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Jamaica’s Ad Spend during the COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic, though a very tragic occurrence in human history, has assured one thing. Humans are paying more attention to the news. News updates throughout the day are overshadowing celebrity scandals, witty memes and Trump propaganda. It is an unprecedented time for the 21st century which has notably devalued the importance of hard news.

In conversation with 14 Jamaican marketing executives about media spend during COVID-19, some interesting trends were highlighted for the months between March and May 2020. Print seems the area most affected as advertising budgets were streamlined towards E-Paper, T.V., Radio and Social Media. Jamaican COVID-19 ad spend observed three main strategies; (a) rapid decrease in print ad spend, (b) increase in online ad spend, and (c) increase in radio and TV ad spend.


Given that the pandemic called for social distancing, many consumers were hesitant to utilise the medium and leave themselves open to infection. Marketeers were aware of this fact and turned their attention to other sources which would maintain the visibility of their brands. E-Paper seemed the best solution. This would allow brand visibility with core consumer groups who prefer reading their news in a “conventional” format. Additionally, it offered brands the ability to focus on Gen Z and the younger Gen Y group who are most certainly online. Execs are assured the attention of all consumer groups via E-Paper as updates on the Coronavirus is presently the most sought-after information online.

In a survey with 100 Jamaicans, 81% confessed that they were most attentive to news about COVID-19 locally and internationally. While, 11% were interested in saving opportunities, 2% investment opportunities and 4% changes to the economy. The figure below highlights the many sources used to keep the 81% updated on news of the pandemic.


It is not surprising that marketing execs spent more on online ads progressively during the pandemic. Deolitte Insights have noted that these new digital marketing trends will remain true post COVID-19 as brands are in favour of finding innovative and cost-effective ways of strengthening their social presence. The health crisis has simply forced brands to accelerate their long-term goals.

This spend is not just limited to E-papers but digital tactics like web banners and social media ads which have largely been accessed through Google Search and Display. Google Ads have allowed execs to fine-tune their methods for predicting where ideal consumers are and measuring the impact for their calls-to-action. Most importantly, ad executives noted that with a decrease in the ad spend budget for OOH and Print, online ad spend seems more reliable because execs can direct conversions and justify their PPC efforts.

Subsequently, advertisers have invested in social media ads, particularly on Instagram and YouTube. The number of hours spent consuming content on TV and YouTube by Jamaicans were very closely matched in our survey of 100 consumers.

100 Jamaican Consumers


Consumption by hours


The biggest change in the ad terrain is the use of OOH advertising (OOH). With social distancing and a quarantine in effect throughout the last three months, many doubted the impact of this resource. Some OOH suppliers, understanding the hesitation of marketeers, were open to offering competitive packages which would allow for a 2-3-month deferment of payment. This proved an unsuccessful incentive for many brands. It begs the question, what place does OOH have in the future of Jamaican advertising? It is obvious that OOH is still important for brands to remain visible to their consumers, especially post COVID-19. However, it may mean that OOH should be sold as a packaged deal with other media resources for brands to be swayed by the expense.


Like crises in the 20th century, TV and radio maintained their place of prominence for surveying and disseminating news during the present health crisis. Advertisers are quite aware that news updates are of interest to their consumers and have been targeting the time period around news for their ads. It is a solid strategy as they are assured a large audience. TV remained a key source of news and entertainment during the stay-at-home order, despite the various online resources open to the public. As highlighted above, TV matched YouTube’s relevance to public entertainment.

100 Jamaican Consumers


Consumption by hours


The most interesting data to note was how audiences consumed radio. Radio is a dependable source of information for audiences and a low-cost media spend with effective reach for advertisers. Media-buy expert, Charmaine Smith at The LAB, explained that “60% of the Jamaican radio audience derives from the lower socio-economic class, thus this medium is quite effective in connecting with certain target groups.”

However, the Jamaican consumers surveyed could not succinctly articulate the number of hours of radio consumed or clearly itemize their programs of interest. So why then were the 14 ad execs adamant about their use of radio during the COVID-19 crisis? Advertisers have confirmed that their use of radio has propelled their brand’s campaign exponentially during the crisis.

From the data, we can hypothesize that Jamaican consumers are unaware of the extent of their radio consumption. It has become the backing-track to their everyday activities. So much so, that it does not seem to be a conscious choice like viewing a YouTube tutorial or watching an Instagram Live. This is a powerful insight for brands who are competing to promote messages of public safety, with their products, and services. The Jamaican instinct to cleave to radio is driven by a need for constant news updates about the virus and the uncertain economic climate. Radio offers accessibility to information and a dependable resource to manage COVID-19 anxieties throughout the day which is unmatched by the other media.

For more information on Jamaican marketing techniques check out our upcoming blog posts, PARTY LIKE IT’S COVID-19! and Jamaican Post COVID Omni-Channel Marketing Techniques.


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