Coronavirus live blog: 9-13 March

Mr President implements home-working, while the IPA has postponed all courses and events.

Coronavirus: latest news (Getty Images)
Coronavirus: latest news (Getty Images)

Friday 13 March

4pm: ViacomCBS UK asks staff to work from home

ViacomCBS Networks International has ordered its UK employees to work from home "as a precautionary measure" until further notice, in light of Covid-19. In a statement, a spokesperson said: "To ensure our broadcast and critical commercial activities remain unaffected, a small number of employees will continue to come into the office. The safety and well-being of our employees continues to be our number-one priority."

3pm: Mr President implements working from home

Mr President is the latest agency to tell staff to work from home, as the number of coronavirus cases in the UK grows rapidly. The agency said it would continue to operate remote working "for the foreseeable future".

A spokeswoman added: "There will still be times that we'll need to meet face to face with clients or for recordings or edits, or regroup as a full team, but moving forwards we will all be based at home. We're already well set up for it, so we feel this is the right thing to do."

2.30pm: IPA postpones courses and events

The IPA has postponed its courses and events programme for the next four weeks – a decision the industry body said was taken to minimise the risk of infection for members, staff and guests. Its courses and events are currently set to resume from Monday 13 April, but this will be reassessed in light of any changes to advice issued by Public Health England.

The organisation is also testing its business continuity plan, with all members of staff being asked to work from home on this coming Monday and Tuesday (18-19 March).

Director-general Paul Bainsfair said: "In the meantime, our business continuity plan will ensure that IPA members find it is business as usual when they contact us for our advisory services or any of our online training."

9.30am: R/GA teams work from home around the world

Jess Greenwood, global chief marketing officer at R/GA, has put together a thread on Twitter with things that the business has learned, with everyone now following a global policy of working from home. "Most of all, I learned that making the right decision early is way better than having that decision made for you," she said. 

9am: WPP and Publicis Groupe share prices continue to fall

The London stock market opened with a 3% increase this morning. However, WPP's share price has dropped again, currently standing at 540.2p, having closed at 556p yesterday (down 3%). ITV is up 1.3% to 84.94p after closing at 83.84p and Publicis Groupe is down 1% to €24.88.

Thursday 12 March

5pm: Stock market crash

Global stock market indices have crashed, with the FTSE-100 index ending the day down nearly 11%.

Publicis Groupe plunged 15%, WPP 13% and ITV 7%. US shares were also badly hit.

The London market has fallen 30% in a month and is now at its lowest level since the 2009 financial crisis. 

2.30pm: KFC pauses finger-licking campaign amid coronavirus concerns

A KFC spokesperson said: "It doesn’t feel like the right time to be airing this campaign, so we’ve decided to pause it for now – but we’re really proud of it and look forward to bringing it back at a later date." 

The Advertising Standards Authority has received 163 complaints about the ad. 

2pm: How agencies in Italy are coping

Campaign's Claire Beale and Gurjit Degun have put together a piece on how Italian agencies are responding to the lockdown. Omnicom Media Group's chief executive for Asia-Pacific and EMEA, Mike Cooper, says that the business learned how quickly staff adjusted to working from home.

1pm: Evening Standard cuts print run by 10% as Londoners work from home

The newspaper's chief executive, Mike Soutar, has sent a memo out to key contacts to keep them updated on how the Evening Standard will respond to the pandemic. To reduce wastage, its print run has been dropped by 10% to 750,000 and there are more copies distributed in zone three and beyond. 

10.30am: Burberry halts media review

The luxury fashion label has cancelled all-agency briefings planned for 23 March because of the impact that the virus is having on travel. 

10am: Hershey pulls ads that show hugging and handshakes

Over in the US, chocolate brand Hershey has pulled ads depicting people hugging and handshaking – behaviour that can spread the virus. While the brand is perhaps overestimating the persuasive power of its advertising, it's an obvious move. Instead, ad visuals will focus on Hershey's chocolate bars.

9.30am: UK stock market down after Europe flight ban from US

The London Stock Exchange dropped a further 5% this morning after US president Donald Trump announced a ban for anyone travelling to the country from mainland Europe. The hit has led to WPP's share price falling below £6 – down 6.5%. 

9am: IPA expects marketing budgets to take a hit

Paul Bainsfair, the IPA's director-general, said that "given we’re seeing the biggest threat to global finances for over a decade, it seems inevitable that UK marketing budgets will take a hit".

"We’ll begin to see the impact of this in next month’s Bellwether Report," he continued. "Unfortunately, just as we were starting to see a recovery to budgets following the prolonged bout of uncertainty brought on by Brexit, we are propelled into far more extreme global uncertainty."

He repeated the oft-uttered sentiment around the power of advertising to help bring about a recovery.

8am: Twitter staff around the world are working from home

Twitter has announced (via a tweet, naturally) that all of its employees globally must "work from home to support worldwide efforts to stop the spread" of coronavirus.

Wednesday 11 March

5pm: MullenLowe Group closes London offices

MullenLowe Group has become the latest agency to temporarily shut its office, following a suspected case of Covid-19 in a member of staff.

In a statement, the Interpublic agency said: "We have one employee in self-isolation, who has been so for some time, but as of only yesterday has developed symptoms. We are in regular contact with this person and are ensuring they have our full support and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

"In this unprecedented situation we of course need to act with utmost caution and responsibility towards the health and well-being of our people and, as such, simply as a precaution we have enacted our work-from-home protocols.

"It is business as usual for all of us here and we are not in self-isolation mode at this point. We have had a business continuity plan in place for some time, so are fully prepared to work remotely.

"The employee in self isolation will be tested today and we are of course hoping the test will be negative, which we should have confirmed either way in the next few days. All being well, we will return to the office before too long."

4.30pm: Havas Group North America implements work-from-home policy

Havas Group North America has ordered all employees to work from home this week so leadership can test if its businesses can withstand a government-mandated quarantine.

The remote work day will apply to all of the group’s agencies across US and Canada.

An internal memo obtained by Campaign US states: "This test is to ensure that our businesses are prepped in the event of a regional or national quarantine. We’ll be testing for business continuity and capacity of our systems and tools in the event that we need to move to a remote work situation with immediacy."

3pm: Government unveils coronavirus response in budget

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged £30bn in funding to help the economy respond to the coronavirus. In a budget that was weeks in planning but which had to be rapidly reformulated to address the growing impact of a prospective outbreak, Sunak warned that the economy would be hard hit.

In a number of moves designed to soften the blow, he is abolishing business rates for many companies in the UK (specifically shops, cinemas, restaurants and music venues with a rateable value below £51,000), extending sick pay and boosting NHS funding.

The most relevant measures are:

  • Statutory sick pay for anyone who self-isolated themselves, even if they have shown no symptoms of the virus;
  • For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the government will pay statutory sick pay for staff off due to the virus;
  • A fiscal "loosening" (a relaxation of tax obligagtions) of £18bn;
  • A "temporary coronavirus interruption loan scheme" for banks to offer loans of up to £1.2m to support SMEs.

12pm: Cannes Lions mulls October move 

Cannes Lions has issued an update, saying it plans to carry on with the event as scheduled during 22-26 June in the south of France. However, Simon Cook, managing director of Cannes Lions, said in a statement that the organisation wants to be open about its contingency plan "as the global situation is evolving constantly".

The festival has secured alternative dates with the mayor of Cannes and French authorities for 26-30 October if it must shift the event due to changing circumstances. Cannes Lions will announce the potential date change no later than 15 April. The deadline to enter work into the festival is 16 April.

11am: How will adland function if all staff has to work from home?

Millions of people in China and Italy have been working from home because of coronavrius quarantine measures. Campaign asks UK industry leaders how adland can serve clients effectively while working from home.

11am: Keep calm and evolve your live experience

Brand experience agencies have implored clients to modify rather than cancel their live plans as the UK faces a period of time likely to be defined by severe challenges to travel and public gatherings.

9am: ASA bans 'racist' mattress ad for linking coronavirus to nationality

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a regional press ad for Vic Smith Beds, which showed a cartoon of a mattress – boasting a Union Jack and a green surgical mask – alongside the copy: "British build beds proudly made in the UK. No nasty imports."

8am: Bank of England makes emergency rate cut

The Bank of England reduced interest rates from 0.75% to 0.25% in an emergency move. It expects the UK economy to "weaken materially" in the coming months.

Tuesday 10 March

5pm: Publicis Groupe shares hit 10-year low

Advertising and media shares had mixed fortunes on Tuesday – a day after the stock market plunge in New York.

Publicis Groupe dropped for the second day in a row, ending the day down 3.3% at a 10-year low of €29.80.

WPP recovered some ground, closing up 2% at 687p. But Ascential, owner of Cannes Lions, slipped 0.7% to 273p on continued fears that the advertising festival, due to take place in June, could be hit.

4pm: Advertising productions under pressure amid coronavirus outbreak

A number of commercial shoots are being postponed or cancelled, and production companies are putting additional measures in place to ensure the health of their staff and crew.

Several production companies have told Campaign that there is a lot of uncertainty in the sector as the coronavirus outbreak unfolds. 

1pm: MediaCom to trial working from home 

The Group M agency is asking all staff to work from home on Friday (13 March) as part of business continuity plans. MediaCom plans to use the day to test its systems to "ensure we can seamlessly deliver activity, plans and work in the face of potentially different working circumstances, should the need arise".

UK chief executive Kate Rowlinson made clear in a statement that the decision is not in response to any specific issues.

8.30am: More media companies postpone events

Future and Informa have postponed several upcoming events, the media companies revealed in statements made on the London Stock Exchange this morning.

Future has pushed back two of its UK events that were scheduled to take place in Birmingham later this month. The Homebuilding and Renovating Show and The Photography Show have been postponed to July and September respectively. The publisher said that it does not expect any impact on profit.

For Informa, there are 13 events taking place this year that have been cancelled – these had a budgeted revenue of £25m. Forty-five large events are being rescheduled, representing budgeted revenue of about £350m, while 70 smaller ones have been rescheduled with expected revenue of roughly £50m.

6am: Advertising Week Europe moves from March to September

Advertising Week Europe, which was due to take place in London during 16-19 March, has been moved to 14-17 September.

The four-day event is one of the biggest fixtures in the UK advertising calendar, attracting more than 20,000 attendees.

"After careful consideration, Advertising Week Europe has made the difficult decision to postpone the event to 14-17 September 2020," the event’s organisers said on its website.

"Given the growing concerns over public health and safety due to the developing Coronavirus (Covid-19) situation, the team has proactively made arrangements to move the planned programme to autumn 2020.

"Advertising Week prides itself on being an inclusive and accessible platform, and we felt it was critical to ensure it could be comfortably and safely attended by British, European and global delegates."

The statement added that a "revised agenda will be available soon" and "we are grateful to our partners for their ongoing support in making this collaborative decision and look forward to welcoming all delegates in person in September".

Southby Southwest, due to take place in Austin, Texas, this month, was cancelled last week.

Monday 9 March

5pm: WPP, Publicis Groupe and ITV stocks suffer tough day

WPP closed at 672.20p on the London Stock Exchange today, ending the day down 7.2%. It was a similar story for Publicis Groupe, which ended the day at €31.03, a drop of 6.2%. 

ITV, another media bellwether, fell almost 9% to 93.2p.

3.30pm: New York Stock Exchange crash leads to decline in Omnicom and Interpublic share prices

The New York Stock Exchange crashed on opening today, down 6.5%.

Omnicom, which owns Adam & Eve/DDB, OMD and PHD, opened at $62.11, down 6%. 

Interpublic, owner of McCann and FCB, was down 8% at $18.40.

Facebook bans face mask ads

The social media network has issued a moratorium on ads for medical face masks and other products claiming to prevent people from contracting the coronavirus, deeming such listings as exploiting the public-health emergency.

10am: Holding company share prices drop to fresh low

Advertising and media stocks dropped to a new low this morning as WPP’s share price has fallen 10% week on week

The owner of agencies including Wunderman Thompson and MediaCom saw its share price fall more than 7% to 669.40p when the London Stock Exchange opened this morning. Publicis Groupe’s share price also dropped 6% to €31.00.

The New York Stock Exchange has yet to open. Omnicom closed at $65.82 on Friday – down 6% over the week. Interpublic closed on Friday at $20.04, having begun the week at 21.50 – down 7%.

9am: Facebook reopens after deep cleaning

After closing its three London offices on Friday afternoon, Facebook reopened this morning after a deep clean over the weekend. The business took the measure after an employee from the Singapore office visited London at the end of February and was diagnosed with Covid-19.

Now Wash Your Hands

Campaign’s Jeremy Lee has written a colourful piece on why Izal's message on its medicated loo roll is more important than ever.

He says: "While its effectiveness is questionable – it did a rather better job at smearing than absorbing – each of its greasy sheets carried the printed instruction: ‘Now Wash Your Hands.’"

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