How the “New Normal” Should Influence Your 2021 Media Mix

By Tom McLoughlin, Vice President, Regional Sales at New York Interconnect

The annual media planning process has typically been guided by thoughtful evaluation of the past year’s efforts and small refinements for the forthcoming year based on what performed and what lagged according to a given brand’s KPIs. But going into 2021, if you’re not considering modifications to the media strategy you laid out a year ago, you’re likely neglecting new opportunities.

When it comes to the TV and video space, two macro trends have emerged over the past year that has notable implications for marketers looking to stay connected with their target audiences in the “new normal” of the pandemic. Brands and agencies that take these shifts into account during their annual planning cycle have the opportunity to uncover impressive efficiencies and powerful connections that will be missed by competitors who execute the same media buys year after year.

Let’s dig deeper.

Unprecedented Daytime Viewing Shifts

At the risk of stating the obvious, let’s acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our daily routines—everything from our children’s education and how we socialize with family and friends to how we shop and consume media. For the media industry, every one of these interconnected shifts in behavior is relevant to staying connected with target audiences, particularly as we consider the fact that remote work behaviors are here for at least the first half of 2021, and could have a lingering impact. For brands looking to recalibrate their media plans accordingly, they should now take a closer look at daytime TV viewing patterns, which have evolved to include a larger audience.

Depending on the advertiser, daytime TV has typically seen minimal to no allocation as a daypart on TV plans. The reasoning there is understandable. Pre-COVID, employees were working in office settings and commuting. In order to reach this coveted primary income earner audience, advertisers would weight their daypart allocations to early mornings, primetime, late nights and weekends, with minimal or no Monday through Friday daytime allocation.

Fast forward to 2020. As a result of the pandemic, daytime television has seen a notable shift in its usual viewer demographics, as many people who used to be at the office now have the TV on at home while working. An August Nielsen report found that 29 percent of workers said they now watch TV or stream content (with sound) everyday while working.

It’s also interesting to note what people are watching during their new daytime viewing windows. According to Nielsen, of the types of content viewed while working from home, 47 percent of viewers aged 18+ cited news as the top content viewed, with comedy content coming in second at 40 percent. Among the news outlets, local news was listed as the No. 1 type of news content being consumed. We’re seeing these numbers reflected in real-world viewership numbers as well. For example, in the New York DMA, year-to-date daytime local news viewing is up 121 percent for viewers aged 25-54 compared to last year. Even in the past three months, following the heaviest lockdown behaviors, daytime local news viewing is still up 58 percent year-over-year among these coveted viewers.

In light of these trends, now is a great time to think about reallocating a portion of advertiser budgets to reach these new audiences at home and, specifically, to take advantage of the increased viewership in local news content. From a cost perspective, daytime is also attractive because it traditionally commands a lower CPM than other dayparts like primetime.

In shifting budgets, it’s useful to consider that the “new normal” of working from home has led many marketers to reallocate portions of OOH dollars. Many people are still working remotely, which significantly decreases the foot traffic on trains, subways, buses, and the drive into the office. Each of these commuting touchpoints gave advertisers the opportunity to reach their target audience out of home. That audience can now be reached in the TV and video space during those times, as we have seen in new TV viewing patterns. This is another shift that needs to be considered when creating a strategic media mix for advertisers going into 2021.

Thinking Across All Screens

In the pandemic, the number of people who are testing subscription video services has skyrocketed. Recently, eMarketer raised its U.S. subscription OTT video viewership estimate from 192.7 million to 207.5 million. eMarketer now expects there to be 222 million subscription OTT viewers by 2024, up from the company’s previous estimate of 210.4 million.

If brands aren’t thinking about TV advertising as a cross-screen endeavor, they’re missing an increasingly large portion of their target audiences. Going into 2021, every buy should include digital and OTT components in order to follow people’s eyeballs across the many platforms on which they’re now viewing their favorite content. Providers that offer transparency, as well as a simple and seamless execution, will be the leaders in this space.

The migration of TV spend into digital and OTT channels might seem like a complicated endeavor with all the different services and delivery methods, but it’s a path to reach the “new normal” consumer who watches TV wherever and whenever. By coordinating campaigns across screens, advertisers can increase their reach and hit viewers across all screens. This year, we’ve seen significant increases in RFPs including OTT as an allocation of an advertiser’s budget.

We’ve also seen advertisers paying increased attention to attribution in 2020 and going into 2021. With websites becoming the new showroom, advertisers are particularly interested in tying TV investment to web visitation. This provides a great opportunity for brands to quantify the halo effect TV investment delivers. In “The Halo Effect: TV as a Growth Engine,” published by Effectv and the VAB, research found that brands that advertise on television see immediate results. Regardless of the life stage, the brands analyzed saw an immediate double-digit increase in unique visitors to their digital platforms during their TV launch month compared to the three-month average prior to the campaign. Furthermore,  according to research conducted by Mediascience, featured in “The Halo Effect: Digital Loves TV,” brand recall more than doubles when a digital ad is accompanied by a TV ad for the same brand. Additionally, brands see a 15 percent lift in purchase intent when ads air on TV plus digital, compared to digital alone.

Going into 2021, TV advertising allocations should look a lot different than they did a year ago. After all, over the past 10 months, nearly every consumer habit and established media behavior have changed. Why would marketers proceed with the same media mix that they’ve employed in the past?