Media consumption on steroids: Opportunities for advertisers during COVID-19 disruption

The media business worldwide is currently being challenged and changed by a novel invisible force that has overwhelmingly revolutionary powers. And for once we’re not talking about the internet – but about the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Complete and partial lockdowns are forcing businesses around the globe – and their staff – to adapt strategies and tactics in the face of the consequences of a global pandemic of unprecedented scale. People are re-organising their working routines while juggling things from financial uncertainties and infrastructural instabilities, to closed schools. But as with every crisis there are opportunities for those who (can afford to) keep an eye on ways to be creative and transform.

Social distancing measures have not only led to an intensification and accelerated digitalisation of B2B as well as P2P communication. The endless need for entertainment, education and information around the crisis has rapidly changed media consumption habits – and are creating massive media opportunities for advertisers.

Everybody’s media consumption is on skyrocket mode

The Global Web Index (GWI) has just released the results of a multi-national consumer study on the topic. Ninety-five percent of consumers across 13 markets say they’re spending more time on media consumption at home. And with so many people indoors with their eyes glued to screens and streams, the impetus for advertisers to shift online – especially search and mobile – is even greater than before . But interestingly there is a flickering eminence that has been written off multiple times but deserves your attention now more than ever. Here’s an overview of how the most relevant media channels are faring at times of COVID-19.


Changes in media consumption behaviour

Global Web Index March 2020 (Source:


Linear TV

In every corner of the world, viewership for linear TV is up significantly – according to reports from markets such as the US and the UK all the way to India. The GWI shows that 45% of people are consuming more broadcast TV at home because of the coronavirus – with one in five stating they are even watching significantly more often than before. Those spurt values are strikingly consistent across age groups: Gen Z’ers are at 43%, Millennials with 46% slightly ahead of Gen X at 45%.

Our own data for Germany shows that TV consumption increased strongly over the last week, with contact volume having increased by almost 27% and viewing time being up almost 30 minutes (+12%) compared to the same period last year. With rates down and great ROI it could be the perfect time to consider whether TV advertising is the right move for your brand.

OTT streaming

Disney+’s launch in Europe has indeed been most conveniently timed: According to the GWI report, 51% of people are watching more TV streaming services than they did before the crisis erupted, with 58% of Gen Z’ers and Millennials also seeing an uptick. 

Much more age-dependent – and more relevant for classic advertisers – is the consumption of music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer, where 57% of Gen Z are listening more than previously, but only 25% of Gen X and a measly 8% of boomers.

Another opportunity this global disruption has spawned: With most sports on hold or postponed – e.g. the Olympics, UEFA EURO and the IPL – and concerts cancelled, interest in live-streamed events is huge, especially high among Gen Z’ers & Millennials and people with higher incomes. Watch out for sports events such as Formula One, NASCAR, La Liga & Bundesliga going virtual or moving to e-sports and digital streaming platforms such as Twitch.


Photo by Charles Deluvio

Photo by Charles Deluvio



If we weren’t already addicted to our smartphones, COVID-19 marks a whole new frontier for mobile usage: Seventy percent of those surveyed globally say they are spending more time on their smartphone, even climbing above 80% for Gen Z. Forty-five percent have increased their use of messaging services and 44% are spending more time on social media. All of this is particularly pronounced in the planet’s now quiet and shuttered urban centres .

When there’s a phone, there’s an app and indeed: More than one in three people – and six out of 10 Gen Z’ers – have been spending more time on apps. Aside from news apps, there’s been a surge in the usage of business applications. In China time spent on business apps has doubled, while in Italy 761,000 office apps were downloaded in the week beginning February 23. People on lockdown also flock to fintech, entertainment and gaming apps. But some verticals aren’t seeing the benefits of isolation: interestingly, social distancing has yet to set off demand for libidinous connections and the dating app game has yet to pick up steam.


The need for relevant and reliable information has never been higher, so it’s no surprise that clicks from organic and paid search have increased significantly in the current situation. Depending on the vertical, we are seeing up to 100% growth and more. Higher search volumes are paired with “corona” search terms – so advertisers should adapt their strategy accordingly. Clever brands are setting up SEA campaigns that point to dedicated landing pages with relevant information on things like discounts, waived shipping costs or support resources. Also owned channels – like the beautiful blog you are currently visiting – are gaining a higher relevance for attracting and retaining potential customers.


Photo by John Schnobrich


On the ethics of advertising during corona

More than ever, advertising is a sensitive field. What should be a top priority for every company: Make sure you are aware of your public responsibility and be sure to adapt your media strategy – but market your brands, products and services in a way that is respectful and doesn’t take advantage of the situation. Aside from clear ethical requirements, your brand will thank you for it in the mid- and long-term.

To quote the GWI report: “When asked if brands should carry on advertising as normal, just over a third agree, over a quarter disagree and over a third aren’t sure. […] Disapproval peaks in Germany at 60%, followed by France at 40%.

Make sure you understand your brand’s role in the current situation of distress and uncertainty. It’s important to stay connected and focus on how you can contribute to the situation. According to the report, most consumers favour brands who are providing flexible payment terms (83%), offering free services (81%), closing non-essential stores (79%) and helping to produce essential supplies (67%).

With great opportunities come great responsibilities.


Wonder how changes in media consumption could be beneficial for you? Reach out and let’s talk about the right media strategy for your brand in these turbulent times. Write us!

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