New data from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) reveals four out of five multinationals (81%) are putting planned ad campaigns on hold because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

But the same number they say that, in the meantime, they are developing new marketing messages relevant to the crisis.

A third, or 34%, of brands say they are planning short campaign deferments of one or two months, 28% have put back plans for a whole quarter, and 13% say they will wait six months before taking campaigns back to market.

Meanwhile, 79% of brands questioned by the WFA said they were creating new messages that responded directly to the effects of the virus pandemic on those using their products and services. Half of brands said they had already started running relevant messages or will go live imminently, and 29% more said they would have new content soon.

The switch, however, represents less spending, with a cut of annual marketing budgets reported by 57%, the WFA says. Another 32% said their spend would remain the same as the previous year.

The findings are based on a survey of the world’s largest advertisers – 32 WFA members who together account for marketing spending of almost $60 billion across 10 industry sectors.

Separately, the WFA surveyed 58 media leaders during a member webinar and found respondents, on average, expected media budget cuts of 23%, with 21% forecasting cuts of 40% or more.

Some 80% said they had already “provided guidance to industry partners” about the fall in spending and how they planned to operate in the short-term.

The WFA says that anecdotally there was a trend towards “zero-based thinking”, and members seeking ways to be useful to their people, customers and partners in the short-term, while planning effectively for longer term.

Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA, believes this re-evaluation is significant. “Despite the huge constraints on our members’ businesses, I believe we are witnessing brands mobilising with empathy and utility on a scale hitherto unseen.

“Brands around the world are adopting very human, often brave approaches to supporting society at a time of dire need. Critically, many are equally showing solidarity to their agencies and partners, understanding that their supply chains need their support now more than ever,” he said.

Sourced from WFA