Ad tech companies SpotX and Unruly have released insights on how media consumption is shifting in key Asia-Pacific territories during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how this in influencing consumer expectations of brand communications.
SpotX's internal data has found that premium publisher sites across Southeast Asia have experienced a steep increase in ad calls since February. In total, ad calls are up 323% from the beginning of January to the last week of March.
One example it gave was for Filipino news site and entertainment group ABS-CBN, which has experienced a 33% increase in page view growth in March for ABS News compared to February, while user growth has spiked 37%.
The second highest spike in growth is for the gaming category, up 290% between January to March. Both OTT and music have experienced a more than doubling of ad calls from the base set in January (up 143% and 123% respectively)—although the music category dipped below the base line for three weeks in March.
Examples SpotX provided include Vietnamese OTT site Pops, which more than doubled ad calls from around 750 million to nearly 1.7 billion from the start of March to the beginning of April. In Indonesia, OTT platform Viu reported a 50% increase in viewership in March and a 1.5 times increase in evening media consumption.
In the last two weeks of March, media consumption jumped substantially in entertainment, audio, and gaming. The big category winners by adspend were food and drink, health and fitness, and business. The numbers for food and drink show the category is becoming popular with people being forced to stay at home—with ad spend up 200% from week commencing 5 March to week commencing 26 March.
SpotX managing director Asia Gavin Buxton said: "We are seeing increased audience viewership and video ad opportunities from our publisher clients in Southeast Asia (SEA), with significant changes from early February. This confirms the trend seen in Europe and the US in recent weeks, with SEA mirroring the trend of exploding viewership.
"The increase in viewership shows there are clear opportunities for brands utilising premium video publishers/platforms in SEA. Consumers across the region are responding to the new normal by spending more time watching video, we all know that. The data underscores the need to have a robust video ad strategy in place and for brands to ensure they are in the right video environments to engage consumers in these unprecedented times."
In Australia, SpotX's ad call data shows a surge in consumers visiting financial content on premium publishers during COVID-19, as households seek to understand how to best manage their way through this period of uncertainty.
Video ad impressions on the SpotX platform have risen dramatically in finance (up 515%), technology (up 152%),and entertainment (up 109%), between the middle of March to the first week of April. Additionally audio streaming and gaming platforms saw marked increases as stricter self isolation measures were put in place.
Ad spend trends are also experiencing significant flux. In the month to April 12, there was a 433% increase in video ad spend in the pets category. With two-thirds of Australians owning a pet, the increase in spend reflects how consumers are prioritising their pets to help cope with the new normal of forced isolation. There was also a 282% increase in lottery-themed video advertising, fuelled by an increased desire for financial security during this period of furloughs and redundancies.
Not surprisingly, the data on the SpotX platform in this period shows steep falls in video advertising for travel (down 65%), real estate (which suffered a 58% decline), and retail (down 55%), which reflects the closure of non-essential services in Australia.
SpotX’s premium publisher partners in Australia are also enjoying a spike in digital consumption. Nine has witnessed double-digit growth across its digital news sites for the week commencing 30th Mar, while Gameloft has seen daily active users and daily new users increase 7% and 14% respectively since the beginning of the year with minutes played up 12% (last 2 weeks Jan versus last 2 weeks of March).
SpotX Australia managing director llda Jamison said: "As the ever-changing situation surrounding COVID-19 unfolds, we continue to see significant changes in video streaming consumption and advertiser trends. With over 20 billion video ad calls globally per day from screens of all sizes, SpotX is uniquely positioned to analyse the changes in viewership and spend across a number of content categories in Australia."
Elsewhere, video ad tech company Unruly has conducted a study of 3,000 consumers globally to understand how COVID-19 is impacting consumer interests and behaviors.
In Singapore, it found that consumer expectations of brand communications has shifted as digital consumption increases.
As more than three-quarters (76%) of 18-24s have increased the amount of time they spend watching online videos and two-thirds (67%) are spending more time on social media—more than half (52%) of this age group prefer brands to communicate to them via ads on social media; with 36% through online video.
It also revealed that more than half of Singaporeans (52%) want brands to be more informative in their ad campaigns, with consumers particularly looking for advertisers to share how they’re supporting staff and customers during the pandemic (25%) and provide messages around COVID-19 (23%).
However, at the same time, 46% of consumers want ads that make them feel happy, while 19% of consumers want ads to provide a sense of continuity and normality. A further 12% want ads to be funny and positive to distract them from what’s going on.
While a lot of ad campaigns are being put on hold or are being cancelled, only 3% of Singaporeans think brands should pause their advertising, with younger audiences (18-24s - 2%) even less in favour of any freeze on ad budgets.
Away from their digital devices, almost half of Singapore consumers (48%) are spending more time cooking, while there’s also been a significant increase in the amount of time people are spending reading books (32%), exercising (28%) and improving their homes (27%).
This study was conducted in March before the Singapore Government's heightened
safe-distancing measures were introduced.
“The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in rapid, unprecedented changes in consumer behaviours and their preferences across Singapore,” said Sam Ho, insight and solutions manager, Singapore, at Unruly. “The vast majority of consumers still want to see ads, but the key to success is in the content and the way a message is conveyed. The magnitude of these changes requires brands to be nimble in adapting their advertising strategies to maintain and grow connections with consumers, provide support and minimise disruption to performance.”