How are we to assess the fortunes – and management – of the big ad holding companies over the next few months?
Companies of all shapes and sizes are set to struggle with the Covid-19 outbreak of course, with a few exceptions such as, presumably, supermarkets. Commercial pillars like airlines are demanding bailouts (somewhat cheekily as their owners have trousered vast dividends in the recent past as have airport owners at Heathrow and elsewhere.) Some big non-food retailers are bound to go to the wall.
Agencies will clearly suffer along with their clients – and, in the case of the ad holding companies, their circumstances were looking pretty precarious before the virus struck.
Publicis, usually the first big group to report, has said it will give no further guidance before its quarterly results on April 23 beyond saying that trading in February was “in line with its 2020 roadmap.” Which isn’t that reassuring as said roadmap forecasts either side of zero. WPP is, presumably,in much the same boat although it hasn’t said anything publicly. Publicis is clamping down on expenses.
It’s become commonplace for people to say that the world won’t be the same post-virus but it’s true. And neither will adland, dominated by the likes of WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Interpublic and Dentsu for the past 20 years.
Publicis may be staying silent for a month or so but that won’t stop speculation. April 23 looks like a big day for the whole ad industry.