Companies operating in the marketing industry should not be rushing back to the office any time soon, the Advertising Association has cautioned, despite the Government easing lockdown restrictions to allow most workers to do so.
AA chief executive Stephen Woodford said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement – which has been heavily criticised as posing more questions than it answered – showed the hard journey ahead before the country can approach “normality” again.
He added: “As our projections on adspend for the year ahead also showed, we are in for a very difficult few quarters in advertising, but I am 100% confident in our creative and entrepreneurial abilities to see this crisis through.”
Woodford predicted that returning to work was not going to be easy or simple: “Our colleagues and companies in ours and every other industry will have to navigate the rules to operate in a socially distanced way and adhere to new regulations. Keeping people safe will remain the top priority, balanced with supporting businesses and the economy.”
However, he said that the ad industry is “expecting more” from the Government, such as the phased reduction of the furloughing scheme beyond the end of June, which Woodford warned was “critical” to avoid a cliff-edge situation for employers and furloughed staff alike.
He also reiterated the industry’s call for a tax credit for advertising to kick-start the economy and support growth and jobs.
Woodford asserted that the nature of the crisis means everyone will have to consider their own personal exit plans from lockdown and there are multiple factors – from the suitability of workplaces to work safely and effectively to the choice of transport to and from work – in play.
He said that some are even more personal, including people’s own health conditions or those of people within the same household, or the shifts in childcare as the reopening of schools is planned.
“Wherever possible and practical, our industry should continue to work from home where it can. There are particular sectors though which cannot, for example advertising production and market research,” Woodford added. “These are being asked to work in a way that conforms to Government advice. We are working with stakeholders and officials to make sure this information is as clear and comprehensive as possible.”
However, he also warned the industry that it has a responsibility to carefully reflect this new way of living in the work it creates.
“Advertising will need to represent the ‘new normal’ for people and communities in the campaigns over the coming weeks and months. I know we will rise to this challenge using all the creative ingenuity that has already been evident during through this crisis, where great work has helped us all to make some sense of this new enforced way of living and reinforced the strong sense of community and togetherness we all feel,” Woodford concluded.
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