The advertising business is facing a shock to the system that would have been unimaginable just a few months ago.
Like many other business leaders, we were sobered by forecasts that the value of the UK ad market is on course to drop 40% in the second quarter – news that prompted Campaign’s Gideon Spanier to call on the industry to come out and fight for the future of advertising.
The true power of this industry rests with its people – something that has never been more evident than in the way we have collectively risen to this challenge in the weeks since lockdown began.
The fightback is now well under way and it is the industry’s quick response, imagination and strategic thinking that is creating a blueprint for recovery.
This rapid response from agencies has taken shape in many ways.
We have seen how even those media/creative collaborations that were already close (such as ours on Virgin Media and John Lewis/Waitrose & Partners, for example) have lately had to deepen even further to reflect and respond to the unprecedented rate of change in consumer and media behaviours.
Traditional methods that rely on demarcation by discipline have crumbled.
Now, new virtual scrum teams consisting of individuals from media and creative backgrounds have allowed for in-the-moment, holistic responses that are then implemented at pace.
Moreover, this tighter partnership has led to an increased use of data and insight to inform our strategic and creative work more profoundly than ever before.
Strategies for advertising in a pandemic
Our collective focus has been on helping clients pivot from the course they were on to a new one overnight.
Against a backdrop of uncertainty, fear and loss, we have worked with them to find the right tone and to balance compassionate instincts with commercial imperatives.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so we have been working closely with our clients’ internal comms teams to develop work that is tailored to champion their people and support their customers.
In this rapidly changing landscape, it is critical to be able to keep pace with all the sudden market shifts.
The very nature of media has altered almost overnight; consumption has moved to at-home media, the cost of media has changed, digital behaviours have accelerated and effectiveness patterns look different to pre-Covid-19.
It is therefore essential that we are at hand to analyse these new trends and advise our clients on decisions that will have an impact not just now but in the future.
Delivering fast, curated insight
With markets and consumer behaviour now in continuous flux, access to the latest intelligence and insight is crucial.
We also recognise that most of our clients are overwhelmed with facts and figures right now, so packaging key information in a way that is easy to absorb has been important.
Weekly consumer attitude trackers, daily market insight reports, social monitoring, search trends and global trend reports have helped inform our strategic thinking and have armed our clients with vital foresight for their marketing and business planning.
Change that had been likely to take years has now been fast-tracked.
Older audiences rapidly migrating to digital platforms, surging ecommerce demand in some categories and higher volumes of first-party data have all resulted in new customer experiences and opportunities to deepen existing relationships and retain new consumers.
We are helping our clients to understand and adapt to these changes, from training them in new platforms to helping them realign their marketing strategies to reach customers where they are now.
Creating, adapting and innovating
The crisis has also sparked inventive approaches to some of the executional challenges we’ve had to face.
With traditional production methods on hold, we have seen how quickly the industry has found new ways to respond to briefs – whether by using user-generated content, turning to animation or forming innovative collaborations with media owner partners and talent.
Kick-starting a recovery
Our attention is now increasingly turning to safeguarding a fast start to recovery.
We are monitoring demand signals on a daily basis and comparing them to markets that are ahead of us.
We are trying to anticipate and plan for the levels of recovery we might see by category and ensuring that we maximise demand for our client base.
We will emerge from this most challenging of times with closer and more meaningful relationships between clients and agencies, media and creative shops and, ultimately, brands and customers.
Tammy Einav is joint chief executive of Adam & Eve/DDB and Tim Pearson is chief executive of OMD Group UK