the audience find themselves in when in quality, trusted news environments correlates with higher memorability – of both the story itself and surrounding advertising. This finding discredited the notion that advertising alongside negative stories can impact your brand – in fact, the BBC found, emotional responses to advertising were more favourable in a “hard” news environment.

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