Bank of America, Facebook defied April slump with higher programmatic spend

Dive Brief:

  • Bank of America, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Grubhub and Slack were among the handful of major companies that boosted spending on programmatic advertising last month, defying a broader slump as marketers pulled back during the COVID-19 pandemic, per an announcement that researcher MediaRadar shared with Marketing Dive.
  • Categories such as education and training, toiletries and cosmetics and technology increased spending by more than 35% in April from the prior month, according to the analysis of which industries were most affected by the health crisis.
  • Amid pandemic lockdowns that kept people at home, the travel industry’s programmatic ad spending plunged 79% last month. The drop was worse than the 40% decline for automotive and 34% loss for events. These industries also had 8% fewer advertisers in April than in March, per MediaRadar.

Dive Insight:

Programmatic ad spend fell 9% in April from the beginning of the year, per MediaRadar data cited by Adweek, making the handful of companies that increased their spending more notable. Bank of America, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Grubhub and Slack are in different industries, but each company would have a reason to increase programmatic ad spending in April, which was the first full month of pandemic lockdowns in the U.S.

The common thread the companies share is increased online usage among homebound consumers who relied on the internet to stay connected with the outside world. Online banking, video games, social media, food delivery and business communications are key services for people stuck indoors.

The same is true for broader industry categories such as education and training, technology and toiletries and cosmetics — the last category reflects a rise in advertising for skincare products. The beauty industry has revamped its marketing, especially on social media, to show no-fuss makeup routines for video calls and how skincare can be a soothing ritual to ease pandemic stress, Reuters reported. MediaRadar’s data indicate that a broader group of industries boosted ad spending in April, a month after e-commerce sites increased their spending as more consumers shopped from home.

The plunge in ad spend for the travel industry isn’t surprising, given restrictions on international flights, stay-at-home orders in many cities and states and record joblessness that limits consumer spending. The summer travel season will be a key test for the industry as many regions lift lockdowns. Hotel occupancy in the U.S. has dropped 58% since last year, but steadily climbed from 21% in the second week of April to 29% by the end of the month, per data from researcher STR cited by USA Today. Traveler screenings at airports on May 17 hit 254,000, the highest since mid-March when lockdowns took effect, though volume was still 10% of year-earlier levels, per the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The federal government doesn’t recommend that people travel, but recent trends indicate a slight recovery that may lead to higher ad spending for travel-related industries.

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