The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak dragged digital budgets into decline for the first time ever in April 2020, according to data from WARC's latest Global Marketing Index (GMI).

Developed by WARC, the GMI is a monthly indicator of the state of the global marketing industry based on current conditions among practitioners. An index value of 50.0 indicates no change, below 50.0 indicates decline and above 50.0 indicates growth.

Digital (excluding mobile) recorded an index value of 42.6 in April, a steep change from the growth seen in March (53.9). Mobile marketing budgets also reached a new low, dropping to 42.2 from 55.2 in March. Both Alphabet and Facebook saw advertising revenue growth slow significantly in Q1 2020 and digital advertising beyond this duopoly struggles to attract new investment.

Traditional budgets have also fallen further into contraction after seeing continued decline throughout 2020. Out-of-home saw a particularly steep drop in April, from 37.9 in March to 25.1.

Overall, global marketing budgets fell to their lowest level in the GMI's eight year history in April. The drop to just 24.9 is down from the previous low of 38.8 seen in March 2020. All six media and budgets in Europe, APAC and the Americas fell to their lowest level in April.

The GMI also found that staffing levels fell into their steepest decline ever in April, true across all regions and particularly for Asia Pacific and the Americas.

This drop in marketing budgets has increased inventory and caused a steep drop in media costs. Amid competition in the C-suite, marketers could leverage cheaper media to build brand saliency and ultimately sales. This can help build market share as competitors 'go dark'. For brands that can't meet consumer demand at the moment, a focus on brand purpose may be more appropriate.

The Global Marketing Index provides a unique monthly indicator of the state of the global marketing industry, by tracking current conditions among practitioners. The global panel consists of experienced executives working for brand owners, media owners, creative and media agencies and other organisations serving the marketing industry.

If you currently work for a brand owner, media owner, creative or media agency – or any other organisation serving the marketing industry – then we want you to take part in our panel. The full report is shared with participants.

Marketing in the COVID-19 crisis

This article is part of a special WARC Snapshot focused on enabling brand marketers to re-strategise amid the unprecedented disruption caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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