Coronavirus pangs hit ad production biz

Industry leaders indicate that losses to production companies and advertisers could be unprecedented but acknowledge the measures are being taken for the general good

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Mar 18, 2020 9:13 AM
Ad production

After a spate of diverse sectors, the coronavirus scare has now hit the ad production industry.

The situation has been worsening across the world and has cast a cloud of uncertainty over businesses.

 exchange4media has learnt from production companies that a number of shoots have either been postponed to later in the year or, in a few instances, cancelled altogether.

 In an emergency meeting held on Sunday, March 15, 2020, the Association of Advertising Producers (ASAP) along with other industry bodies - FWICE, IMPPA, WIPFA, IFTPC & IFTDA - unanimously decided to cancel all shoots from March 19 to the 31 due to the spread of the coronavirus. ASAP represents 75 producer members who do approximately 90% of the advertising work in India.

 “This decision has been taken for the safety of all people working on the sets. The losses to our business will be gargantuan but there is nothing more important than the lives of our colleagues,” Cyrus Pagdiwala, Executive Producer, Corcoise Films, and Honorary General Secretary, ASAP, told exchange4media. 

The ad production industry will go for a unilateral shutdown from Wednesday midnight.

 According to Pagdiwala, the losses to production companies and advertisers may be unprecedented and will depend on how long the shutdown lasts. “Currently, it's totally unpredictable. We are witnessing multiple scenarios, knowing that this is a one-of-a-kind situation and no one can help or blame anyone,” he asserted.

The financial implications 

Drawing attention to the unfortunate timing of the crisis, Pagdiwala said that the coronavirus threat has come at a time when IPL, one of the most lucrative business periods of the year, was supposed to be around the corner. “Since the time is around the yearly closing of accounts books, this is bound to impact the P&L books of everyone - advertisers, agencies & production houses,” he acknowledged. 

 He further indicated that advertisers will unfortunately bear the brunt of projects being postponed, although it is for the general good.

Clients like Unilever are exercising greater caution and have postponed or cancelled all their projects and, as reported in the newspapers, have shut down their offices as well. “While it will be a phenomenal loss to the company and to the members of their ecosystem, this is the only way to stop the spread of this contagion - by exercising restraint and self-imposed quarantine,” Pagdiwala remarked.

According to Sagar Kapoor, CCO, Lowe Lintas, postponing of ongoing projects will have a significant implication. “Most brands have even started considering reusing existing assets than risking creating of new ones. The challenges are evident,” he says.  

Meanwhile, Suprotim Day, Chief Films Officer, Dentsu Aegis Network India, says the overall impact in the long term could be fewer films, lower budgets and further reduced margins which makes the year ahead look like a tough one for the advertising production companies.

“There is a strong possibility that clients will put their campaigns on hold till the coronavirus situation clears and even if they do spend it will be much less than the previous year. They will probably run films produced earlier to be on the safe side. If that happens, it’s going to hurt the advertising film production business since there will be fewer productions in the new financial year compared to the previous one,” Day explained. 

Crew, wage and time challenges

Furthermore, a review meeting will be held by the Association of Advertising Producers (ASAP) on March 30. It has said that depending on the state of affairs a decision will be taken to resume shoots or continue the quarantine measures.

Kapoor indicates that the implications will definitely be huge – right down to the daily wage earners in the production ecosystem. “Since the dates are being set in stages, planning projects will become much more complicated,” he observed.

Meanwhile, Jigar Fernandes, Executive Producer & Director, third floor films, says procuring dates of ad stars will be difficult. However, he said, “Such projects could get delayed even longer. Our projects have been impacted for sure but it is in the larger interest of exercising caution. It is better to take a little hit in the short term rather than being irresponsible and ending up with a bigger problem.”

Industry leaders are now hoping that the advertising production industry - a world ruled by tight deadlines, inflexible budgets and seamless travel - manages to stay afloat in this state of turbulence.

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