In this presentation, Paul Donato, CRO of the ARF, covered findings from the seminal year of the “What Brands Did in 2020” (Brands 2020) project. This project will go on for at least the next two years or until the effects of 2020 are no longer felt. ARF researchers in the Brands 2020 study used IRI and NCS data, Kantar Ad Insights, NCS sales and Nielsen Ad Intel data, between 2017 and 2021. The IRI data was a very deep dive but across three categories: salty snacks, pasta sauce and personal care products. The NCS data was shallower but across 10 broad categories. Using all these data, ARF researchers looked at share of media, media spend and share of market before and after March 2020 (Covid) and before and after March of 2021 (start of inflation).
Several previous studies agree that decreasing advertising during a recession can hurt sales during and after the period of economic contraction, whereas increasing advertising can increase sales, market share and earnings. An IPA study from the UK during the 2008 recession found that those that “went dark” tended to lose excess share of voice, the impact of which could take five years to recover. This UK study also showed a linear relationship between both ROI and an uplift in revenue as a function of advertising during a recession. The Brands 2020 study found more nuanced findings.