The ongoing coronavirus threat has impacted countless industries — some obvious, others unexpected. Within the latter group sits digital marketing, one of the most important industries today for product- and service-based distribution. As the virus’s devastating potential is rooted in physical, biological implications, it is easy to overlook its impact on an industry centered around digital engagement. That said, if left unchecked, the virus could at least temporarily redefine consumer habits and alter the environment in which marketers operate. 

The “ghost town” effect

As the coronavirus spreads, a variety of cities — from Wuhan to Seattle — have been rendered “ghost towns” amidst declarations of emergency, their streets eerily deserted. This disturbing effect is symptomatic of a critical shift in the digital marketing sector: a spike in online shopping and general web activity due to remote isolation. It has already been suggested that, should the virus continue to spread in this manner, even more people will soon find themselves in this position, significantly changing how companies target audiences and address popular online outlets, from mobile gaming to streaming services. 

Ad spending flux

Currently, global ad spending is expected to fall if the coronavirus continues to spread, and many companies are preparing for general budgetary disruption nonetheless. Much of this impact will hinge on collective containment to fight the virus, which, as illustrated in the previous section, already has multifaceted implications with continued uncertainty in the future . While areas like mobile gaming and online shopping outlets see upticks in ad spending, other sectors could see spending dwindle. 

For now, it is hard for industry experts to project a steadfast outcome, leaving many bracing for a state of flux. However, if the virus is contained in the foreseeable future, many displaced ad-based budgets can simply be reallocated to later in the year. 

Disruption to marketing events

Perhaps one of the most noticeable impacts of the coronavirus has been the widespread cancellation of large scale events, from music festivals to film conventions — even the 2020 Olympic games are at risk; for digital marketers, this means a severe alteration to annual marketing conferences, meetings, and other similar events aimed at current industry activity and collective education for the future. While this impact is far less detrimental in the foreground, it could potentially impede the industry’s progress at a pivotal time for advancement and innovation.