Eighty-two percent of ad buyers have now paused or adjusted ad spend, according to the next phase of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) COVID-19 survey, which compares changes to ad spend and buyer perspective for the period of March to June. 

Those respondents who were undecided about pausing ad spend in IAB’s March survey have chosen to pause spend by mid-April. A breakdown shows that in March, 16 percent were undecided about pausing activity whereas in April, just three percent were undecided. The amount of respondents who said they paused advertising increased from 24 percent in March to 37 percent in April.

Other insights reveal 73 percent of buyers are shifting messaging and modifying or creating new creative assets: 54 percent are modifying existing creative assets and 19 percent are planning to modify or create new assets. Twenty-seven percent of buyers say they’re leveraging the same assets used pre-coronavirus. Among buyers that are shifting messaging, about 60 percent say new creative in some ways reflects the crisis.

Additionally, brands are increasingly adopting a “we’re all in this together” tone of solidarity for ads, with mission- and cause-related messaging growing from 41 percent in March to 53 percent in April. Performance messaging has also seen growth, going from 28 percent in March to 34 percent in April. 

Creative and messaging challenges have impacted news buyers most as nearly half have canceled or paused ads due to irrelevant or inappropriate creative. Some news buyers (24 percent) are reforecasting an increase in display spend, with a similar amount (29 percent) looking at new key performance indicators (KPIs) such as consumer engagement and sentiment. 

IAB found that a majority of buyers (45 percent) had allocated budget to sports in their original 2020 plans. Among those, sports represented 25 percent of their overall 2020 budget. Despite this, 43 percent of originally planned sports budgets will remain unused. Those who are allocating sports ad spend also indicate a shift to Q3 and Q4 of 2020.

Month over month trends reveal traditional media channels continue to decline, with linear television remaining relatively flat. Digital ad spend is showing growth as digital product agility has benefitted search, social and audio.

This marks IAB’s second buy-side survey, fielded April 15-21 among 294 participants spanning media planners, media buyers and brands, both incumbent and direct-to-consumer. The first phase of IAB’s buy-side survey was fielded March 18-24.