Agency recovery to take at least 6 months: Havas Group CEO Rana Barua

Only brands that have meaning, relevance in consumer’s lifecycle will perform

Rana Barua

NEW DELHI: Human beings are a creature of habit and it won’t take them long to get back to the routine once the lockdown is lifted, believes Havas Group CEO Rana Barua. In an exclusive interaction with, he, however, notes that the number of brands that a person usually relies on will drop drastically.

“From a consumer perspective, people have somehow understood that a brand has to have some relevance in their life. In the past weeks, they have realised that they can manage their lives without certain brands. For example, a person who used to own 150 brands prior to the lockdown will use only 70 now,” Barua says.

He adds that only those brands that have a purpose and the ability to indulge people in meaningful conversations through stories will survive. “I am very sure that the coming months will see great stories from advertisers.”

Barua also sees a lot of positivity around the growth of businesses across categories in the coming months. “People are willing to buy stuff. You witnessed what happened with the liquor shops opening up. Even with governments adding Covid2019 special taxes in disproportionate percentages, record sales happened. Several brands like Amul and Reckitt Benckiser performed exceptionally well even during the lockdown. I see things coming on track for green and orange zones by the end of June and red zones following it by the middle of July, provided the lockdown is lifted.”

"Our client Hyundai opened 225 showrooms across the country and it recorded 500 bookings in just two days. All of this shows that the consumer is willing to spend,” he says.

Barua emphasises that the overall impact on categories and brands will be “mixed-matched” depending on the role a product plays in a consumer’s life. Businesses like events and experiences will not see any positivity in this year.

While most of the client-side will pick up pace in the next 30-40 days, the agencies will take at least six months to get back to the pre-lockdown form, Barua observes.

“I think the agencies will follow the trail in a slow manner. Large and scalable companies like ours will take at least six months to get back in some form. Obviously, a brand that had been missing from a consumer’s life for three months won’t start advertising suddenly.”

However things are going to be challenging for small scale businesses while bigger networks have cash reserves  “They could possibly take a year to recuperate, due to issues like cash flow, rents, salaries, payment to vendors, collections and more, taking a bit longer to recover."

He concludes that he is hoping that the economy opens up soon so businesses can start functioning. He also remains quite positive about new launches.

“I think that the launches will go on as planned once the lockdown is lifted. They (brands) might have to rework on their numbers and the return they were expecting from the calendar year, but launches will happen. Summer brands are obviously at a bigger loss, but if the monsoon is delayed and summer continues for two weeks extra, they too might come out with their new ranges.”

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