Covid-19: How our agencies are preparing for the pandemic

Covid-19 has been on everyone’s minds, from how it’ll affect us personally to how it’ll affect our businesses. A pandemic is a time of uncertainty for all, here representatives for DBB, BBDO, TBWA, Publicis Groupe and Saatchi & Saatchi give us their updates on plans to support their staff, clients, and themselves as the pandemic grows.

Story to be updated as news progresses.

Omnicom, parent company of DDB, BBDO and TBWA

CEO John Wren states;  “These are uncertain times and we want to do our part to help limit or slow the transmission of COVID-19 while maintaining business continuity and helping our clients navigate this challenging environment.”

“At this stage, we feel a work from home policy is the right approach for our people,” he continued in the memo sent out to staff. “We are also working with facilities management to add enhanced cleaning in our offices.”

DDB CEO Justin Mowday on our COVID-19 response:

DDB Group New Zealand has acted quickly in implementing remote working. We’re fortunate in that we’ve had a flexible working policy in place for several years, which basically allowed staff to work from home if they flagged it with their manager first. This was mostly taken advantage of by people looking to really block out time and focus on a big project, or parents with particular needs around drop-offs and pick-ups. Our flexible working policy meant that logistically we’d already solved many of the challenges now presented by COVID-19 – things like remote server access, web-hui tools, file sharing etc. This has allowed us to respond very quickly and comprehensively.

As an employer, our first commitment is to staff health, safety and wellbeing and we’re monitoring incredibly closely all of the learnings of our global network. As of the beginning of this week, the majority of our 250 staff are working remotely.

For our staff, as well as minimising the risk of the virus spreading, our message has been that our clients’ communications needs are now greater than ever and that we will do our very best to guide them through this period. Our teams are currently coordinating some incredibly complex and large-scale projects from hundreds of living rooms across Tāmaki Makaurau. It’s really inspiring to see. Our message to clients has been this: We’re prepared for this as a business and will continue to help, even as the situation evolves. As our families and businesses ride out this unprecedented situation, we’re all in this together, and we’re here to help in any way we can.

Big Communications

Ant Salmon, managing director:

The two main things we’re juggling with are the wellbeing of our people (physical and mental) and how best we continue to serve the needs of our clients (given that they are all responding to Covid-19 in different ways). 

We are a service business; as long as we have clients who want to have face-to-face meetings (faces far enough apart), we will be available up until such time as I deem it to be too much of a risk, or a higher authority says we can’t. As a small team in a small physical space, but with lots of room per person, we can manage risk a little easier. Of course, we are fully geared up for virtual meetings.

We use the Ministry of Health as our main source of advice, but we are lucky to have a pro-active and informative landlord in Britomart too. We are reminding our team of the need for vigilance and, in particular, diligence in the areas of hand-washing, coughing & sneezing etc. We’ve given them license to call each other out if they see someone who is not following protocol. Hand sanitiser is in multiple locations around our office and we have a poster opposite our entrance to remind people of the key health & safety messages.

We have VPN functionality on all our machines so that if we have to isolate one of the team we can quickly set them up to work at home (assuming they are well enough to do so). We’ve already had one 14 day isolation case, and that worked well. We’re checking in regularly with the team, collectively and individually, to make sure they are comfortable with our approach. We are also geared for a total evacuation if that’s called for at any stage.

As is often the case when you’re running a small business, it’s a lonely place to be. We have no board or overseas head office to tell us what to do, we have to figure this out ourselves. But with that comes the ability to follow your own head and your own heart. The safety of our colleagues, clients, other business partners is of course paramount. I’m keen that we stay put if we can, keen that we keep supporting our fellow Britomart tenants who provide us with coffee, lunch and booze (not to mention a bit of retail therapy). They don’t have the option of working from home and sadly, by the time the big corporates all return, some of them will be gone.

Saatchi & Saatchi

  1. How are you adjusting your strategy to account for the changes in how consumers behave during a pandemic? 

    David McIndoe, head of strategy, Saatchi & Saatchi: “A lot of this depends on what side of these changes your sector sits. Obviously travel, tourism and hospitality sectors are going through unprecedented reductions in demand. Likewise, luxury goods, large household purchases and non-essentials are feeling vulnerable. In those instances, there is a natural tendency to withdraw marketing spending across all layers. While it makes sense to reduce efforts to drive short-term sales during this period of uncertainty, there is also a large population of perfectly healthy people sitting at home, spending more time on screens, thinking about what they’ll do when they can get back to life as normal. Are you making their time more enjoyable? Creating solutions to new problems? Winning likeability? Forming memories that will pay off down the line? Reduction in activity is natural, but think about the roles various forms of activity play in your long-term strategies.”

  2. How are you seeing client expectations change during this time?

Paul Wilson, managing director, Saatchi & Saatchi: “Our clients expect partnership, in good times and bad. And partnership at the moment is about providing clarity and assurance about our ways of working and service standards. In the short term at least this means some of the services and advice we offer will need to shapeshift as they adjust to a ‘new normal’. For instance, we are already actively engaged with some of our clients to see how we can use our broader marketing muscle to help the community during this disruption. It’s at times like this that we’ll see businesses that truly understand their social contract within the community step up and do what they can to make life a bit better.”

  1. What are you doing as an agency to prepare outside of the creative process?

Statement from Publicis Groupe New Zealand, Wednesday 18 March, 2020:

Throughout this time, we have restricted travel, with a recommendation to prioritise video conference and Skype where possible. We have put into place a 24/7 COVID-19 support team across global time zones who are managing individual employee requests.

Following the increased measures announced by the New Zealand Government, from today, Publicis Groupe New Zealand’s agencies have been transitioning to work from home, returning to the office on Monday, March 30th, pending further developments arising. 

We will continue to serve our clients with our business continuity strategy including mobile workforce enablement so that teams are able to work remotely in compliance with local regulations, our IT Security & Privacy Policies and specific client needs per regulatory requirements. We are also confident that our existing flexible working framework, Publicis Liberté, has already laid some of the knowledge and foundations to this way of working.

Story to be updated as news progresses.

Have a pandemic plan? Let us know about it at [email protected]

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