Where the Germans get information about the war

Düsseldorf Wiring is missing, energy costs are rising: the Russian aggression in Ukraine is affecting production in the local car industry. And this also has a negative impact on their marketing activities, as shown by the data of the market researcher Nielsen, which are available exclusively at Handelsblatt.

Compared to the same month last year, companies’ advertising spending in the automotive sector fell by almost 40% in March. A year-to-year comparison makes sense because companies typically make more ads in the spring than in the winter months, which are characterized by depleted annual budgets and post-Christmas consumer fatigue.

But even compared to February 2022, the advertising budget in the automotive sector has been reduced by one tenth. For classification: In the year before the coronavirus 2019, this number increased by 66 percent between February and March.

Dirk Reinbothe, CEO of Nielsen Germany, says: “Many carmakers are currently unable to deliver their cars on time due to broken supply chains.”

Therefore, they will abstain from car advertising in the short term, which could lead to frustrated customers.

The war is affecting the advertising industry. If the industry recovered after the pandemic earlier this year, the next dive is now imminent. As the financial situation blurs and companies struggle with rising energy and raw material prices, companies are often the first to save on their advertising budgets. Sub-sector advertising costs are affected differently, as Nielsen shows for the first time with representative data.

Correspondingly, commercial companies also place significantly fewer ads – a drop of more than 40%. One reason for this is that retailers do not need to advertise so strongly because customers come on their own to buy flour or oil, for example. This hamster buying phenomenon could already be observed during the coronavirus lockdown.

In sectors such as transport, tourism or the arts and culture, advertising spending has increased compared to the previous year. This can be explained above all by the relaxation of the coronavirus, last year there was no service to apply. But in these areas, advertising budgets have grown faster than before the pandemic, even compared to this February. Obviously, the war did not seem to have any effect on the advertising activities of the industries that live mainly from hobbies and distractions.

TV news benefits more viewers

“Today” benefited from the war. The main news program on ZDF achieved a rating of 18 percent with an average of almost 4.3 million viewers. “Market share is above last year,” says Mainz. In the ZDF multimedia library, “Heute” news reached a new high in March with 500,000 hits a day.

>> Read also: ARD-President in an interview: “It’s time for Germany to get the news channel it deserves”

The first also mentions “increased use” of information broadcasts. Special programs such as “Brennpunkt” with almost six million viewers and a market share of 19% are in greater demand. Private TV also reports more viewers: In March, the Cologne-based NTV news channel achieved the highest ratings since the station was founded in 1992. The N-TV homepage also had more visitors than ever before.

Nielsen data also confirms that as a result of the war, Germans consumed more news, especially television: 47 percent of respondents watched more television news than before to learn about the conflict and its aftermath. Interest in online media increased by 38%. For radio and newspapers, the plus was about 30 percent.

ZDF and RTL report that ratings and ratings are still high in April, but lower than at the start of the war. Such developments are typical: after a while, viewers get used to the situations and are less interested in them.

People rely on traditional media

In times of crisis, people rely heavily on traditional media. Most respondents, 63 percent, rate the quality of information on public television as very good or good. Next are the radio and the print newspapers. Interesting: Their online versions are considered less serious. And in the case of purely online media, only 22 percent of respondents rated the quality of information as good or very good. Even social media platforms are believed to be more serious.


Nielsen CEO Reinbothe says: “Users trust the offers of the traditional media because they assume there is less fake news out there and that the news is better researched.” From the point of view of users on private TV, this is less true. Only half trust private television newscasts. RTL will be reluctant to hear it. The Cologne TV crew has expanded the range of news and is trying to get away from the former image of garbage.

Companies prefer to broadcast on public television

Perception of journalistic content also affects the way users rate advertising, Reinbothe explains. This is why many companies, especially in times when advertising budgets are limited, prefer to place their ads in a more serious environment.

According to Nielsen, the companies invested a total of 1.3 billion euros in TV commercials in March, almost four percent less than the previous year. The TV advertising market started the year dynamically due to the relaxation of the coronavirus. Private television in particular is suffering from the recent recession. Advertising revenue fell 4% compared to the same month last year. On public television, on the other hand, that number was almost nine percent higher – despite the war. There, however, the share of advertising funding is significantly lower, the company is generally funded with fees from the broadcasting fee.


ARD Media, ARD’s advertising marketing, reports that the first quarter of the year was well above the industry average. “In times of crisis, the advertising market is usually based heavily on credibility, quality environments and scope,” says Uwe Esser, CEO of TV at ARD Media. Esser has seen greater demand, for example, from customers in the financial markets, services, health and consumer electronics sectors.

ZDF Advertising TV reports that companies closed 96% of their advertising space in March – 13 percentage points higher than the previous year. Compared to this February, however, bookings fell by eleven percent, which ZDF attributes to the Olympics and the well-kept advertising environment. It is said that the effects of the war in Ukraine are currently difficult to determine.

On the other hand, there are muted sounds from the Ad Alliance, which sells ads for RTL, Gruner + Jahr and Der Spiegel, for example. “The war has led to uncertainty in the advertising market,” said Frank Vogel, CEO of Ad Alliance. There are no major campaign stops, but many advertisers are currently planning for even shorter periods.

More: Advertising agencies fear sales losses due to the war in Ukraine

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