The online media institutions, like TV, are feeling the impact of the armed conflict in Ukraine, where several companies have ceased to place advertising in the press. Under such conditions, the representatives of several news portals are hoping for the support of readers and external donors to continue their activities.
For some media managers, the impact of the war and the market reaction today are similar to the situation at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. “The distinction is that in March 2020, when the pandemic started, the companies in the market did not know how to react, but now the brands have reacted naturally – they have stopped their promotion campaigns at a time when a drama is happening at the border of Moldova. Banner campaigns, commercial placements were stopped. In the meantime, we have also stopped making offers. In practical terms, we no longer have the monthly income of around EUR 12,000 that we used to generate from advertising, which provided half of our operational budget,” explains Irina Ghelbur, director of Interakt Media, company owning the Agora.md portal.
What has the team she leads done? It stopped the launch of previously developed campaigns such as the Dragobete campaign, a March 8 campaign and customized offers to various brands; directed the effort of the commercial department (4 people) to create a new page – Crisis FAQ and to distribute the content created by the editorial staff, now at double volumes. “What I hope to achieve in the next period is to convince the readers about the importance of supporting a media institution in a crisis context – in fact, we have about ten new subscribers just in the last few days – and to make sure we get emergency assistance
with the help of international organizations and grants”, comes to the conclusion Irina Ghelbur.
PLANS GONE AWRY
The manager of the Diez.md portal, Alina Girnet, reveals that the war found the team engaged in organizing a series of events dedicated to the educational system in Moldova, adding that it is one of the author’s projects, carried out jointly with their commercial partners. Therefore, they had to suspend the initiative.
Alina Girnet says she was sure about the reaction of customers – to stop the planned promotions for the time being. “What is more, we found ourselves in the position of recommending them to do so, given the total change in the team’s focus on news about the war and the refugee crisis in the country, even though about 90% of Diez’ revenue comes from commercial activity. We have been working hard on this kind of sustainability, trying to reduce our reliance on grants. But now, we are in a situation where the concern for sustainability is replaced by concern for survival”, she says.
The Diez.md representative estimates that even in a positive scenario, if the war ends soon, “the effects on the online advertising market will be felt for a noticeably period of time”. “But, at the same time, the importance of independent media sources in a country continually affected by propaganda and fake news, even more so in such close proximity to the scene of war, has never been greater”, notes Alina Girnet.
She points out that, even under the existing conditions, the decision has been taken not to reduce reporters’ salaries for the time being, “given that the team is working much harder during this period, going through exhaustion and continuous stress”. “What we are doing now is talking to our partners, both in Moldova and abroad, explaining the situation we are in, hoping they can help us identify emergency resources to support the journalists”, concludes Alina Girnet.
“EITHER PANDEMIC OR WAR”
Some representatives of the local press say they have not yet felt much change in the behavior of advertising providers, “but we expect it to get worse. January and February are not particularly good months. So far, we have not yet seen any refusals from companies in Chisinau for advertising. (…) In our case, it is either Covid or war. Only problems”, according to the director of the newspaper and portal SP Balti, Veaceslav Perunov.
“People and advertising providers are afraid and confused. We earned a little on March 8, with small business advertising on Instagram, but it is not much, just some small money”, he adds and hopes that things will get better towards summer.
Representatives of some TV stations also have previously stated that several companies have withdrawn or suspended advertising both on their small screens and on their official websites. For example, the representatives of Pro TV Chisinau note “a sudden decrease in the number of orders for advertising placement both on Pro TV and on the news portal Protv.md”.
WHAT ADVERTISING SPECIALISTS DREAM OF
The executive director of the Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAM), Galina Zablovscaia, says that the main reason concerning the decrease of advertising would be the stop or change of logistics of supplying goods from the East. “I think that under the political aspect, in fact, there is a real problem with the supply of goods that currently exists. For example, agricultural equipment that used to come to us from Belarus now has to be brought through Europe. Previously they used to come directly through Ukraine, but now it is very complicated to do that. The problem also concerns the import of spare parts etc. To make advertising of what you cannot bring in is absurd. That is why I think the main cause is logistics”, said Galina Zablovscaia.
She pointed out that in the Republic of Moldova the biggest advertising suppliers are representatives of the pharmaceutical field, who have not yet given up advertising. “It is such an understanding that if the pharmaceutical field holds leading positions in advertising, this speaks to us about the level of wealth of the country. I mean, people, excuse my direct expression, and only have money for medicines. I have been in advertising for 30 years in our country and I dream of that moment when we advertise yachts, diamonds, flights on the
moon, specifically in our country, but we advertise warehouses, unsecured emergency loans and objects of necessities. Travel to other countries and see the advertising block and what people there have money for”, added Zablovscaia.
In this context, she referred to research data showing that TV viewership has increased, including in the entertainment segment, because people want to relax and detach themselves from the avalanche of negative news. “Yes, in the pandemic the number of Internet users has increased. However, their numbers do not outnumber the TV audience. We can talk about some age groups, but TV prevails,” commented Galina Zablovscaia.
The AAAM representative also noted that the purchasing power of citizens is decreasing and thus the content of advertisements will most likely not change. “Thus the interest of large advertising providers is decreasing. There is no point in advertising expensive cars in our country, for example, because people do not have the money for it”, she said.
According to her, the radios maintain their audience without changes. Galina Zablovscaia does not exclude that advertising budgets will be restructured between channels and sales houses in the future. She noted that the public TV channel Moldova 1 has every chance to gain significant ground in the advertising market due to the best coverage from a technical point of view, but the provider should increase the quality of the broadcast content.