Advertising agencies should recalibrate around Covid2019

Many mainline or legacy agencies will have to brace themselves for the slump that is yet to come.

As Covid2019 continues to sweep through the world, global ad spending is also sliding southwards. With major events being cancelled and slowdown in demands for lifestyle and consumer brands, marketing budgets are being slashed and advertisers are trying to find a silver lining among the gloomy clouds over the urban skyscrapers. USD 4.5 billion a day! That is how much the pandemic is costing the Indian economy! This has trickled down to every sector. With consumption dropping, manufacturing is seeing a halt. This would have been the wedding season in India, with increased spending on jewellery, etc. Sunscreen and myriad skincare-related television commercials would have by now been urging us to fill the online carts. But Covid2019 has impacted marketing and sales negatively. This variable can be fatal to creative agencies who fail to adapt to what we expect will come next.

Given the current scenario, we have to wait until September when things start to ease up. Being nimble is the key to the game. In fact, we the advertising people are a race of humans who are no strangers to disruption and turmoil. We have overcome all kinds of pressures – economic, financial, political, natural, and many more. As the Covid2019 is no longer viewed as a short-lived outbreak and the world is calibrating itself to settle around it and with it, advertising agencies will also have to recalibrate. In fact, many mainline or legacy agencies will have to brace themselves for the slump that is yet to come. With businesses being conducted online now, creative pitches, client meetings, brainstorming and such have all moved online, and remote terminals are our new offices now.  Agencies that cater to tech innovations, digital and internal B2B can expect some sort of sustainability.

While agencies understand the need to change, the same is required from clients’ side too. At Hotstuff, we mobilized our resources in March, even before the actual lockdown, setting up new systems and work management protocols that ensured business continuity. We helped our clients to do so too and adapt. During the lockdown we even created TVCs from home that set a precedence and a trend for other marketers to follow suit. Innovation is the key and as Indians, we are known to innovate the best during crises. This has helped us churn out campaigns and create communication pieces in full swing. As an agency we did not stop at that but kept our clients engaged through our huge network of experts who could add value to its world of clients. Our Tattva Knowledge Series of webinars are a huge success and only growing in its reach.

Advertisements are nothing but human stories and one of the key factors that make them touch our hearts is how we interpret and imagine our interaction with each other. In pandemic times, this significant emotion itself is of high risk. Though our social interactions have lessened and are almost at a standstill, we are still humans, capable of managing all that and much more through our subtle perceptions.

Physical expressions have evolved and are evolving to subtle expressions. Creative people are catching that and messages of hope and beauty and a world of subtle emotions will play a pivotal role. Strong ideas will matter more than exuberant productions. The power of storytelling will need to be honed better. We humans have the agility and the tensile strength to overcome anything and as dream merchants we are like the frontline workers who would keep the sanity alive. The templates would need to change – hope, beauty, gratitude, calmness, stoic, prayer, positivity, sombre and empathetic along with technological innovations would be the new norm in the brand new world.  

(The author is Hotstuff CEO. The views expressed are his own and may not subscribe to them)

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