5 advertising strategies for media in recessionary times

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


Good day from London, UK. Welcome to this latest INMA Advertising Initiative newsletter.

Today, I will be concentrating on how we can “win” in our ad sales efforts when we are all in difficult times globally.

In these economically hard environments, we need to protect our media ad businesses from any downturns and, in many parts of the world, a likely/coming recession.

Whether you’re a large or small media businesses, it’s important to have a plan to secure our ad revenue streams if a recession does hit. Fortunately, there are a number of recession-proof strategies we can utilise. These ideas should help any media business continue to be successful, even during a downturn.

Some advice is not rocket science, but we can easily overlook what we need to do. The points below, especially when actioned together, can be most powerful in developing closer ties with agencies and advertisers — and keep them spending when the temptation might be to cut back or even temporality cease advertising with us.

Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of some very interesting statistics (and overtones which should inspire us) from advertising researchers Borrell Associates.

Borrell Associates survey

I have mentioned in a previous newsletter and it’s worth mentioning again here: In Borrell Associates bi-annual survey of media buyers earlier this year, agencies and direct media  buyers were asked several things: what they spend on advertising, what types of media they bought, what they are buying in 2022, and what qualitative comments had they regarding media’s approach to them. 

A recent Borrell Associates survey has key findings helpful for today's media advertising teams.
A recent Borrell Associates survey has key findings helpful for today's media advertising teams.

The Borrell survey makes certain points that stood out for me, namely:

  • Local buyers are still novices: 53% are classified as novices, meaning they likely have questions and need advice. They are looking for partners who can assist them. 
  • The “master” (big) agencies also need help: 87% of agencies are classified as master marketers but see traditional media companies as partners. 
  • Not much media elimination is prevalent: While two in five agencies plan to reduce spending on “something,” only 1.5% of advertisers area actually eliminating something altogether. 

And from a qualitative point of view, what caught my eye was this comment, which seems typical of many others:

“Speak in clear language. We don’t know all the jargon and acronyms. Provide follow-up and regular feedback on how the advertising is doing. We almost never hear from anyone after the sale is made. It’s nice when partnering with media companies as I don’t generally have the time to stay updated on the latest/greatest marketing strategies.” 

To me, the conclusion of that survey was that we all need to learn from the above. Be more consultative, keep a constant stream of communications going, be a resource of knowledge and insights, get the mix of offerings right, and get to be trusted by our agencies and advertisers.

The Borrell survey gives us a very accurate pointer to what am about to talk about in this newsletter.

So, with the above in mind, here are my top five strategies, which I hope can help you prepare for what might be coming your way.

Top 5 strategies for a recession

1. Concentrate on the customer experience

In a recent survey by Statusphere, 65% of Millennials (many of which are media planners and buyers) are willing to pay more for a good customer experience.

Successful businesses (media or otherwise) know having content customers will mean they will be likely to submit good reviews and will spread that good news quickly through their networks. It’s obviously a lot easier to advertise our services when customers have already mentioned your company as one of their preferred brands.

Indeed, the “word-of-mouth channel” is a crucial factor in a whopping 74% of buying decisions. It drives an unbelievable six trillion U.S. dollars of spending every year (see further reading below).

The point is, by concentrating on the UX, you’re communicating that you want to be seen and positioned as the best in the marketplace. And there are a few ways you can improve the customer experience:

  • Provide top quality products. In times of a recession, customers will be even more wary about what they spend their money on.
  • Make sure your ad products and services are of the highest quality — and that clients will not only be happy with them but even be prepared to pay a premium for them.

Sometimes the best customer service you can provide is just listening. Take the time to really listen to your clients and build a lasting partnership with them.

Always look for ways to improve. As an ad media business, you should constantly find ways to improve your ad packages, the image of offerings, etc., while still providing high-quality service levels. Can you provide any guarantees on your products or services? Could that be a USP? Exceed their expectations and emphasise how you’re different from your competitors.

2. Increase conversion rates via e-mail supplements

All media ad businesses teams can improve their conversion rates. One important thing is to make sure you’re sending out regular e-mails to your customers.

E-mail communication/promotion is a good way to keep advertisers engaged.
E-mail communication/promotion is a good way to keep advertisers engaged.

By promoting your services through e-mails, you can ensure you’re regularly reaching each one of your client customers and getting them interested in about your offerings without always having to visit personally.

Of course, face-to-face/consultative selling will remain really important, but e-mails can be a great, cost-effective supplement to that.

3Study your competitors closely

Studying your competitors is one of the smartest ad strategies you can utilise. By analysing their packages, services, SEO strategy, et al, you can capitalise on what they are failing to do in the process. This can, of course, be used with your ad clients as a “tool of armour” and in securing closer relationships with them, being seen as totally understanding your environment.

4. Use social media to engage with client customers

Social media is a great way to get your business in front of the eyes of media planners and buyers who are usually heavy consumers of such channels. Having a decent social presence and a robust social media strategy is another way of cementing relationships and being where your potential buyers are locating themselves.

By interacting with client customers via social media you again, reinforce yourself as the authority in the area, and ultimately ensure you get the best potential sales and/or reviews your media business can achieve.

5. Monitor your progress

You should be able to see if your recessionary ad strategies are working. Obviously, with regular calls, e-mails, updates, etc., you can keep the relationship close with your ad clients. But by going beyond that using certain back-end analytical tools, you can confirm internally that you’re actually seeing the benefits and even growth.

By using the appropriate analytics tools, youll be able to leverage data to place your media business in the best place for ad growth and gain a march of your competitors. (See further reading below for some tools that might be of use both to you and as a recommendation to your advertisers for their own use).

Keep close! Reap the rewards.

Further reading

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Mark Challinor, based in London and lead for the INMA Advertising Initiative. Mark will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media advertising. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This newsletter is a public face of the Advertising Initiative by INMA, outlined here.

E-mail Mark at Inma.mark@gmail.com with thoughts, suggestions, and questions or follow him on Twitter (@challinor).

About Mark Challinor

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