Media Buying In 2020: Discounted CPMs And New Opportunities

Media Buying In 2020 Discounted CPMs and New Opportunities

The global lockdown has caused media prices to drop, but that hasn’t resulted in new campaigns for advertisers. While the new media buying opportunities arise, two culprits prevent investment in the heavily discounted CPMs experienced across the industry. Depending on the situation, marketers may be able to counteract at least one of them.

The two reasons why advertisers aren’t buying more media right now are:

  • Overall slashed budgets
  • Fears for brand safety

The coronavirus crisis continues to wreak havoc, with as many as 86% of advertisers anticipating anticipating major negative impacts to extend into Q2.

Moreover, those of us who still get to make decisions are facing make-it-or-break-it situations. As one chief media officer reports , we’re having to act a lot more decisively: “I tell [finance directors] what’s on a media plan that’s either muscle or fat. In other words, I have to tell those execs what’s going to work for the business now.” 

Those of us still serving clients agency-side are in the same boat: with a serious reduction in client budgets, it’s suddenly that much more important to demonstrate ROI.

Which is where the need to quickly find opportunities arises. So where are they?

Cost of news media plummets, new media buying opportunities emerge.


A significant gap opened up in news media publishing as advertisers stopped or paused campaigns.

IAB reports that 45% of news media publishers are now offering lower rates in an attempt to recoup some of the projected hits to the business. And the business hits will be serious indeed: 88% of publishers now expect to miss this year’s forecasts

But while publishers (news publishers especially) are losing ad revenue, their audiences are actually surging. For mid-April, SimilarWeb reports an 8.48% week-over-week gain in traffic to news websites. Meanwhile, Comscore’s aggregate data from 40 news sites showed 20% – 30% week-over-week traffic growth in March.

If online media’s CPMs are down across the board, yet audiences are actually more active online, advertisers have an opportunity to buy attention at a very heavy discount.

Some CPMs are discounted due to brand safety, and those discounts might not last.

It’s worth noting that if you’re dealing with massive budget cuts, you may simply not have the bandwidth for ad spend. The downturn has already impacted some of the largest marketing companies, and it’s no surprise that for some ad spend has simply taken a back seat.

However, where advertisers are pulling campaigns solely out of fear for brand safety, we may be witnessing a slight overreaction, and a real opportunity. Many advertisers have started to filter any and all news stories containing “coronavirus” keywords. It’s a common fear to have your brand associated with negative news stories. In March 2020, IAS blocked 1.36 billion ads — this is compared to just 64 million in February.

The problem here is that news publisher feeds have been completely dominated with stories related to the virus — it’s hard to imagine a credible news outlet that would be making different publishing decisions. By now, audiences throughout the entire globe have come to terms that this is a daily reality. So being overprotective about having a brand appear next to a story related to the virus may be causing more harm than good in the long run. As some publishers have noted: this is a time to adjust your messaging, not a time to stop advertising completely.

Of course, not everyone will take a forward-looking approach, and chances are that some advertisers will choose to be extremely safe. This is where the opportunity exists for those who can pivot quickly.

A comment from AdProfs put it well:

“If many advertisers block crisis-related keywords, the contrarian move would be not to block. Looking at it rationally, there is now a 30-50% discount on premium publisher inventory.”

Two more media buying opportunities emerge: Connected TV and Digital Audio.

Good news for those still concerned about brand safety: we’re seeing emerging opportunities where brands are less likely to appear next to news about the outbreak.

Connected TV
Comscore already reports 29% YOY growth in this channel as a result of the disruption. Many advertisers were fast to note the coming changes and re-allocate their budgets accordingly. But the opportunity for more growth still remains: according to Nielsen, staying home may lead to 60% or more TV viewing.

Digital Audio
If not TV viewing, then those staying at home are spending more time with live audio. Nielsen found that when it comes to radio, 83% listen to the same amount or more since the start of stay-at-home orders. Advertisers have also started to pivot accordingly, with 33% either retaining or shifting more budget to digital audio.

How to correctly approach the new opportunities.

Simply from a numbers perspective, a 50% discount plus a surge in audience activity (after all, everyone’s stuck at home, glued to a screen) should make it an attractive investment.

If you’re advising a client or having to consult on budget internally, it’s important to keep the above stats in mind. What’s more important than anything else is making sure that the messages of your campaign are appropriate, not that you block coronavirus content. After all, the majority of consumers do not think that brands should stop advertising during the outbreak. What’s more important is that you advertise in the appropriate way.

Moreover, it’s good to stay alert about new opportunities given an ever-changing environment, while working with partners that provide a lot of transparency. If you’re looking for more tools to help you accomplish that at no cost, BriefBid offers media buyers a free media discovery and management platform. For those marketers who are now reevaluating their media mix, our platform allows them to stay agile and discover pre-vetted media vendors for their evolving marketing strategies.

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