• NMG Staff

Covid-19: the advice of dot-com companies’ agencies to face it

Updated: Sep 9

This story was originally published on emarketing.fr by Clément Fages

Considering the lockdown period will be extended until April 15, more and more advertisers will be tempted to communicate again. Which tone should they adopt? How to stay authentic? Here are some clues.

The best communication: it’s action

Even before thinking to start communicating again in social media, brands should question which is their capacity to face this current crisis. Considering their role in society is being questioned and, that in 2019, all advertisers were only focused on corporate social responsibility and purpose, the Covid-19 pandemic puts them unfortunately against the wall. For Pierre Gomy, Managing Director of the Insights Division of Kantar, who has explained this Friday, March 27 the results of a worldwide study carried out with around 500 French consumers, their first priority is to act in favor of workers’ safety at its place of work and, then, to promote work-from-home, if possible. The second clue is to adjust its manufacturing unit or donate to hospitals, research or government. The third priority for French is to maintain the supply of products or services.

To provide a hazardous pay compensation to frontline employees, as it has been made by several emblematic big retailers, to manufacture masks or sanitizer gel, to donate its food stock or to help the participants in its ecosystem, are a first clue to explore. “The time is exceptional: it is a period of a major health crisis, but as in any crisis, if managed properly, it might become an opportunity for brands. Be careful, I am talking of opportunity and not of opportunism! It has been months that we have been hearing of brand purpose; Denise Gaul even talks of contributing. Today is the time for brands to show, to prove that they have a real mission for the benefit of their consumers, for the benefit of citizens! They can almost position themselves as a public service. The key issue is not to hurry up. It is necessary to see things from above and ask: What is that my brand can do to help the public? Perhaps, we will finally end up in an era that all advertisers call for from a long time ago: communicate less but better, to say things that are useful for the brand and its clients, this is something really expected”. This was explained by Lilith Peper, Strategy Director of the Braexe agency.

To have a communication which is adequate to you:

Should brands entertain us? Should they provide a sense of normality through their products and their advertising? Not really, according to the panel surveyed by Kantar. As explained by Pierre Gomy, 24% of French surveyed expect that a brand helps its consumers by acting pragmatically, 23% that brand gives example and acts as an agent of change, and 21% that it fights actively against the pandemic. Nevertheless, 15% of survey respondents think that brands should also try to reduce consumers’ anxiety. Then, the question is: Should or shouldn’t we continue to communicate?

And in which way? Considering a substantial number of brands have reduced or postponed their regular marketing campaigns to benefit social media, Kantar considers that a lack of communication during a 6-monts period could generate a reduction of brand reputation of up to 39% concerning advertising, 21% of brand mentions and 5% of its general reputation!

This is shooting ourselves in the foot before reopening of activities, considering that some companies will be at that time already weakened, Jean-Marc Segati, General Director of Big Success Agency, explains that: “is likely that before summer almost all activities will retake their course. Not as usual, but they will have been retaken. In this situation, the rest of the year will be crucial. Each month will count double. Thus, there is no reason to cancel any investment planned after May-June. On the contrary, the common sense encourages us to reinforce the same” He explains, by reminding us that two phases will follow: surprise and then acceptance. “While the surprise phase is taking place, everything that looks like as recovery is likely to be doubted. No need to say, that such perception is very negative for a brand. Particularly, at the surprise phase, the communication should consist of informing and, eventually, should add a small degree of desinterested entertainment. To inform, whether the company is engaging or not in any activity, to avoid that potential clients turn to competition. “It is not being opportunistic, at this level, is survival”. Furthermore, advertisers may benefit of an exceptional situation: in view of the exodus of advertisers, media, has more than ever, a need for income, at a moment that their audience is very high.

Once the information phase has passed, how should we communicate? For Nicolas Dumenil, Creative Director in We Are Social: “before acting, we must take time to watch people and their reactions. They will tell us a lot, the clapping sessions at windows, the virtual meetings among friends … We feel that there is this need to open up to others and such signals should be considered by brands, at the time, they decide to start communicating again. We must find new ways to establish a social connection. People exceed imagination when creating social network content, or to transmit certain quarantine behaviors or purchases of groceries… It is a health crisis, not a creativity crisis.”.

To get ready for the day after, and think the place of your brand in society

At this moment, we should test the day after: it is a thought that arises constantly in the different testimonies of the surveyed professionals. That’s convenient because many people have nothing else to do right now! “For the first time, since a long time, brands have very little time ahead of them to think, shape, and design the place they want to occupy within society; beyond their regular commercial function. Let’s take this time off as an opportunity.”. Wilfred Klucsar, co-founder of the Dix Sept Paris Agency explains. “. For such purpose, he calls to “take the time to act, stay humble and coherent with our course of action”, so we are prepared for the day after “considering brands are currently enrolled in a context that calls not to consume, with a background of ecological and social crises after the “yellow vest” movement, and highlighted by this lockdown period.

He is supported, at this point, by Gautier de Richoufftz, Chairman of Hands agency: “beyond the short-term, we must all take the measure of the social change that it is operating and the place of men within its environment, and in the world. More than ever, our role as an agency, is to accompany brands and companies in this transformation. He advises brands “to find an equilibrium between showing empathy, which suits at a moment in which audience Is in emotional shock and, entertain it, continuing to produce a dream or a game. Generally speaking, brands should maintain at any price their activities and production, and when they have the means, to create the path for their products. This crisis is going to shape for a long time the way to do business. Beyond, the more than likely, economic recession which will impact the manufacturing and consumption of goods and services, marketers will face plenty and new problems: how to communicate in this year in which there will be no Olympic games? Will consumption, in effect, boost after lockdown ends due to a catch-up effect? Or will it decrease, people will adopt new more responsible behaviors, after having stocked or their revenue diminishes …

Finally, are we going to see, like in China, new omni-channel behaviors, with increased consumption of fresh products through the internet? Will the end of lockdown be full of uninterrupted bankruptcies by small shops, bars, and restaurants, as indicated by Kantar during the presentation of its study?

Waiting for the answers to these questions, let’s keep in mind the column of Pierre Calmard, General Director of Pole Media at Dentsu in France, who makes a call for a rebirth: “for the agencies, which economic results have been bad for several years, the current crisis may constitute an opportunity, get lucky. We have already shown collectively an ability to react that it is reassuring. We have adapted our companies in record time to work-from-home in a generalized way […] We advise our clients over the strategies to be adopted within this exceptional context, delaying campaigns, adopting [gears] and messages and modifying the way we reach out. We keep managing, but we also keep our view into the future. Because what matters, is the day after. Independently of the scope of the crisis, we will get out of it, one day. Brands have a role to play – the majority of them have already acted in favor of the common good, with speed and relevance […] At the time of reopening, the brands that did not forget to communicate will be the winners, having been able to adapt their message. Silence is not always gold, it may be guilty. Being present during hard times, during the day-to-day of French, even if lethal, it marks an occasion to show what consumers search more than anything: respect. There is no love, there are only probes of love. He also calls to cure the media.

“The day after, the worst scenario will be to be collectively prisoners of a small number of platforms or worldwide media, within an oligopolistic thinking that risks to influence fast over a range of solutions, imposing formats, rates, and access conditions to consumers.


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