MediaRadar Blog

How COVID-19 is Impacting Programmatic Advertising

How COVID-19 is Impacting Programmatic Advertising

With such rapid changes in our society, the media industry is experiencing great uncertainty. 

Large publishers — Facebook, Google, Twitter and Pinterest — are now predicting ad revenue to be significantly less than previously expected. 

COVID-19 has brought up several issues for publishers and brands: brand safety, monitoring for foul play, underpriced ad-inventory and more.

Here we dive into the current state of programmatic advertising and how industries are treading forward. 

We encourage you to subscribe to our blog for the latest data surrounding the advertising industry. We will provide daily updates as COVID-19 continues to make its mark on the US economy.

MediaRadar Blog Signup

Programmatic Advertising in a Pandemic

Programmatic advertising has never been perfect, but COVID-19 is exposing its weaknesses.

One thing brands are concerned about during this critical time is brand safety. Advertisers tend to not want to sponsor negative news (or news at all). Brand logos next to photos of families suffering doesn’t sit well with consumers. 

Due to this, “coronavirus” has risen to the top of block lists for news publishers, leading to under-priced ad inventory. Keyword blocking tools are still very basic and can’t distinguish worst-case scenario coronavirus stories from bland content on washing hands. 

Agencies can take advantage of lower ad prices, but they have to put in the manual effort. 

On top of shuffling inventory and pricing, bad actors are taking advantage of this situation by advertising masks and medical supplies that hospitals desperately need. While reputable publishers are doing their best to take down these advertisements, the sellers still find a way to advertise products.

“Scammers are taking advantage of every feature in ad tech,” said an independent ad fraud researcher Augustine Fou. “They’re spreading fear, panic or disinformation to sell masks.” While publishers are busy monitoring for scams, legitimate advertising must carry on.

Research from Ebiquity found that “brands that increase spending during a recession achieve market share gains averaging 1.6 percentage points during the first two years of a recovery.” Brands that invest in programmatic ads will do best when the economic downturn is over.

MediaRadar Insights

In March, we saw a 15% month-over-month decrease. A portion of this drop may be seasonal. Last year, from February to March, there was also a drop in programmatic ad spend. That percentage, however, was only 7%. 

In terms of pure dollars, programmatic ad spend is only down 3% year-over-year in March.

When we look in at specific categories, we do see spending cuts and increases line up with the industries that have been most impacted by the COVID-19.

Industries that saw more significant cuts in spending include:

  • Hotels/Resorts were down 50%
  • Retail events were down 60%
  • Jewelry was down 47%
  • Cosmetics was down 54%

Industries that increased their spend include:

  • Video games were up 32%
  • Apps were up 54%
  • Cereal was up 300% (their spend was small to begin with)
  • Music streaming services was up nearly 300%

For more updates like this, stay tuned. Subscribe to our blog for more updates on coronavirus and its mark on the economy.