WPP’s Read backs agency efforts in the crisis – but are they doing enough?

Are agencies doing their bit in the Covid-19 crisis? WPP CEO Mark Read (below) thinks they are.

Writing this week he said: “At WPP, we are working with international health authorities to promote effective handwashing, and we have offered our resources to the UK government to assist the effort in Britain. Wavemaker (a WPP media agency) is already working with them.

“Ogilvy is one of 35 agencies in Spain working with five industry bodies to use the collective power of advertising to fight the spread of COVID-19. WPP Health hosted an online forum for 2.6 million Chinese citizens and more than 200,000 physicians. Group SJR is developing scripts for public-health officials in the U.S.

“This is not a time for scoring competitive points, but a time for solidarity, and I want to recognize and applaud the great work being done by our peers as well.

“To list just a few: Dentsu is working with a pharmacy client to provide free online consultations; Arthur Sadoun stressed in a video for all his people that the well-being of Publicis staff is his priority (is that; Havas is helping its people stay healthy with meditation and yoga via Instagram Live; and BBDO brought some humor by creating a “logo generator” for its people’s home offices.

“Clients, too, are putting their social responsibilities first and thinking creatively and innovatively about ways in which they can help, whether that’s Unilever supporting global and local authorities by donating hygiene products, Google launching an educational website and resources for parents home-schooling their children, LVMH switching to hand sanitizer production, Facebook’s $100 million program to support small businesses or Ford easing payments on new vehicles.”

Some of these are more important than others and, while it’s obvious that big clients can do more, the agency holding company efforts seem patchy although there may be stuff we’ve missed. Sending the staff a video or running yoga classes doesn’t do much for the rest of the world.

Pro bono work still costs you, of course, and most agency staff will be keen for their employers to preserve cash so they preserve their jobs. But some clients are doing a good job of burnishing their brand amid the crisis (others like some of Britain’s big banks demanding personal guarantees for Government-backed business loans most decidedly are not.)

WPP seems to be doing its bit. Are the others?

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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