How do you ensure your business is recovery ready?

It's one of the key themes being explored this week at the Campaign Connect festival.

Green shoots: how will companies respond?
Green shoots: how will companies respond?

June is heralding some of the biggest changes since the UK went into lockdown at the end of March.

Some children are returning to school, groups of people can now meet in outdoor spaces and – hopefully giving the economy a boost – most retailers will begin reopening their stores.

The restart of (at least physical) retail activity could also mean that, after moves to cancel or delay adspend, some brands might be ready to roll out marketing campaigns again. (And shooting of the ads themselves now comes with its own set of safety guidelines.) 

Agencies, meanwhile, will be itching to step on the accelerator. That said, while staff are slowly getting used to remote working, sending them back to the office requires an immense amount of planning, such as reconfiguring seating arrangements and limiting the number of people in the building.

Furthermore, the pandemic could result in wholesale changes in the way the industry works. Both Iain Jacob and Marc Nohr put forward their thoughts on new ways of working in Campaign last week.

Then there are the issues of furloughs and redundancies. While chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the furlough scheme to October, employers will have to start contributing towards it much earlier. Could this result in redundancies as businesses weigh up what resources they can afford as we enter what is sure to be a deep economic crisis?

The predictions make bleak viewing. One of the major ad holding groups, Dentsu Aegis Network, is expecting second-quarter revenue to drop 15-20%; Daily Mail and General Trust saw ad revenue halve in April and May; and ITV reported a dive of 42% in ad revenue in April.

At least Warc expects the decline in global adspend to be less severe than that of the 2009 financial crash. Meanwhile, the UK ad market is set to see a marginal improvement in June.

Amid these green shoots, companies must now be busy plotting their next moves after the pain of the past few months and the road ahead is not likely to be a smooth one. Indeed, this is one of the key themes of this week’s Campaign Connect virtual festival as we bring together business leaders around the world to ponder the future landscape.

So, how do you ensure your business is recovery ready?

Sue Frogley

Chief executive, Publicis Media UK

The end of this devastating crisis is almost as impossible to predict as its arrival. It’s therefore critical that we make decisions and take action to get ourselves and our clients recovery ready now, not later. Keeping a pulse on the challenges our clients face has never been more important. Every aspect of our lives continue to be disrupted every day, clients have to adapt at speed, so we must be ready to do the same.

Being realistic about what the "office of the future" looks like is also vital. Fortunately, we already set the groundwork for flexible working, but now it should become the norm for everyone in our industry – even the naysayers. When we do return to some level of normality, it will be clear which businesses have the resilience and agility to thrive.

Jim Coleman

UK chief executive, We Are Social

The key to positive business recovery is a motivated and engaged team who are crystal clear about what you’re collectively trying to achieve, otherwise you’re going nowhere. A big part of recovery is financial, whether that's bringing in new work or client revenues returning to health. Be open and share what achieving these goals will mean for everyone in the business, such as bringing colleagues back from furlough, reinstating cost-cutting measures or hiring new people. Recovery is also about keeping morale high, so calling out great work and celebrating achievements of all sizes is essential.

Jackie Stevenson

Founding partner and chief executive, The Brooklyn Brothers

Becoming virtual businesses virtually overnight is something we’ve all now experienced. We packed up over a weekend and everyone was counting the days when we could get back into Soho.

Now it all looks a bit different. We’ve survived going virtual – in many ways, we’ve thrived – and there’s some great learnings that will help us return, in some ways, even better than before.

Flexible working works. When we’re all out and committed to working together, magic happens when teams can be flexible and work around each other. Our parents work in times that work for their families, morning people start early, night owls work late. Presenteeism is out, output and the quality of work delivered is in.

Working from home works. Who misses the commute? Most of our team say they feel healthier and fitter than they ever have and get more done when they are masters of their own time and not grappling with Tubes and buses.

Committing to the blend of home and work works. When your kitchen/bedroom/sofa is your office, it’s hard to keep home and work separate or hide your feelings. Boundaries are important, but we’re closer as a team, creating psychological safety where everyone can talk openly about how they feel and shape their own more progressive way of working.

So if it took being out of the office to turbocharge some big positive changes to the way we work, we’re all for it. Making these changes will make us a stronger and more adaptable business, better ready to respond to any opportunity that comes our way as we finally head back into Soho.

Bill Scott 

Chief executive, Droga5 London

"Readiness" is perpetual. And when it comes to preparing for a recovery, the importance of being ready cannot be overstated. Safe to say, recovery will be a marathon and not a sprint. Or, more likely, "a marathon of sprints", as clients adapt quickly to market changes and – by extension – their business' needs. Our top priority remains to ensure that our talent is well-supported throughout this period, as we need our people to continually rise to new challenges and be more resourceful than ever. Collectively, our state of readiness will be determined by our ability to keep learning and adapting – fast.

Sara Tate

Chief executive, TBWA\London

We can analyse data, right size, craft strategy, build culture, future gaze and pull out many other sensible tools from the business-building toolbox. But to be truly ready for recovery, we need to (re)engage our creativity, because growing a business is a creative act. After the many negative disruptions that we are experiencing, creativity can help generate some positive disruptions. Big, surprising leaps of progress. The ones that only come from invention, innovation and abandoning the old conventions that hold us back. Hopefully not just for business but for society at large. Or in the words of Lee Clow, we need to "think different".

Robert Campbell

Founder, Outsider

Production companies are always on standby to do anything, any time, anywhere. In the chosen word of government, we ramp up and down the whole time. This period has been no different, except for where we sit. This pandemic stopped us in our tracks but only briefly. Within days of the lockdown, we were working again. We have had to adapt to the new creative circumstances and we have utilised different methods. But we manged to produce work and continue to do so.

The foreseeable future will need us to continue to evolve creatively. Production as we have come to know it will change. But sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. Our office has remained closed. As and when it is deemed safe, it wll reopen, but it has not stopped us working.

Larissa Vince

Chief executive, Now

I learned recently that the Chinese term for "crisis" is made up of two words – the one for danger and the one for opportunity. I love that. And this time is genuinely one of opportunity, because when will we ever get this chance again to properly stop, reset and refocus on what’s important?

So, for me, being recovery ready is about refocusing on your agency’s ambitions, but accelerating them. Being brave, because there’s not a lot to lose. And being kind, just because you always should be.

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