The advertising industry says it’s business as usual in 'unprecedented' times

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 18 March 2020

Australia’s efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus has left many in the advertising industry scrambling to readjust.

Most businesses in the media and advertising sector have asked staff to work from home where possible to limit human contact.

AdNews has reached out to industry executives to see how business is being impacted by the pandemic.

Beverley McGarvey, chief content officer and executive vice president at ViacomCBS AUNZ, says there’s minimal staff in the office to ensure broadcast and critical commercial activities.

“These are unprecedented times for the broadcast industry. We are regularly reviewing our practices with the health, safety and well-being of our staff, crew and talent top of mind,” McGarvey says.

“We continue to work hard to make sure Australians receive detailed and regular information about this rapidly evolving situation. We are also working closely with all of our production partners to ensure we maintain production continuity as far as it is possible by finding creative workarounds to deliver our audiences much needed entertainment during these uncertain times.”

At a time when Australians are being urged to stay at home, Rod Prosser, chief sales officer at ViacomCBS and 10, says TV is important to keep people entertained and informed.

“This includes giving advertisers a platform to effectively communicate important brand messages,” he says.

“This situation is affecting brands globally. We are in regular communication with our advertisers and continue to monitor the situation closely. While our working environment has changed, our commitment to advertisers has not. It continues to be business as usual and we are committed to working with agencies and advertisers on building the most effective marketing campaigns for clients and brands.

“Should a decision be made that would affect broadcast or commercial activities, we would work directly with our advertisers on the implications and adapt schedules where necessary.”

William Easton, vice president of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, says local employees have joined Facebook's global workforce in working from home.

“Our local ANZ teams are committed to maintaining our current service levels and we do not anticipate any major disruptions,” Easton says.

“COVID-19 has clearly created unexpected challenges for many businesses of all sizes, especially small to medium business’. We are in close contact with all our partners and our primary focus is on providing support across all parts of their business. With this in mind, we recently announced, the creation of the Business Resource Hub to support businesses being affected - directly or indirectly - by the recent outbreak of COVID-19."

The social media company has also made it easier for users to see credible information on coronavirus, and is working to stop the spread of misinformation by sharing World Health Organization (WHO) messaging through search results and advertising. It’s also partnered with WHO and US creator @dudewithsign, who has more than six million followers, to use the meme’s global popularity to share WHO health tips.


Meanwhile, both Seven and Nine say brands are responding to the pandemic quickly, with many looking to increase messaging.

“As things continue to evolve, advertisers are looking to communicate their messages now more than ever,” a Seven spokesperson says.

“We are working closely with them and responding however we can. That involves different types of support whether moving them around weeks to getting them on air at short notice, which is also happening at the moment. We are very conscious of our critical role in that as people look to stay in the home and will continue to be as adaptable as possible.”

A Nine spokesperson says it’s also working with clients to provide flexibility in their marketing campaigns over the coming weeks, where required. 

Meanwhile, The Sydney Morning Herald was published remotely for the first time in its 189-year history.

“While it is an uncertain economic climate, the overwhelming majority of marketers are conscious of the need to continue to stimulate demand and we are working with them, across our TV, digital, publishing and radio assets, to do just that,” a Nine spokesperson says.

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