During the pandemic, advertising sales fell sharply worldwide. But figures from Switzerland prove it: advertising on paper – especially direct marketing – was not hit that hard by the decline. On the contrary: printed advertising even celebrated a small renaissance. Reasons for this include screen fatigue among advertisers and the battered credibility of social media.
According to the recently published figures of the Swiss Advertising Statistics Foundation, net advertising sales in Switzerland fell by no less than 16.2 percent – from 4455 to 3732 million Swiss francs – in the corona year 2020. However, one figure stands out among all the minus figures: At 6.7 percent, the decline in direct advertising is relatively moderate and significantly lower than, for example, the cinema industry (-70.6 percent), radio (-26.7 percent), the press (-21.3 percent) or television (-12.5 percent). In other words, relative to other media genres, direct mail made gains during the pandemic.
Physical mail as a welcome change
These figures are backed up by a representative study on advertising impact in times of corona conducted by the market research institute intervista AG on behalf of Swiss Post. “Which advertising channels have the strongest impact in lives influenced by corona?” the researchers wanted to know. To this end, they surveyed more than 1,000 people in German-speaking Switzerland in February 2021 and came to an interesting conclusion. Corona did indeed give digitalization – key words: home office and online meetings – a major boost. At the same time, however, the associated screen fatigue also grew. Physical mail is therefore perceived as a welcome change.
“This is partly because,” the study concludes, “the home, where physical mail is consumed, has become an even more central part of life. Lockdown, home office and social distancing apparently led to an effect of cocooning: people have made themselves comfortable within their own four walls.” Or as Benno Frick, managing director of the Swiss agency network ASW, puts it, “if you sit at a screen all day, you want to leaf through paper in the evening.”
High level of attention for addressed advertising mailings
Unsurprisingly, addressed direct mail is one of the six key findings of the postal study that receives the most attention. 48% of respondents said they pay attention to addressed advertising mail. This is by far the highest value among all media. At the other end of the ranking is advertising on search engines and websites.
“People take a personally addressed advertising mailing in their hand – for example, when it is carried from the mailbox into their home,” says Marianne Binggeli, project manager at intervista AG. “This results in significantly more active touch points than, for example, with e-mail newsletter advertising, which disappears with a click or swipe. In addition, with newsletters, you often only see the headline. With personally addressed direct mail, on the other hand, entire offers, images and further executions are usually visible. That generates attention.”
A second important finding of the study: 19 percent of respondents said that they appreciate reading something on paper more today than before the pandemic. In parallel, the younger generation in particular has become screen-weary. 53 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds perceive this feeling more often. This is significantly higher than among the other age groups.
Marianne Binggeli (Project Manager intervista AG): “People perceive personally addressed commercials more often and more actively, which gives them a greater chance of having an impact.”
Addressed advertising mailings lead most strongly to purchase
A third point of the Swiss Post study is of central importance, especially for advertisers: personally addressed advertising mailings lead most strongly to a purchase. When it came to purchase motivation, respondents were given a choice of seven advertising channels. They were asked to rank the advertising impact – in other words, how strongly they had already been motivated to buy products or services through these advertising channels. 57 percent said they had already made purchases as a result of personally addressed direct mail. This is by far the highest figure in the survey for the effect on purchase intention. In second place – and this is also an encouraging sign for the printing industry – are advertisements in newspapers and magazines with 32 percent.
“People perceive personally addressed advertising mailings more frequently and more actively, which gives them a greater chance of having an effect,” concludes Marianne Binggeli. “In addition, personally addressed direct mail offers very good opportunities to directly encourage purchases – for example, through personalized offers or coupons.”
The battle for potential customers is becoming even more important
This is all the more significant because in times of corona, advertising effectiveness has become an even more important issue for many companies. This is because many companies are taking cost-cutting measures – not least when it comes to the budget for marketing. The effectiveness of advertising in the battle for potential customers is thus becoming even more important. Marketing must achieve a high return on investment.
In this context, two figures from Switzerland from 2019 – the year before the outbreak of the corona pandemic – are interesting. Already then, advertising sales of electronic media declined again by 3.0 percent after two years with a slight upward trend (2017 +0.8 / 2018 +0.3 percent). Meanwhile, advertising sales of other media – which also include addressed and unaddressed direct mail – rose slightly again for the first time after three years with a downward trend (+0.8 percent).
Social media lost extreme credibility
Benno Frick also notes that personally addressed direct mailings have experienced an upswing in the last 16 months. However, he attributes this not only to the undisputed advantages of personally addressed advertising, but also to the weaknesses of the (electronic) competition. “Social media lost extreme credibility during the pandemic. For example, the conspiracy theories spread on social media around the corona issue led to widespread distrust.”
Benno Frick’s assessment regarding online advertising is backed up by an expert assessment of media trust during the corona crisis in Switzerland, which was obtained last year. For this, more than 40 experts from leading media companies and representatives from advertising, media journalism, communication science and corporate communications were surveyed.
According to the survey, 44 percent think that the credibility of social media is declining rather, 7 percent that it is declining strongly. For the nationally broadcasting Swiss Radio and Television Corporation (SRG) – TV/radio/online – as well as for paid newspapers (print and online), on the other hand, the proportion of “tends to decline” is only 4 percent, and for “declines sharply” as low as 0 percent. In contrast, the proportion of “is increasing strongly” is 52 percent for SRG and 22 percent for paid newspapers. The figures for “tends to increase” are 37 and 63 percent respectively. In the case of social media, on the other hand, only 7 percent think that credibility is tending to increase – no one believes that it is increasing strongly.
The conclusion of the Statista Research Department, which conducted the expert assessment: “During the corona crisis, SRG media are gaining trust strongly or rather, according to the assessment of media industry experts. Paid newspapers are also more likely to gain trust, according to the majority of experts surveyed. Social media are more likely to lose trust.”
Benno Frick (CEO of agency network ASW): “Social media lost extreme credibility during the pandemic.”