Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are living in very uncertain times the world over. The spread of the virus will have a major economic impact that not only influences the workforce and supply-and-demand in many sectors but it also influences advertising and could lead to an advertising recession. Many events, like the Geneva Motor Show, SXSW, and Mobile World Congress, that have traditionally been used as the major announcement and advertising events have been canceled, forcing companies and advertising agencies to find alternatives.

How has marketing been affected?

Some traditional marketing methods have been lauded as still being relevant and effective in our modern-day. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this is not necessarily the case anymore. Consumer behavior has changed drastically and by no fault of their own. Radio ads that a massive number of people would listen to as they drive to work and probably get stuck in traffic jams are not as effective as they used to be only a couple of months ago (January). In numerous countries across the globe, the once captive audience is no longer driving to work. Print ads are also less effective as people are either not going to shops as buying the usual magazines or newspapers. With the global situation changing from minute to minute many people are more focused on online news sources to see the latest updates. Spending money on ‘legacy’ advertising like radio or print ads and on hiring advertising agencies to manage them have become useless as the ROI has plummeted.

Could this be a temporary situation?

Businesses and consumers know that things will return to normal in a couple of weeks or months, but the problem is; that normal might not be the one we remember as experts expect the global business landscape to change. The exact reality of that change is still unknowable but change will happen, people and businesses will need to adapt to a “new” normal and the advertising industry will need to do what they mostly promise; change perceptions.

What will happen to the advertising industry?

The simple answer is: technology. If people cannot be reached on the routes they normally travel or in the places they normally visit it would make sense to target them where they are now which is mostly at home and on the internet as more people shop online for clothes and groceries. People also use social media more as a way to connect while they endure weeks of social isolation and share their stories and coping methods.  As a result, online content is becoming more and more important and this poses a challenge for content creators and ad agencies.

Online content creation has been an important part of ad campaigns for some time, but the emphasis placed on it now is a new aggressive development that has become more pronounced as the virus spread. Ad agencies that specialize in online content creation or with a strong online and social media department will notice this development the least as they already focus on it, but agencies that specialize in more traditional avenues of advertising will fail to grow or will be forced to change and to change quickly.

The delivery of great customer experiences from a distance will challenge marketers to be more responsively creative, data-oriented, technology savvy and mobile-first.

Mobile First

Creative agencies that are not mobile-first (introduced in 2009 or 11 years ago) by this day are going to have serious educational ground to cover in very little time – if they want to stay forcefully relevant in the marketing business.


As fears of a global economic recession grow the effect of the virus might not just be temporary and the changes we are seeing now could be longer lasting than we think as companies, marketers and agencies alike might need to seriously re-strategize their spending and ensure the best ROI possible.

An effective path forward is not clear. While many companies admit to the changing landscape within their own companies, there is some serious hesitation in committing to a digital transformation due to the human investment behind it;

  • Human Resources – Remote Work
  • Technology – Platforms and Hardware
  • Education – Distance and Self Learning

However, companies (meaning people) will be forced to adapt and embrace change whether they are ready or not.