Last week, WPP – one of the largest advertising conglomerates in the world announced that the members of its executive committee, as well as the board, have committed to a 20% reduction in their salaries or fees for an initial period of three months. “We anticipate these measures will generate total in-year savings for 2020 of £700 – 800 million. In addition, we are making a detailed assessment of further actions to reduce cost subject to the impact of the virus on our business over the coming weeks and months,” the company said in an official communique. The company further added that it has successfully moved to remote working and close to 95% of its 1,07, 000 colleagues are now working away from the office. In Greater China the impact from COVID-19 led to a 16.1% fall in revenue less pass-through costs over the two-month period, stated the group.
Survival of the fittest
Back at home, with the Indian Premier League (IPL) being cancelled which has led to a straight drop ad revenue worth Rs 3,500 crore and other events – so far it has been a tough year for the advertising industry. Interestingly, the industry in this short span of time seems to have found new areas of investments. “We are investing heavily on the strategic thinking and content creation for digital platforms to ensure seamless communication for our clients during these testing times,” Hareesh Tibrewala, joint CEO, Mirum India said.
According to industry experts, the covid-19 scenario will see an increase in adoption of data, technology, digital as well as integration of MarTech to create virtual experiences for consumers online. “Virtual experiences are going to be the new normal helping brands conduct important events such as launches, key communications online and interact with consumers in real-time,” Rohit Ohri, group chairman and CEO, FCB India claimed. The agency launched a live action to virtual experience platform for brands XP&D Be.Live aimed at leveraging technology and data to help brands connect with their customers.
Moreover, the evolving advertising landscape will also see marketers shift towards short-term orientation as they redefine their strategies. “Every category across companies will have to advocate their short term strategy according to the behaviour change that they will witness,” Dheeraj Sinha, MD India and chief strategy officer, Leo Burnett South Asia told BrandWagon Online. As per a latest study by research agency Gartner, companies along with agencies need to create strategies which would focus on promoting apps and other mobile tools and services. This would include raming up capacity for online transactions and digital interactions. Besides, finding innovative ways to deliver a product or aspects of it online, like telemedicine for routine doctor visits or online learning for millions of students. “Yet, even as you enable digital options, understand that some people will always need to hear an empathetic human voice, especially now, and be prepared to offer it,” the report stated.
Furthermore, brands have switched to a different style of advertising or some are simply redirecting the ad dollars now into humanitarian work to beat the pandemic. According to a global study conducted by Kantar Group – a market research firm, only 8% of consumers believe that brands should stop advertising during this phase. Moreover, as many as 77% of consumers expect brands to be helpful in their new daily life, the report stated, thereby highlighting the need to establish a significant connection. Sandeep Sreekumar, managing director, Media Moments stated that the power of freelancers is going to be coming up with marketers opting for freelancers and micro-influencers strategies primarily to keep costs at optimum level.
More importantly, brands have changed their narrative in the last few weeks keeping it more Covid-19 centric. For instance, according to a report by Autumn Grey, conversations around doctors, new cases, as well as social distancing saw an uptake in the week ending on March 25 with 6.7 million, 9.9 million and 13 million engagements, respectively. “Brands have to be of some help to the consumer during these times and create relevant content that extends beyond their regular conversations and creates a meaning in consumer’s lives,” Anusha Shetty, CEO and chairman, Grey Group said.
While agencies prepare to deal with the current situation, it has to plan for the future. Agencies will have secure media early to be able to replace lost opportunities. In the U.S. in particular, brands will have to compete with the U.S. presidential political campaigns for key media placement, brands will need to plan now along with media planners and publishers to secure access, stated Gartner.