Market Update 3.16.20: WFH Tips, Macro Issues and Downturn Similarities

March 16, 2020

Out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and clients, the Ciceron offices have moved to a virtual environment for the foreseeable future. For us, there’s a bit of a silver-lining in all of this: our day-to-day work is already largely virtual with all media planning and trading occurring through online platforms like Facebook, Google, The Trade Desk and myriad data providers.

On a personal level, we are testing the bounds of a new working style. In devising our operational model, I wrote and published a piece to LinkedIn that I believe can serve as a template not only for Ciceron but how you may want to work with your teams as well as you potentially move to a remote working environment. Please read and distribute as you wish, provide commentary and your own tips, and learn from others who are entering into these similar but unfamiliar territories. 

Cliff’s Notes version:

  1. All conferencing will be conducted via ZOOM using video rather than audio-only. We need human connection to engage through empathy, understanding, and efficiency!
  2. All meetings will have a specific purpose, an outcome, and a leader whose job is to help drive towards practical decision making.
  3. All meetings must have all accompanying background and documentation made available within the meeting invites to ensure that everyone is able to participate and contribute successfully.
  4. Do NOT forget to laugh, to share, to have concerns, to be vulnerable, to ask tough questions, and to solve problems! Have a virtual happy hour if you must!

We will be evaluating the remote working arrangement for as long as necessary to allow for everyone to remain safe and healthy, and for those who need to get healthy, we will provide all the support we can. 

We can get through this if we do so together!


Out of empathy, you continue to have businesses to run and organizations to grow. You have revenue to make and mouths to feed just like everyone else. I want you to have the information you need that is based in data and facts to make informed and critical decisions about how and where to invest and divest. The following economic insights are what I expect to see based both in the data we have access to and my 25 years of running a digital agency through four separate economic downturns — dot com crash, 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and today. 

At each turn and almost with precision, prices for digital media dropped as supply (advertising inventory) increased. We are already beginning to see these trends in Google search terms and expect a temporary lowering of CPMs across other media as brands get their bearings. We are evaluating Facebook trends as we speak since this is new territory for Facebook since there was no ad platform in 2008. We are working closely with our Facebook contacts as well as reviewing both first- and third-party research data. Essentially, this has become a buyer’s market at this moment. HOWEVER, I believe brands are much more sophisticated now than in previous downturns and will move towards digital-dominant plans more quickly than before. 

For this particular market, we anticipate a near immediate transition from many long-term contracted media buys (insertion orders), Out-of-Home (OOH), and traditional channels into programmatic (biddable) channels that provide the greatest level of flexibility, predictability and measurement. These trends follow all previous trends during previous downturns. The momentous rise of search post-9/11 and the advent of programmatic that was created out of the crisis of the 2008-9 crash both became permanent staples of marketing plans from those points forward. As demand for contracted media lowers, we will see more publishers — including video providers — move more of their inventory into biddable ecosystems. Again, this trend follows past economic realities.

Critically important elements impacting our media landscape are quarantine and self-isolation. In the stock market, companies that actually may thrive during these times are called Stay-at-Home stocks, and cover companies like Amazon, Facebook, gaming companies like ActivisionBlizzard (client), Netflix, and others. All of these companies are going to see significant increases in consumer activity for the coming months, and all (with the exception of Netflix) provide advertising opportunities to reach stay-at-home people. People like most of us. Other channels like Spotify, Nextdoor, Twitch (gaming), TikTok, and a variety of social media platforms will become “always on” for large segments of the general population, and some channels index higher for certain demographics than others. We have the data and research to support these models.

Finally, our very best and hopeful wishes to all of you for your safety and your health, both physical and mental, during these trying times. We are here for you. We care about you. And we want you to be successful. Your account people at Ciceron, our media planners and data analysts, and myself, are all available to provide you with the data and information you need to weather this storm.


Andrew Eklund