Staying ready for the second wave of COVID-19

If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. The partner agencies of weCAN, Central and Eastern European advertising agency network claim the same, as they say the second wave of the corona virus hasn’t been as devastating as the first one thanks to the best practices found in the past 9 months. Home office is still popular, but not mandatory, and Christmas overpowers corona when it comes to CEE markets.

In the spring we asked our partner agencies to sum up their first impressions about the COVID-19 pandemic, and there were some massive region-wide, if not world-wide tendencies: agencies were fortunately quick to switch to online work and it proved to be an effective way of working both internally and with clients as well. But the markets inevitably came to a stop: advertisers paused or cancelled their campaigns due to the uncertainty and the advertising spending in the region dropped by 19% on average between March and May.

During summer life seemed get back to (somewhat) normal, our partner agencies returned to their offices fully or partially, but now with the second wave almost peaking, we wanted to know how agencies work and whether this time the lockdown equals shutdown, or the advertising sector has a better outlook than in spring.

Life doesn’t stop during this COVID wave

This time the virus has much less effect on our work: all our partners said they participate in visibly more pitches and tenders compared to spring, some even claim the workload and volume of activities is back to what was before the corona outbreak. This positive turn has more reasons, one of them being Christmas, which undoubtedly beats corona in this sense. Especially e-commerce, which evolved with such a speed since spring, led by businesses strengthening their online presence, and this all helps boosting sales just before the holidays.

Another reason for growing advertising spending is that companies who pulled back their campaign budgets during the first wave, they “started spending in Q4 those budgets”, described Ljiljana Bojanić, Account Director of Serbian New Moment. Both clients and agencies are less scared this time: “Autumn seems more predictable because we know more about the virus. Marketers have prepared for operation under new conditions. If their business is not dependant on distribution in shopping malls or HoReCa, their advertising expenditure is rather stable” summarizes Michał Polanski, President of Media People. The only uncertainty mentioned by Martin Kollar, Project Manager at 01People and Weronika Szwarc-Bronikowska, Vice President of Media People is the governmental ruling, the restrictions put in place are sometimes hard to foresee and can have huge impact on certain sectors.

Home vs. office

Many of our partners said they work from home, just like people at Slovenian Ascanius Media, Romanian thegroup and Serbian New Moment, but Ljiljana Bojanić adds this has direct connection with how school and kindergarten attendance is organised in each country. Home office proved to be an efficient way of working according to Bojan Popović, Managing Director of Slovenian Ascanius Media, but having some meetings in person and being able to go to a safe office space when needed seems to bring balance to these agencies’ lives. A safe office is crucial for Slovakian 01People, where people work in the office, and after a possible infection it requires a negative test from the employee to be able to return. Some agencies adapted in a “hybrid” manner: about one third of Czech Comtech colleagues work from home, compared to spring this number was 90%. Most of their meetings are held online, clients and suppliers visit them in the office in only 15% of occasions, admits Petr Vlasak, Creative Director at Comtech.

Contactless Christmas

Either at home or in the office, colleagues need their time together, meeting in person, but this also changed for the Christmas of 2020. With the advised staying home and travel restrictions, not only these relationships but the dynamics of customer relationship have changed too. Ljiljana Bojanić describes this holiday season “contactless”, when it comes to presents, and Roxana Tampau, Managing Director DDB Romania adds: “Our clients managed to keep up their Christmas campaigns or special cards, but everything has been moved to digital. Therefore, instead of organizing a big Christmas party they organized an online event, or instead of the traditional printed corporate card they sent the digital version. The corporate gifts also have been replaced with charity actions/ donations to poor children who do not have laptops or tablets for online schooling.”

Looking on the bright side

With Christmas just around the corner we can’t help to feel hopeful and news about the early stages of vaccination also provides a reason to be optimistic about the upcoming period. László Szarvas, CEO of weCAN Communications also reassures: “besides being part of this recent digital shift which was accelerated by the lockdown, we gained important experience in being flexible. Adapting to new working conditions, quickly reacting to market changes and coacting with clients to bring out the best from the crisis – this newly found resilience is going to be a invaluable skill in future unexpected situations.”

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