62% consumers want brands to continue to talk to them through COVID-19 crisis: Mark Read
The WPP CEO emphatically stated that how companies behave during the times of crisis can determine the bonds they forge with their consumers
The coronavirus crisis has swept the world into a whirlpool of economic crisis. It has also taken a severe toll on businesses who have heavily invested in building their brands over the years. Commenting on the severity of the crisis on the advertising and marketing industry, the CEO of WPP, Mark Read, spoke to a news channel. Here are some of the key takeaways.
Commenting on the decline of revenue in the wake of the corona crisis, and its potential decline in the coming months, Read said that it is the priority of most businesses to put their companies into the strongest position financially.
“Over the last 18 months, we raised 3.2 million dollars in asset sales and disposals, giving us a further financial buffer,” he said, speaking about WPP.
He further went on to say, “Simply put the environment is extremely uncertain, I think it would be unwise of us to see or speculate what would happen to revenues. So far, we’ve seen enough statements, we saw revenues in China down about 17% in the first two months of the year. We have seen gradual improvement in that rate.”
He also said that there will be gradual improvement in the second quarter, provided that the company is in its strongest position financially.
“The ones in the strongest position will come out of the situation, ready to take advantage of the opportunities that will no doubt exist then,” he stated.
While the threat of lay-offs loom large worldwide, Read stated that the company number one priority has been looking after its people. “We have over a 170,000 people around the world. We have roughly 10,000 people in china. We sent those people home from work in line with the Chinese government. We also have 2500 people in Italy who have been working from home for the last 5 weeks. And just over 2 weeks ago, we asked our people to remotely work from home and it has worked extremely well and I am pleased to say that the company can operate on delivering important work to our clients at the moment,” he said.
When quizzed about layouts, Read emphatically said, “That’s the last step we need to take.”
The WPP CEO also weighed in about the future of marketing budgets with many businesses in travel and entertainment shutting shops.
“It’s interesting that consumers want to hear from companies. We did some research in the US and 84% of the consumers said that how companies act at the current time will be extremely important to them in forming long-term brand loyalty,” he pointed out.
He also said that 62% of consumers commented that brands should continue to talk to them through this crisis. What they want to hear about are what companies are doing for people, what they are doing for their customers. How they can get access to the critical services that companies can provides for them at the moment.
“So there really is a very relevant role for marketing at this time. There are some sectors about business travel and tourism which is only 4 per cent of WPP’s revenue which are impacted. But even for those companies, they will at some point, need marketing services to come out of the recession,” he emphasised.
Read is confident that the crisis will lead to the acceleration of digital. “We are seeing 10-years of innovation crammed into four weeks,” he pointed out. “I mean, the way we communicate, travel, work, shop, use financial services, educate our children, it’s all been turned on our head. We are all moving towards digital channels. Clearly, digital media owners and companies will be the winners.
At the same time, he also emphasised that traditional skills that advertising companies use to understand consumers think, feel, how they communicate are also important in getting the tonality right.
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