The Australian advertising industry's biggest concerns about the pandemic

Paige Murphy
By Paige Murphy | 15 April 2020

The financial impact of the coronavirus crisis is one of the advertising industry’s greatest concerns as it braces itself for declining ad spend and other fallout including job losses. 

In an online survey, AdNews asked the Australian industry about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and what the future will hold once this is all over. 

The majority (91.1%) of respondents were concerned about their jobs.

Among top concerns was the long-term impact on ad spend, with one respondent saying they had already lost 90% of their revenue.

Out-of-home (OOH) players were feeling the hit already with one respondent saying the medium had become “less valuable” and that Q2 will be a write-off for the business.

Most respondents said the recovery period would be a year to two years before things are back to normal. However, some optimists thought six months was about right.

“Impossible to say and hard to define 'recover'. The impact will be felt for years in a general sense,” one respondent said.

Another person said there would be a “seismic shift” across the industry which will determine who will still be standing post-pandemic.

A number of respondents expressed concern for the “catastrophic” impact on small independent agencies, as well as the number of job losses that will occur.

“I don't think we'll ever go back to how we were - resources/head counts will be leaner than they already were, clients will be even more cautious with spends (less risk will be taken on ideas, new platforms etc), certain industries will be forever changed (travel as an example).”

Shrinking budgets have been a concern since before COVID-19 but respondents said that these would shrink further and clients would revert back to “safe” ideas and move more in-house.

“It's a resilient industry as a whole, however for clients taking a proactive approach it will no doubt be the awakening to bringing service in-house, albeit at a loss of quality and expertise - cheapening our trade even further if you will.”

More than half (69.86%) said that work had slowed for them already and 65.75% said that their job had been impacted.

Of those whose jobs have been impacted, some of the most common responses as to how included salary cuts, less hours, forced annual leave or a combination thereof.

While a smaller selection of respondents had been made redundant or temporarily stood down, it wasn’t all negative with some people citing that their workload and hours had actually been increased.

Among the more positive, respondents viewed the pandemic as an opportunity for innovation, a return to effectiveness and brand-building over cost-cutting and a move to further flexible working arrangements.

“Necessity is the mother of invention - new, creative, innovative ways of working, and new services to clients will dominate.”

The ups and downs of WFH
Most respondents (94.56%) are currently working from home with many citing that this would be for an “indefinite” or “unknown” period of time.

The switch to working from home has had its ups and downs with only 23.45% finding the new set up as more productive than being in the office compared to 60% who found it productive sometimes and 16.55% not at all.

Some of the biggest challenges the industry is facing working from home surround isolation and a lack of human contact.

Respondents said that working remotely was hindering opportunities to work collaboratively and build relationships with team members and clients.

While phone calls and video conferences have become core to staying connected, many feel as though they actually slow the workflow and are not as effective as face to face communication.

“You miss out on face-to-face contact. Verbal comms is great while working remotely but you miss that connection talking face to face. Also, presenting to clients remotely is challenging - you can gauge their reaction the same way you can in person,” one respondent said.

Brainstorming has also taken a “backseat” as a result of working from home with some saying it has been harder to come up with ideas sans collaboration among the team.

“We're missing the casual conversations and the collisions of thoughts and ideas that occur through human contact. Ozmosis is an amazing thing!”

Staying motivated and avoiding distractions have been a major challenge as temptations to nap, visit the kitchen and day drink take over.

For many parents, working from home has been a double-edged sword with many enjoying more time with children and others finding it a challenge to focus.

Meanwhile, the removal of the daily commute to the office has been relished across the industry with some using the time to exercise instead, take care of personal needs or have more time with family and pets.

“More time with my son with my partner - we're not passing ships in the night and can be together to do the daily things we need to do with our son,” said one respondent on the benefits of working from home.

Despite missing the collaborative environment of office life, a lot of respondents said that they were able to focus more without the distractions of meetings and the chatter among the office.

Flexibility was also a highly cited benefit to working from home as people enjoyed working on their own terms.

“Being able to do a few chores here and there, and in return, respond to emails any time without too much hassle.”

Respondents came from across the industry with most in senior (37.41%), executive (27.89%) and mid-level (26.53%) roles.

The online survey was conducted April 2-14 with 147 respondents. 

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