This is the low point. But there is hope for the future

This is the low point. But there is hope for the future

This bruising environment is actually forcing many to think differently, try something new and to come out fighting.

The longer the coronavirus crisis continues, the more certain it is that things will not go back to the way they used to be. We are going to have to live in a Covid world for many months to come or, more likely, years.

All of us need strength, resilience, ingenuity, camaraderie and compassion to cope in this bruising environment. Beyond the immediate health emergency, this crisis is already taking a heavy and growing toll on businesses and talent.

UK marketing budgets shrank at the fastest rate on record in the second quarter of 2020 because of the economic lockdown, eclipsing the previous worst slump in Q4 2008, according to the IPA’s latest quarterly Bellwether Report.

Employees are suffering, as jobs have been cut and freelance work has dried up. A survey by Nabs earlier this month found 57% of workers in the UK ad industry were demotivated and 61% felt a return to the workplace would be unsafe or increase their anxiety.

Some of this could be predicted at the start of lockdown in March but, as the months have unfolded, the uncertainty has persisted. Political leaders, particularly in the US but also in the UK, have been found wanting, and longstanding racial and social inequalities have been exposed with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Advertising has become a battleground because some social-media platforms, most notably Facebook, have tolerated and amplified hate speech and misinformation for too long. Stop Hate For Profit, a coalition of US civil rights groups, has persuaded more than 1,000 brands to pause their advertising on Facebook for the month of July and in some cases, such as Unilever, for the rest of 2020.

Mark Zuckerberg’s company has responded by taking some steps to deal with misinformation, ahead of the upcoming US presidential election, but he insisted at a staff meeting: "We’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small per cent of our revenue, or to any per cent of our revenue."

And, according to a transcript of the meeting, obtained by news website The Information, Zuckerberg predicted: "All these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough." That raises an interesting question about competition and Facebook’s market power if brands believe they cannot afford to stop advertising on the world’s biggest social-media platform. Regulators should watch closely.

It is easy to feel gloomy, especially as many brands, agency groups and media owners are going to report some shockingly bad Q2 financial results over the next few weeks.

But it is vital to hang on to some positives. This is the low point – the bottom of the market. Recovery could be slow yet it will happen. Companies will grow again and hire again.

Coping with lockdown has forced many businesses and people to think differently, to try something new and to come out fighting.

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have collaborated on an uplifting film, made by Uncommon Creative Studio, about TV’s ability to unite people during this period of uncertainty. Meanwhile, London Advertising, an independent agency, created and placed ads about itself – with voiceovers from Liam Neeson and Helen Mirren – to proclaim the importance of investing in advertising in a downturn. Sometimes the best advertisement for advertising is to advertise.

And there is hope for the future. When Campaign launched its annual talent search, Media Week 30 Under 30, during lockdown, it attracted 128 paid entries from around the UK, almost the same number as last year, and an impressive array of dynamic, ambitious talent emerged during the judging process.

Expectations, especially those of younger workers, are changing as employees demand a more inclusive and diverse workplace – be it in the office or remotely. Rakesh Patel, head of sales for UK and pan-EMEA for Spotify, talks in this issue of Campaign about the need to create a "belonging-led environment" and, as he points out, in the Covid era, "this is a time where belonging is even more important".

We must all believe that better times lie ahead after the current turmoil.

We too have had to make changes at Campaign due to the crisis and I’m sad to confirm that after two decades on Campaign, our esteemed global editor-in-chief, Claire Beale, is leaving us.

Claire is a brilliant journalist and editor and a most passionate advocate for advertising and creativity. She has made an immense contribution to Campaign in the UK and expanded our brand around the world. We will miss her.

Our job is to keep up the high standards that Claire set Campaign and this industry.

She will be back for a goodbye column in our September issue when we are excited about returning to print for the first time since March.

Gideon Spanier is UK editor-in-chief at Campaign

Topics