The 2020 gross advertising pressure figures for Switzerland are now available. At CHF 499 million, advertising pressure in December narrowly missed hitting the 500-million mark and was down just 3.1% on the December 2019 figure.
Thus, advertising pressure in the Swiss market for 2020 as a whole settled at CHF 5.2 billion gross. This corresponds to a drop of around 835 million or 14%. The initial forecasts after the first lockdown in spring offered an even gloomier outlook for the future of the Swiss advertising market.
The three months from March through May 2020 lagged more than 30% behind the 2019 values and accounted for some 500 million of the advertising pressure lost in 2020 – the year of coronavirus. The steepest percentage decrease occurred in the month of April (−40%). In March, it was −33%.
The situation improved slightly in the subsequent months. The initial uncertainty was overcome, processes and content were adapted and campaigns were launched, with the result that the decrease hovered at around 10% of the previous year’s value. In particular, the top 20 advertisers, which are responsible for around 25% of the total advertising pressure (around 30,000 active advertisers in 2020), released the handbrake in June and began pressing down on the gas instead, thus mitigating the overall decline. In June, July and August – traditionally the summer slow period in the advertising sector – they managed to increase their advertising pressure by 12% compared with 2019. They maintained this pressure throughout the fall and even recorded a plus of 22% in the final month of the year.
Out-of-home advertising also proved exceptionally crisis-proof. Following a belated slump in April, by June this media group was hovering just below the previous year’s level and was the only one to register substantial growth over the summer and into the fall (+8% to +26%).
Development of Advertising Pressure as per December 2020 in million francs (gross)
Advertising pressure increased in just 3 out of 21 sectors compared with the previous year: retail, which generated by far the highest advertising pressure of 2020 (+9.5%); initiatives and campaigns, which was bolstered by the Federal Office of Public Health’s coronavirus campaign and various referenda (+10.3%); and, finally, cleaning (+7.1%). However, a look beneath the surface of the individual product groups is even more revealing. Of 120 product groups, advertising pressure went up in around a third compared with the previous year – by more than 5%, even, in around 20% of them. These include, among others, TV and home entertainment, internet, processed foodstuffs, savings and investment products, gardening, tobacco products image advertising, media image advertising, spirits, hair removal and shaving products, and household appliances.
The list of losers in 2020 is lamentably long. Advertising pressure went down by double digits in more than half of all sectors. Beverages, food, finance, construction, industry, furnishings, cosmetics and toiletries, and digital and household goods got off comparatively lightly.
The worst-hit sectors were events (−60.9%), followed by transportation services (−50.7%), then leisure, gastronomy and tourism (-31.1%). And there is little hope for improvement, when the data for December and the ongoing second lockdown are taken into account.
Sectors that rallied in December, recording an increase that month compared with 2020 as a whole, were: tobacco products (+56.7% vs −28%), personal care (+4.2% vs −17.3%), beverages (+49.9% vs −8.5%), food (+7.4% vs −7.4%), construction, industry, furnishings (+13% vs −6.8%), cosmetics and toiletries (+30.9% vs −6.3%) and digital and household goods (+14.8% vs −3.4%). Whether or not this development can be sustained in light of the second lockdown remains to be seen.
Taking their places on the podium as the strongest advertisers – both for 2020 as a whole and the month of December – were Coop, Migros and Procter & Gamble. Just three companies that didn’t make it into the overall top 10 for the year featured in the December ranking: Henkel, Unilever and Emmi. Making way for them were retailers Lidl and Denner, along with Reckitt Benckiser, all of which dropped out of the top 10 for the last month of the year.
The Federal Office of Public Health’s coronavirus campaign was the most advertised product in the Swiss advertising market, both in the current month and throughout the year as a whole. Looking at the rest of the top 10 products in 2020, it’s clear they come from a range of different sectors. Nevertheless, they have two things in common. On the one hand, they reflect people’s basic needs, particularly as manifested in times of crisis: food, love, financial security, hygiene. On the other, they reveal which business and distribution channels are crisis-proof.
The top advertisers and most widely advertised products and services (excluding range and image advertising)
Media Mix in December and 2020 as a whole
All media groups lost advertising pressure in 2020. In terms of percentage declines, however, they differed considerably. Cinema advertising, at times nonexistent, decreased by 73% in 2020. At the other end of the scale, out-of-home advertising went down by just 7%.
TV advertising was the biggest generator of advertising pressure in the Swiss market in 2020. In December, TV advertising pressure even exceeded the previous year’s figure by +7%. Like print and radio, however, TV achieved its strongest performance in November – the best month overall in terms of advertising pressure. On average, TV recorded a decrease of 14% for the year as a whole. Print advertising took the runner-up spot in the media mix, followed by internet, out-of-home, radio and cinema. What stands out in December is the shift between TV and out-of-home: where TV forged ahead, out-of-home lost its share.
2020 will go down in history as an unforgettable year – or rather, “a year to forget.” Nationwide lockdowns, travel bans, working from home, quarantine, constant package deliveries and general uncertainty. People were forced to rethink things and had to change their usual habits. We’re now spending more time within our own four walls and adapting our consumption habits accordingly.
As a driver of digital transformation, COVID-19 has also pushed the way we work further into the virtual domain. The main advertisers in Switzerland had to adapt their activities to the new reality in 2020, too. The initial shock-induced paralysis in spring meant budgets that had already been planned had to be revised downward, although a slight recovery could be observed over the summer. In 2021, it will become apparent which changes are here to stay and what effect the losses experienced in the worst-hit sectors will have on advertising budget planning.