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Businesses large and small are grappling with how to navigate the coming months as the impact of the coronavirus is felt globally. Warnings have been made on the effect this will have on the ad industry as marketers pause, pull or shift spend. But influencer marketing is one area that could stand to benefit.

Since the beginning of the month, numerous predictions have emerged indicating a downturn in global advertising spend in wake of major televised events; such as the Euros, being rescheduled; the postponement of big cinema releases; and key sectors such as the travel industry all but freezing marketing activity.

Broadcaster ITV, for example, warned that total ad revenue will be down by 10% year-on-year in April alone, with the caveat that it was “too soon” to make long-term forecasts.

But as global leaders encourage people to stay at home and avoid unnecessary social contact, some fractions of the marketing world see an opportunity.

“It’s been an exciting few days,” admits Imogen Coles, influence director at Ogilvy, acknowledging it comes against a backdrop of intense worry for many people and businesses. Speaking as part of The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival, she said that it is now a “really interesting time” for influencer marketing to prove its value within the mix.

“For the last two years we’ve been trying to drive integration for influence across the whole brand piece. And this moment, when lots of other disciplines are really struggling to have a voice or shouldn’t have a voice because we shouldn’t be putting on big production shoots, influence can step in and have a role to play and prove its worth,” Coles added.

Joining her on the panel was Gary Clarke, sales director at Takumi. He said that marketers looking to embrace social influencers will have to rethink the way they might traditionally work with them.

“If you look a the way people are going to be consuming social media over the next few weeks and months, they are going to be looking for escapism, and something that actually enables them to feel good about the world and the people that are important to them are influencers,” he said, adding that they shouldn’t see it as a play to shift product.

“There’s a real opportunity for brands to harness the relationships they’ve got and really position themselves, and get those creators on board.”

With countries in lockdown, Coles also said that Ogilvy is keeping tabs on the new ways people are interacting with each other online and the branding opportunities emerging as a result. For example, she pointed to a new trend in Japan where women are digitally gathering to drink and talk.

“It’s a huge social experiment in the worst way possible,” she added. “But the ramifications are exciting and we should be looking at it.”

You can watch the full panel session above and view more content from The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival here