May 18, 2020

3 Bright Spots That Have Emerged in These Changing Times

By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.

Though the coronavirus pandemic has shut down a massive number of businesses the past two months and those businesses continue to suffer, there are bright spots in the retail and marketing sectors that center on perhaps a not-so-unlikely trio of bedfellows: Toys, booze and politics.

Demand for Legos, puzzles, board games and other items have spiked interest and sales in the toy category the past two months, while liquor sales began to boom in mid-March as the pandemic unfolded in the United States.

And while political advertising is currently in a second-quarter lull, with many primary elections already over and Joe Biden the presumed Democratic candidate for president, politicians on the state and national levels will start reaching more and more into their war-chest pockets as they try to win offices in November.

The Joys That Have Arrived for Toys

Data from Pacvue, an ad-buying tech provider for Amazon, show that a number of toy-, game-, crafting- and DIY-related search terms appeared in the top 200 on Amazon in April — normally, such search rankings don’t show up until the fourth quarter. Searches topping the list included puzzles, board games, paint-by-number kits, Lego toys, balloons and sidewalk chalk.

And it’s not just Amazon that has benefited from the surge in toys-and-games interest.

PubMatic, a supply-side platform that tracks display advertising across its clients’ sites, reports that advertisers in the “hobbies and interests” category spent 31% more between March 15 and 18 than they had two weeks earlier. Such spending still had risen 30% between March 25 and 31, versus the first week of March, PubMatic said.

Kenshoo, a digital ad-buying technology provider, says ad-channel activity for Amazon and Walmart toys and games remained heavy through early April. The spike, Kenshoo added, “has started to recede halfway through April, but may start up again when you or your children finish all of those puzzles.”

No Ides-of-March Woes for Liquor: Sales Jumped 55%

Research firm Nielsen reported in early April that overall sales of alcoholic beverages in the United States skyrocketed by 55% in the week ending March 21 — and that online alcohol sales were up 243 percent. Such spirits as tequila, gin and pre-mixed cocktails topped the sales list with a 75% increase when compared to the same period in 2019. Wine sales rose 66%, and beer sales jumped 42%.

Bar and restaurant closings in conjunction with stay-at-home orders contributed to the mid-March increases for retail and online liquor sales, and it should be noted that some segments in the liquor industry have suffered throughout the pandemic, such as bars and craft brewers. Different laws in different states also were a factor in the mid-March binge buys: Pennsylvania, for example, closed down all of its state-run liquor stores, which led to residents driving to nearby states to stock up.

In Michigan, meanwhile, the state’s liquor control commission urged residents to drink in moderation.

“During this time of coronavirus, be careful of excessive drinking because it can compromise a person’s immune system,” commission chair Pat Gagliardi told the Detroit Free Press.

“Moderation is important. Don’t underestimate how much you have actually been drinking.”

Digital Ads, Connected TV May Gain Political Bucks

In early February, before the pandemic, eMarketer projected that overall political-ad spending this election cycle would be $6.89 billion, with traditional TV getting a lion’s share of that total at 66 percent. The marketing expert projected that spending on digital political ads, meanwhile, would reach $1.3 billion.

Because of the pandemic, eMarketer plans to revise those figures in a June report, but it notes “the traditionally heaviest ad spending period for political campaigns is the three months leading to Election Day.”

“With consumers spending more time online while self-isolating, the scale for political advertising in 2020 could tip more toward digital platforms,” eMarketer said last week. “Social media, primarily Facebook, is already a powerful advertising tool for political advertisers, especially in the early stages of a campaign for fundraising and list-building.”

During the three months leading up to the November election, political advertisers will focus on “persuasion and mobilization,” eMarketer said, and that is why traditional TV “still tends to be their best bet for reaching wide audiences and getting them to the polls.”

However, connected TV, with its digital-targeting abilities, could take some of the political-ad attention away from traditional TV, eMarketer added.

“Before the pandemic, political campaigns were already experimenting with connected TV advertising, and the rise in streaming video service use due to the coronavirus pandemic could accelerate this trend.”

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