Rahul Sachitanand
Apr 6, 2020

Early adspend impact of COVID-19 in Hong Kong much sharper than SARS

TOP OF THE CHARTS: Adspend fell 30% in February as pandemic hammered sentiment, but newer categories could soften blow, says Admango.

The travel industry has collapsed due to aftershocks from the COVID-19 pandemic
The travel industry has collapsed due to aftershocks from the COVID-19 pandemic

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will cause a much deeper impact on adspend in Hong Kong than the 2003 SARS epidemic, according to Admango, a tracker of this type of data. Unlike in 2003, the media landscape in the region has changed significantly, with digital advertising now allowing advertisers to react quicker--and pare spends--compared with 2003 when they were bound to longer term commitments. During the month of February 2020, total adspend in Hong Kong dropped by 30.6%.

In contrast, during the outbreak of SARS from February to July 2003, a YOY growth in advertising spending was still recorded in February and March, when the first few SARS case were confirmed. While a drop in adspend was recorded in both April and May, the worst weekly YOY drop in adspend was recorded in mid-April at -13%. However, according to Admango, by June 2003, adspend rebounded with a 6% YOY growth and even marked a significant 17% YOY jump in July, when the crisis blew over.

Data from Admango shows marked similarity to a range of sectors that felt the full force of these adspending cuts. During April and May 2003, key industries such as banking and investment services (-39%), travel and tourism services (-49%), education and training (-40%) and property and real estate (-42%) cut their budget. In February 2020, these industries saw a sharp YOY drop in adspend: Travel and tourism (-72%), cosmetics and skincare (-64%), retail (-48%), entertainment (-51%) and jewellery, watches & luxury products (-55%). In contrast, categories such as toiletries and household (+38%), pharmaceuticals and healthcare (+44%) and entertainment (+93%) saw a YOY increase in adspend.

With a home-bound audience eager to stay connected and entertained, mobile advertising across several categories has increased, ranging from banking and investment services to insurance, games and hobbies and computers and internet.

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