The Tokyo Olympics are over. Now skittish advertisers are looking to Beijing. – Business Insider

Hello and welcome back to Insider Advertising, your weekly look at the biggest stories and trends affecting Madison Avenue and beyond. I’m Lara O’Reilly, Insider’s media and advertising editor. If this was forwarded to you, sign up here.

This certainly seems to be the week everyone decided to throw caution to the wind and take some much-needed vacation, if the OOO replies in my inbox are anything to go by. But the advertising news waits for no one, so let’s dive in. Here’s what we’re covering today:


It’s all over now, baby blue

Beijing Olympics 2022

VCG/VCG via Getty Images

The curtains are now drawn on the weirdest-ever Olympics, and the numbers are in. The verdict? It’s not looking great if you’re in linear-TV ad sales.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, NBCUniversal’s coverage of the Tokyo Olympics drew the lowest average primetime audience since NBC began broadcasting the games in 1988. NBC Sports’ chairman, Pete Bevacqua, said the Tokyo Games would still be “very, very profitable” for the company, though The Journal reported that some big advertisers were still owed make-goods because of the ratings shortfall.

Over to Insider’s chief media correspondent, Claire Atkinson, with the latest on those negotiations:

Advertisers are now turning their attention to the Beijing Winter Olympics, which run into NBC’s Super Bowl coverage in February.

One major agency said it’s expecting ratings for the Winter Olympics to be some 30% lower than for the Tokyo Games.

Agencies have voiced concerns that are most likely intended to bring down ad prices. First, marketers are worrying about just how the US-China relationship will affect how their ad buys are viewed. Few want to be seen as cozying up to China.

Others want to know the basics, such as: Will spectators be allowed in to watch Americans compete in events such as the popular figure skating? And some are wondering what the viewer’s appetite will be for more Olympics content just six months after the last games.

For NBC’s part, ratings are all relative. It’ll be kicking off 2022 by showcasing the biggest events on TV, and it can probably call the shots on pricing. One buyer told Insider there were concerns about how to get money down, either in traditional TV or in premium digital streaming services, since most inventory was committed.

One question for the market now: How much is NBCU holding out of sale to return to the market in make-goods next time? A representative for NBCU declined to comment on the record.

If you’re still craving Olympic news:


Let’s get digital, digital. I want to get digital.

With audiences waning on traditional TV, were brands attempting to get in front of people consuming Olympic events and news online and in social apps instead?

Data compiled by the ad-analytics platform Pathmatics for Insider shows how US digital ad budgets for the Tokyo Olympics’ official worldwide sponsors ebbed and flowed. (The data doesn’t include any investments below $500.)

Chart showing official sponsors' estimated US digital ad spend in dollars throughout the Olympics.

Skye Gould/Insider

This chart, which covers estimated investments on display ads and on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, shows how most sponsors ramped up their spend as the Olympics began — then soon ratcheted down their outlay after the closing ceremony. Though as you can see, some larger brands were forking out considerably more than others. Panasonic? Anyone home?!

As to whether the Tokyo Olympics were still a success, given the circumstances, it depends which sponsor you ask.

Long-term Worldwide Olympic Partners “will more than likely dismiss it as being a blip in an otherwise highly successful long-term global marketing strategy,” the sports-marketing consultant Nigel Currie told me.

“Gold Partners,” “Official Partners,” and “Official Supporters” — mostly Japanese companies — will be most disappointed.

“The restrictions that we saw at the Tokyo Games also coupled with the language and writing differences — English along with French are the official languages of the Olympics — will have made getting their name and message across to a wider public very challenging,” Currie added.


I got new rules, I count ’em

Mask temperature check in office

Filadendron/Getty Images

As the Delta coronavirus variant sweeps the US, companies are going back to the drawing board on their original return-to-office plans and, in some cases, making full vaccination a requirement of employment.

I caught up with the major ad holding companies to see where their thinking is at — and whether it had changed from plans they announced earlier in the summer. Here’s a summary of what their spokespeople said:

Dentsu

The US is set to open as planned in September at reduced capacity, while keeping a watch on specific state and local governmental guidance.

“More importantly, we will return to work in a hybrid model, as part of our Future of Work workstream, empowering our people to be purposeful and flexible in their choices for how they want to work,” a Dentsu representative said.

IPG

Most US corporate offices are open for employees who want to come to the office, “following a preapproval process.”

The company is still considering a mid-September “general” return to US offices, though the timing could change.

IPG requires masks to be worn by all employees, visitors, and contractors — regardless of vaccination status — in common areas and when social distancing is not possible. Vaccinations are not mandated for employees, but they are encouraged.

Omnicom

A representative pointed to comments CEO John Wren made on Omnicom’s July earnings call, saying, “We’re starting to bring back the vaccinated people that we have in earnest after Labor Day.”

In May, Wren sent an internal memo announcing its “Five Stages of Returning to the Office” microsite. (Most US cities are currently in stage three, or “soft open.”) Office-safety protocols include temperature screenings, adherence to physical-distancing guidelines, face-covering requirements, and office occupancy limits where recommended. Insider reported in June that Omnicom employees were required to provide proof of vaccination before entering a US office.

Publicis Groupe

US offices have opened for “an optional summer transition.” Employees are required to complete safety training and a daily health questionnaire before entering a building.

Face coverings and social distancing are required in Publicis’ offices for unvaccinated people. The company said it also strongly recommended “masking for all employees in all of our offices, regardless of vaccination status.” A vaccine is not required to enter offices at this time.

Publicis has delayed its formal return to office for now and will revisit the topic in Q4.

WPP

Full office reopening is planned for the fall, though a spokesperson said there were likely to be delays due to the Delta variant.

“Hybrid working plans, including the balance between office and remote working, are being led by our agency networks,” the spokesperson added.


Recommended reading

We’re seeking nominations for the executives leading the marketing tech industry — Insider

The Delta variant is wreaking havoc with back-to-school shopping plans — Wall Street Journal

No, Elon Musk’s SpaceX isn’t beaming ads into space. But there are plans for a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to send up a satellite carrying a pixelated advertisement display screen, which will be filmed and livestreamed on YouTube or Twitch … for some reason — Insider

It’s been a banner year for the golf business — Yahoo Finance

Google said it would block age- and gender-based ad targeting for teens — Insider

A recent Twitch webinar for advertisers shows how the streaming company is playing up how women make up one-third of its audience — Insider

11 behind-the-scenes players leading advertising’s M&A spree — Insider

See you next week – Lara