‘A Big Correction’: Pandemic Brings Change to ‘Bloated’ Ad Industry

Coca-Cola is also “reassessing our overall marketing return on investment on everything from ad viewership across traditional media to improving effectiveness in digital,” James Quincey, the chief executive, said during a conference call last week. The company will “be judicious in our use of marketing,” he added, as it tries to track changes in regional lockdown policies.

But there are reasons for optimism. Dentsu, a major advertising holding company, has returned some agency employees to full shifts after moving them to reduced schedules. At the advertising and communications giant WPP, which has had more than 100,000 employees working from home for months, new business plunged early in the pandemic but has since recovered to early 2020 levels.

WPP and the rest of the country have “seen decades of innovation in a few short months,” said its chief executive, Mark Read.

Live sports, a magnet for advertising, may be on their way back, with the National Basketball Association season scheduled to restart July 30 and the National Hockey League set to return Aug. 1.

Ad space attached to four games that helped usher in the Major League Baseball season on Saturday quickly sold out, according to Fox Sports. More than 60 advertisers, such as Hankook Tire and Bud Light, participated. But that space may be at risk: More than a dozen Miami Marlins players and coaches have tested positive for the coronavirus after this weekend’s games, putting the rest of the shortened season in doubt.

Derek Andersen, the chief financial officer of Snap, warned on a conference call last week that the demand for ads in the third quarter of the year had “historically been bolstered by factors that appear unlikely to materialize in the same way they have in prior years, including the back-to-school season, film release schedules, and the operations of various sports leagues.”

The uncertainty has provided a challenge to an industry that tried to gauge the national mood.

“The consumer psyche and what they wanted to hear and needed to hear from brands would just change week to week,” said Chris Brandt, the chief marketing officer of Chipotle.

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