A 360° view of lockdown and the new abnormal

The Drum 23 Sep 2020 03:00
By Kevin Chesters-23 September 2020 16:00pm

Kevin Chesters is the partner/chief strategy officer of The Harbour Collective.

Six months on: a 360° view of lockdown

In his latest column, Kevin Chsters offers up some of the lessons he has learned these last six months from his 360° view across the industry.

Exactly six months ago, on 23 March, we were all immediately, involuntarily and violently yanked out of everything that we considered to be ‘normal‘. Things like going to the office, a pint with a mate, getting the train, picking up a Starbucks or any other one of the thousands of simple, everyday actions we all took 100% for granted were gone overnight.

We hear a lot now about the ‘new normal‘. Nothing about what happened, or is happening right now, is normal. It’s far from normal as it’s possible to be – even if most of us are slowly returning to the office. This is a new abnormal, at best.

The actual impact has been as bad, and in some cases worse, in the immediate term according to recent data. Updated figures from Neilsen showed that UK media spend fell by £1bn y-o-y over the summer, as the government and Public Health England became the biggest advertisers. UK advertising spend on traditional media halved between 23 March and 30 June. Some of the traditional big spenders virtually stopped advertising altogether (McDonald’s spend fell by 97% between March and June). Outdoor spend fell by 80% and predictably hardest hit was cinema with a 100% decline.

Some industries have been hit harder than others. Production, PR and experiential seem to have been especially impacted by project cancellations and budget freezes. 66% of experiential agencies have stated they’re making redundancies (and I think the other 34% are lying). It has been really difficult for everyone out there, personally and professionally.

But it has been different here at Harbour, sitting at the heart of a network of 15 specialist agencies in different sectors. It has given me/us a 360° view of the impact of Covid-19 on the industry in the round. We have been in close contact throughout with our partners in the collective, and it has been fascinating (and sobering) to get the full view of the whole of the marketing services and creative industry.

At Harbour we have, by design, been able to talk to people at every frontier of the creative industries (and clients) to see what the impacts have been and what lessons can be learned by looking at the marketplace as a whole.

No-one is having a nice time (whatever they tell you)

Don’t get caught in the middle

Legacy is bad

Get Flexible

Things are not back to normal. Far from it

Here’s my four simple(r) lessons from the last six months as a business: be different, be interesting, be useful and be nice. So far, being these four things has been good for us.

It’s not over. It’s not normal. But we have got through the last six months. Well done everyone.

“This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

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NeilsenKevin ChstersWarc
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