Walmart has figured out a way to get its goods in front of shoppers – even if the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are keeping them from visiting its stores.
As part of an advertising agreement struck with Discovery, the large retailer will have products and ad messages woven into and around a new HGTV series that has homeowners record themselves as they make over a room with the help of designers stationed remotely. The “self shot” series, “Design At Your Door,” debuts Thursday at 9 p.m. eastern.
Discovery has launched several so-called “quarantine” concepts featuring Guy Fieri or Amy Schumer with quick-turnaround deadlines to help fill its programming grid as the pandemic has forced normal production to cease. But the fast pivot has spurred the company’s ad-sales teams to work even faster to line up Madison Avenue support.
“Normally, we’d have 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 weeks, but not here,” says Greg Regis, executive vice president of advertising sales and partnerships at Discovery, in an interview. “This was all by the seat of our pants.”
TV networks have faced severe headwinds in recent weeks, with many advertisers prompted by the effects of the pandemic to claw back advertising commitments or delay agreed-upon campaigns. The total number of 30-second spots aired on the nation’s 25 biggest TV networks was off 18% for the last week in May, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending, with nearly all ads from movie studios and travel marketers off the air. Ads from retailers have started to show improvement. The number of retail spots was off 12% in the last week of May, compared with a dip of 47% in early April.
The Walmart pact shows that advertisers will spend even in a difficult time – if they can find something that they think will generate audience. Walmart has long spent on Discovery, says Regis, but this deal “was all incremental” to any previous agreements the two parties had.
Under the agreement, products from Walmart’s line of home goods will be used during the course of the eight-episode series, which will feature designers such as David Bromstad, Tiffany Brooks, Tamara Day, Dave and Jenny Marrs, Maureen McCormick, Grace Mitchell, Eve Plumb, Orlando Soria and Alison Victoria. Discovery will run social videos that show before-and-after makeovers and product highlights. HGTV.com will carry “shoppable” articles and Walmart.com will highlight products utilized in the series. Walmart will also run an ad that shows viewers how to do home improvement projects with their families.
Madison Avenue has been paring back TV spend, with ad dollars allocated to national TV down nearly 27%, according to Standard Media Index. And yet, advertisers have rushed to TV properties in recent weeks they believed would woo likely customers. ESPN drew 100 advertisers to its telecast of the NFL Draft in that month, while WarnerMedia sold out its commercial inventory for its recent broadcast of a golf match between Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Walmart has cut spending as well. In the first quarter, the retailer reduced the amount of money it puts into TV advertising by nearly 15%, according to Kantar, and trimmed by about 25% its overall spending on traditional media. Walmart spent around $63 million on TV ads in the first quarter of 2020, says Kantar, compared with around $73.9 million in the year-earlier period.
While consumers are more cautious, Walmart has remained an important destination. The retailer said first quarter revenue grew by 8.6% and noted a 74% jump in e-commerce sales, as consumers relied on web-based activity to get goods to their houses, but also bought more when they did make physical trips to the store.
“We felt there was a great opportunity to show how people could shop from home, safely and contact-free, without having to compromise on price, style and assortment,” says Jill Toscano, Walmart’s vice president of media, responding to questions via email. And while consumers may not want to visit stories in person, she acknowledges, they may be persuaded “to easily access Walmart’s stylish products at everyday low prices online from the comfort of their own homes.”