Coronavirus crisis demands agile advertising
Weathering the coronavirus current storm is the key concern, as agencies and production companies continue to discuss possibilities with clients, necessitating agility and creative solutions. But what do the next few months hold?
“That is THE question” says Steve Davies Chief Executive of the Advertising Producers Association. “There is some prospect of companies surviving for a few weeks, by being able to cut overhead in a way that would not have seemed possible even a month ago, together with the Government help for employees in particular, but a few months would prove impossible for many companies. I am hoping we may be back to something like normal mid- June. But I could be completely wrong of course. The key indicator is how China gets on relaxing its social controls - hopefully it goes well but if they let people out and infections rise again, the outlook would be very bleak”.
Helen Hadfield, co-founder of production company Snapper Films says: “I think it is a question of remaining as agile, adaptable as possible if we are going to have a future. I think the difficulty which we are all having to deal with is the massive amount of uncertainty. I don’t know what the future holds, and you have to learn to live with the uncertainty, and to look for opportunity and be more geared to how you grow something and develop it, not how you preserve a status quo.” One such option for the production company is directing duo Stefano & Alejandro who, under lockdown in Madrid can continue to work in their private studio.
Davies notes that “agencies are doing a great job in discussing what is possible with clients and with engaging production companies - either to find routes now - most likely animation or VFX routes at this moment, or reediting material and working toward our aim of having some productions ready to go when restrictions are lifted - so we can hit the ground running”.
Agencies meanwhile have been busy in recent weeks as priorities and consumer habits dramatically change. On-going research conducted by Havas Media on a fortnightly basis during the crisis shows that live TV viewership social media sites and newspaper readership are all up while out-of-home eyeballs are way down. As expected, news channels have reported high viewing figures, but so are streaming and media platforms offering escapism, entertainment and digital networking as people stay at home.
One source at a London agency says they have been particularly busy. “We had a big campaign planned when Covid-19 came up, and everything we had been planning since November was irrelevant but there were still slots to fill. It has been really busy”. Although brand’s budgets are not diminishing, campaigns are being deferred, “some are cancelling campaigns, but we are trying to tell them not to cancel but to defer, and often that means the messaging has to change as you are working for a new world”.
“What is required of creative and production companies right now is they need to work much more quickly, as the client will have a need for new creative that they just were not predicting they would need. Slots have been bought, and if you don’t turn up with the assets, usually it is tough luck”, they say.
According to Davies, the impact of coronavirus is completely different to the 2008 crash, when there was work, just less of it. “Now we are looking at 2 or 3 months of virtually none. But, what we know here is that when this pandemic is over, there is no reason why advertising won’t bounce back strongly - the V shaped recession that Sir Martin Sorrell refers to, rather than staggering on in the doldrums for some time like a regular recession”.
Hadfield offers an interesting perspective on what that future may look like. “People’s priorities have to shift to the human and that is actually what we have been crying out to do in advertising,” she says. “Shift the perspective to the human, that is what brands need to be conscious of, it’s what advertisers need to be conscious of, it’s what we need to be conscious of. It’s going to be very hard, I think to survive the changes that are going to happen. But I think that it is in the end going to come down to a value system. That is what is going to shift massively through this kind of crisis. It always does, this is like a war-time situation”.
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