Covid-19 cancellations cost UK brand experience agencies £56m-worth of business

Shops are set to shrink by 30%.

Glastonbury: one of many events cancelled this year (Credit: Matt Cardy / Stringer/ Getty Images)
Glastonbury: one of many events cancelled this year (Credit: Matt Cardy / Stringer/ Getty Images)

The UK's top brand experience agencies have missed out on a collective £56m over the coronavirus outbreak and expect to shrink their workforces by about a third.

Those are the findings from a poll conducted by Campaign last month, which also found that there will be more than 500 event cancellations between July and December.

The 12 agencies that took part in the survey were: Amplify, George P Johnson, Haygarth, Hot Pickle, Hyperactive, Iris, RPM, Sense, Tro, Unit9, Wasserman and XYZ.

The figures are a stark reminder of the impact that the virus has had on the industry, which is also shrinking as a result. The research found that 72% of the agencies are making redundancies and plan to reduce headcount by about 30%.

At the beginning of the outbreak in the UK in March, Campaign conducted a similar poll that found that the amount of business lost to Covid-19 was £15.4m.

Major events were cancelled over the summer, such as Glastonbury, the Olympics, the Wimbledon tennis championships, the London Marathon and many more.

Jason Megson, managing director at George P Johnson, said the agencies are facing a "restricted trading environment" which the country has not had to deal with since the Second World War.

He said: "In the long term, we are facing a deep worldwide recession, that will no doubt curb our current and prospective clients' spending appetites as budgets are significantly curtailed."

However those agencies with a global footprint are beginning to deliver events in other countries such as China.

Mike Kunheim, executive vice-president and managing director at Jack Morton London, said: "In some markets, such as China, we are already delivering live events again – low touch with stringent social distancing and biosecurity."

Amelia Shepherd, managing director at TRO, added that shared experiences will play a key role in the return to normality.

"There is a need for brands to find real connections with people in the real world," she said. "Experiences can be powerful things that help brands not only connect with people but also build loyal communities.

"If nothing else, the Covid crisis has brought back the community spirit and highlighted just how important shared experiences are to us as people."