As the Covid-19 crisis continues to unfold on a daily basis, the CEO of IAPI, Charley Stoney urges the advertising industry not to panic and to focus on what the industry does best – communicating.
Our industry has a responsibility to present a calm, practical and positive front throughout this crisis. Not just for our own workforce but in helping our clients who will be turning to us for advice and help in communicating the right messages to their customers. The language and tone that a brand adopts now is critical in maintaining relationships with Irish consumers at this time. Any brand that is perceived to go above and beyond in a time of need is a brand that will remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds for the long term.
Remember Brennans Bread in Snowmaggedon? That was the perfect blend of client & agency working together to react tactically but skilfully to enhance the brand’s overall appeal and one that played beautifully into the brand’s personality.
So, let’s be what we’re designed to be, great communicators in a time of need!
If you think back to the last recession, the creative communications industry was so shell-shocked by the extent of the downturn that we couldn’t react quickly enough and found ourselves completely beaten down. Unfortunately, we then allowed ourselves to become further commoditised as brand owners, emerging from the ashes, obsessed over costs and drove our fee structures down even further.
If we use what we’ve learnt over the past 10 years, we are now in an altogether different position. We have learnt to be highly commercial in how we present ourselves and our services. We are ever more professional as an industry using the past few years to educate ourselves and transform our agencies into more astute and financially literate organisations. We have learnt that, in order to remain viable, we need to remain one step ahead of our clients’ in order to provide them with the best advice and creative thinking.
We have also created a much more employee-focused environment for our workforce over the past number of years. Some of these initiatives are IAPI-led enabling smaller agencies to take advantage of the collective force of the membership. Some are simply a result of our industry leaders becoming much more emotionally intelligent and insightful about the productivity levels of a happy and engaged workforce.
Remote working as a flexible benefit is much more commonplace in our industry already and we have been testing our remote working capabilities over the past week. As such, a lot of members were able to shift painlessly to wholescale remote working when the Government announced school closures yesterday.
According to Shenda Loughnane, group managing director of Dentsu Aegis Network and president of IAPI: “There is no doubt that we can be of invaluable help to our clients as they realign their communications and media spend. With robust systems and processes in place to allow for remote working if necessary, our industry continues to be open for business and on hand to help our clients as needed.”
From a marcomms perspective, the industry has several areas where it can, right now, be of enormous value to its clients. For instance,
Continuity and Security in the Face of Uncertainty will be a very necessary sentiment to communicate. A brand that becomes a beacon of hope in a crisis will benefit hugely from a NPS perspective as well as potential revenue. This would be particularly appropriate for infrastructure, utilities, telco, banking, retail – but really it applies for all consumer facing brands.
In-Home Media Consumption will be hugely increased as remote working kicks off around the country so this may change the focus for media spend. Brand owners will no doubt need to engage the industry and re-focus media strategies around different consumption habits.
Crisis Management – this is predominantly the domain of corporate affairs and will already be in place for large clients. However, in smaller organisations, this is handled by their marketing teams so we can absolutely advise on statements and protocol communications to consumers where necessary.
I also believe that we have a more strategic role to play in the wider business community. We are a highly collaborative membership at present. I have been over-whelmed over the past few days by the amount of information and content that has been offered by larger agencies to help smaller independent agencies. Anything from Remote Working protocols to offers of financial advice regarding cashflow issues that might arise.
As such, if broader business bodies such as IBEC and the SFA require a working group of creative communications experts to shore up consumer confidence, I’m confident that our industry will happily row in for the greater good.
Charley Stoney is CEO of IAPI (www.iapi.com)