Media firms say advertising revenues starting to pick up again

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Daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) is one of several media outlets in Ekspress Grupp's portfolio. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

After taking a major hit in 2020, internet and television advertising is showing signs of recovery, though the case is not the same so much for print media, leading media firms say.

Mari-Liis Rüütsalu, CEO of Ekspress Grupp, which operates the Delfi portal as well as daily Eesti Päevaleht and weeklies Eesti Ekspress and Maaleht, told ERR that things were: "Going very well. After last year's big scare, online advertising has actually grown strongly. And this is the case in all the countries [Ekspress Grupp operates in] - in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania."

The group will announced its latest financials to the stock market at the end of this month, meaning it cannot reveal more at this stage on how the second quarter went, she said, though was able to state that: "Among many other media types, digital media has gained even more momentum. If we take the volume of the Baltic advertising market, this has not grown significantly. However, more money has definitely flowed into digital channels, than from other channels."

Online adsales fell sharply in early stages of pandemic, only to recover

While Estonia saw the largest fall in online adsales of all three Baltic States during the early stages of the pandemic, local advertisers had closed the gap somewhat on the tech giants.

The Ekspress Grupp reported it had achieved overall sales of pre-pandemic levels last fall.

Print media on the other hand had been in bad shape, due in part to delivery costs, prior to the pandemic in any case.

The coronavirus-hit year of 2020 saw the advertising market contract by almost 20 percent, and while recovery has been experienced since then, Meelis Järvela, head of media and advertising firm Inspired Universal McCann, says he does not see any major changes in the advertising market, and that caution should be the order of the day.

Any recovery can look good when baseline is low

Järvela said: "Go ask the print media how well they are doing. They are not doing so well. Then ask the television channels if they have fulfilled their business goals, their budgets."

As to further recovery, Järvela said that: "This is a question of interpretation. I can tell you here what happened in the previous crisis. In the second year [after the crisis hit], [business daily] Äripäev said that this year we will make 10 percent more. But if you consider that in the pervious year it fell from 100 million to 30 million – at that time Kroons – and that we would make 33 million the next year, on the one hand it might seem great we are doing 10 percent better, but on the other hand, that is still a deficit of 67 million [on the pre-crisis figure]".

Facebook, Google and other advertisers from outside Estonia were the only ones who managed to boost their turnover in the relevant area in 2020.

2021 better than 2020

Market research firm Kantar Emor compiles a detailed survey of Estonia's advertising market and found that domestic advertising fell 17 percent last year.

As to 2021 Margo Veskimägi, head of the firm's Baltic region, said that the plan is to build up a more detailed picture of the first half of the year in the coming weeks.

While Ekspress Grupp, which also operates in Latvia and Lithuania, said that its turnover fell slightly on year to Q1 2021, adsales were buoyant.

Postimees Grupp, which owns the daily of the same name, along with its regional variants, as well as TV channel Kanal 2 and Kuku Raadio, reported the same, with CEO Andrus Raudsalu saying that there is: "Still work to be done; there will be no door-to-window advertising. Let's say it's such a normal good year, of course better than last year."

Adsales fell 20 percent last year, but rose 30 percent in the first half of this year, he said.

Restrictions had their effect on what type of product or service was being advertised

Meanwhile, Mari-Liis Rüütsalu at Ekspress Grupp said that it is not yet known how much advertising money will flow from Estonia to the pockets of U.S. advertising giants like Facebook and Google, though figures for Latvia are available, she said, putting the foreign adverstising sellers at €260 million per annum, compared with €80 million for domestic advertisers.

Andrus Raudsalu said TV advertising had been doing very well, but at the same time print was not completely out of the window.

At the same time, the types of advertising often reflect the current state of play with the pandemic and its restrictions, he said. "Accommodation services have not yet been observed to have returned, but events are back, which is also logical."

Ekspress Group is also seeing a boon in advertising from event organizers, with dozens appearing per weekend, Mari-Liis Rüütsalu said, though in terms of turnover, e-commerce is far more significant, 

On the other hand, concrete nuts-and-bolts sellers such as car retailers have seen the opposite situation, and have pulled ads, mainly due to a lack of supply of new cars, she said. 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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