Content Consumption Changed During the WFH Rush. What It Means for B2B Marketers

January 6, 2021

Editor's note: this post was authored by Tsvetan "T." Tsvetkov, SVP of Marketing Effectiveness at Nielsen.

Can you recall another event that has brought such drastic change in so little time? For most of us, the answer is an unequivocal “No.” Nothing has upended our collective worlds quite like the COVID-19 pandemic has.  

For marketers who rely on historical data to guide the strategy of ongoing and future campaigns, the demand for timely insight is understandably through the roof right now. There are all sorts of questions. Has working from home caused people to change their content consumption habits? If so, how? And what are the implications for marketers? 

Here’s what we’re learning.

People May Be Working from Home, But They’re Still Consuming Content

Before “coronavirus” made its way into our lexicon, some people already worked from home, and those people spent more time viewing content than their commuting counterparts. 

During COVID-19, work-from-homers have been spending more time on digital as well as TV-connected devices. This is reflected in the larger share of viewing to digital devices for the work-from-home audience (57%). 

Brands and agencies remain highly motivated to reach people where they work. Nothing has changed in that regard. As people spend more of their days working from connected devices, brands and agencies can effectively reach work-from-home audiences via digital marketing strategies. 

It’s important to note, however, that although your audience may be consuming more content, they also may be doing so on a different schedule. Over half of workers (54%) who have switched to a work-from-home schedule after COVID-19 now wake up later than they did before. Nearly half (49%) now hit the hay later than they did when they had to trek to work the next day.  

The takeaway for programmers, brands, and marketers is that this newfound free time is typically spent consuming additional media. That could mean streaming the latest TV series, listening to music or podcasts, or browsing the web. 

COVID-19 Has Catapulted Streaming to Become the Present and Future of Content Creation

Today, streaming accounts for a quarter of total TV usage. One of the stronger indicators of streaming’s staying power is its popularity among the 55 and older demographic: This age group is now responsible for 26% of all streaming minutes viewed. That’s up from 19% a year ago. 

For content marketers, streaming’s surge in popularity presents a few opportunities. There’s the opportunity to place ads with streaming services and within relevant internet streams. Then there’s the content itself. Formats like live streaming events and video ads are becoming more popular as a means of capturing attention in social media feeds. 

Why Eliminating Advertising Budgets Right Now Would Not Be a Good Idea

When revenue is less predictable, it’s natural for any businesses to weigh its belt-tightening options. The marketing budget, as we know, is prone to feeling the pinch. Unless it’s essential though, there’s valid reason to think twice about pausing those ongoing campaigns, even briefly. 

The problem is, getting rid of advertising can weigh down performance long after the ads run again. When continuous airing stops, awareness is lost. And it’s easy to forget that our market silence tends to last longer than the dashboard gap indicates. Take TV – a fairly reliable medium in terms of usage – where only about half of the total volume is realized within two weeks of an ad’s launch. 

Nielsen’s Marketing Mix analyses show that short-term decisions to go dark also put long-term revenue at risk. We’ve seen it affect base sales and incremental revenue, both of which are tied to brand equity and product value. Nielsen’s database of long-term effect models suggests that advertising cuts made in 2020 could lead to an 11% revenue decrease in 2021. 

Sometimes budget cutting can’t be avoided, and when that’s the case, a common mistake is to lop off an equal-ish amount across the entire brand portfolio. Advertisers with larger portfolios in particular might want to leave the door open for opportunities to make an oversized impact with an undersized budget – “arbitrage” opportunities have increased over the past six months. 

Making Marketing Decisions Across Dimensions

Advertisers make most decisions across three dimensions: 

  1. Which product?

  2. Which channel?

  3. When?

Since the onset of the pandemic, opportunities across all three dimensions have increased. As the C-Suite more heavily weighs ROI-based metrics before signing off on marketing investments, outcome measurement only becomes more important. Of course, with outcome measurement, there’s the matter of scalability. For this to happen, the data needs to be accurate, available, and actionable. 

Nielsen enables effective marketing and increases advertisers’ ROI by bringing the media context around consumption, platforms, and devices. Our norms allow marketers to balance disruption with stability. 

Through Nielsen Compass – our norms database that’s aggregated each year with about 25,000 campaign ROIs, 100 categories, and 50 countries – advertisers and agencies can leverage insights to optimize their budgets and predict sales ROI. Brands that leveraged Nielsen Compass have increased the effectiveness of their cross-media investments incrementally by up to 70%. With the arrival of 2021, our quality data can help you design campaigns destined to succeed in the new normal.

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