Q3-Q4 2020 Landscape
By Team Arm Candy

July 24, 2020

By Team Arm Candy

July 24, 2020

The last quarters of the year, Q4 in particular, always presents specific caveats when considering budgets and channels for a media plan, as advertisers of all industries ramp up media spends with the holiday season. 2020 is a unique year, as we have additional situations to consider—the 2020 Presidential Election, boycotts and the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

The following are topics we should focus on as we consider finalizing media plans for the 2020 Holiday season.

Political Spending

We expect to see $6.7B spent in the political arena during the 2020 cycle. With Election Day taking place on November 3, the months leading up to this day will see a large increase in spend. 

The channels supporting political campaigns are continually leaning digital, and especially Social:

  • 53% of spending allocation was utilized for digital
  • 47% of spending was utilized for traditional
  • Biden has spent 60% of his budget on digital
  • Trump has spent 48% of his budget in digital allocating it to search and social

Even with the growing trend in digital, you can expect Broadcast to retain a large portion of the spends. $4.4B will come on traditional media (broadcast television, cable, and radio). 

The top markets we expect to be impacted are shown in the map below.

Source: Advertising Analytics

Brands Are Holding Budgets for Q4

Due to COVID-19,  budgets have been halted and/or heavily adjusted, with many advertisers now planning spends on a month to month basis. 

  • 70% of buyers quickly adjusted or paused their planned ad spend between March–June
  • Digital ad spend is down 33%
  • Traditional media is down 39%

Fortunately for many advertisers, these budgets didn’t necessarily disappear. Many are looking for the right time to use them—and Q3/Q4 is the season in which many people have set their eyes on. 

Although we don’t exactly know where the chips will fall, it’s a safe assumption that there are turbulent waters ahead and thus you should plan budgets in a way that allows you to diversity media strategies, allowing for quick and seamless transitions into the most opportunistic channels based on the events that are yet to unfold. 

Source: IAB

Typical Q4 Seasonality

Q4 has been the most-favored advertising season for over the last decade—and this year is no different. The difference is that 2020 has its own unique set of circumstances creating a more turbulent media landscape, so it’ll be difficult to predict exactly how the Holiday season will unfold. 

In general, these channels typically see the largest increase in costs, due to the holiday season:

Traditional TV (Broadcast, Network, Local)—Regardless of how you buy traditional TV placements, it can be assumed that Q4 rates are much higher than Q1, Q2 and Q3. We are seeing this will hold true in 2020. 

Radio—Similar to Television, the Q4 season is a busy scene for terrestrial radio and thus rates typically see a spike. We’ve noticed these spikes in radio to be less steep than TV, and since many radio companies such as Entercom, iHeart, etc. are all struggling, it’s possible they will be more compelled to deliver more friendly rates to attract advertisers. 

Facebook / Instagram—Auction-based platforms see their costs increase as more advertisers spend more money. This platform, due to it’s large demand has seen CPMs increase from 30% to 200% in Q4 compared to the same execution in previous quarters.  

The blessing of programmatic technology, and the continued increase in avails due to rapidly changing consumer behavior, is that CPM fluctuations are more manageable and you’re able to deliver relatively steady CPMs across CTV, Display, Mobile—you name it—quarter after quarter, making it a great place to invest your media budget during this time period. 

Source: Statista

Facebook Ad Boycotts

In addition, dozens of the largest advertisers have decided to reallocate their Facebook budgets elsewhere. This has only amounted to around a 5% loss of ad revenue, but it’s possible the boycott continues to pick up steam. 

DTC brands have indicated they’re too reliant on Facebook to pull dollars, though not all, brands who are spending more awareness-driven strategies have more flexibility to pursue platforms that are able to expand their audiences and deliver against their higher funnel KPIs. 

The good news for advertisers that remain on Facebook is that as demand decreases, your dollar goes further on the platform. As brands are thinking twice about allocating budgets on Facebook, opportunities may allow e-commerce and performance-based campaigns to see less of an impact on their CPMs and results than they typically do during the holiday season. 

Source: NY Times, Forbes, Digiday

Dates to Remember

Q4 holds three major online shopping events in 2020:

  • Amazon Prime Day – Expected Oct. 5
  • Black Friday – November 27
  • Cyber Monday – November 30

More now than ever, brick-and-mortar locations don’t have any choice but to get with the digital program. It’s possible, the majority of people will not feel safe shopping in a retail environment, so we’d expect these dates to surpass any previous sales records. 

In addition, companies have begun opting out of the Holiday season and this shake up will continue to impress the opportunity for single-day sales promotion events. Companies that have never participated in these types of events may decide to get involved. 

COVID-19 Trends

The only thing that has remained consistent since the beginning of COVID-19 is the indifference on how to go about our lives. We’ve seen ebbs and flows in consumer comfortability, but unfortunately the data suggests—as do many revered scientists—that we will see a continued disruption in our normal lives as a result of this pandemic. The only thing that is certain, is uncertainty, which is something you can and should, plan against. 

How do we navigate this media landscape?

The ambiguity of what is likely to happen across media channels creates a need for the following considerations:

Diversified media strategies

With the unpredictability of where advertisers are going to decide to run campaigns in Q4, it’s important to have a diversified channel mix in all media plans. Don’t put all your eggs in the Facebook and Google basket. As rates increase, performance will decrease, and channel diversity will help ensure you don’t get caught without a strategy to pivot to based on whatever happens next.

Ability to quickly pivot between each delivery system

As changes can quickly occur to rates or avails in channels, the ability to flex budget into more efficient or better-performing channels is crucial. Those who are able to manage more with fewer people/teams, will see benefits in the ability to make decisions based on the rapidly evolving environment we find ourselves in. 

Budget shifts are often seen between digital channels, although traditional buy cancelation terms have been loosened to help accommodate this as well. Having fewer partners in the mix will allow you to better shift dollars, more quickly, driving much larger returns on your investments. 


Paralysis is currently the death of an efficient media plan and this is most true in Q4. The longer decisions take to evaluate media strategies, the higher the rates will climb. Finalize contractual agreements as soon as possible to secure better inventory and rates. The sooner you get in, the more you will get out. And take deliberate action once a campaign is off the ground to drive better performance. 

Written By Team Arm Candy

A team with one purpose and one purpose only, to help you look good!

Written By Team Arm Candy

A team with one purpose and one purpose only, to help you look good!