This week in London - Advertising as evolution

James Bunn
By James Bunn | 13 October 2020
James Bunn

Australia and the UK have so many parallels, but at times like these it seems that our fortunes may be diverging. Canberra’s high hopes that spring 2020 will see COVID permanently retreat, are matched in scale by Westminster’s corresponding fears that the northern Autumn run-up to Christmas might be another disaster waiting to happen.

The kids are safely socially distanced back at school after the longest summer holiday and the Universities laid on a Freshers week befitting the start of a glorious new dawn, so what could possibly go wrong?

In recent weeks, deaths from the contagion have dropped to just a handful each day but now the curve is going the wrong way. So, with a stiff upper lip, all eyes are on the virus source Wuhan, where today, community transmission has been zero for more than a month.

Its also that time of year when all the great minds of the creative industry assemble for Advertising Week. The annual soiree is being held on a virtual basis this year as Adland are subjected to the same discipline and limitations as the world’s public.

In early sessions, it’s said that the 40%+ drop in Q2 advertising revenue appears to have bounced back sharply for the September quarter.

The travel, arts, hospitality and associated sectors are a bloodbath, but supermarkets, online retail and government advertising is taking up the slack.

Also, as so many are now working remotely, home audiences are strengthening and the mobile and broadband markets are trading places. For now, we’re just not out and about and on the move like we used to be. That’s evolution they say.

Leaders and entrepreneurs often thrive on change and the commercial opportunities that changing appetites uncover, but it does seem that the public are largely risk adverse. They’re crying out for certainty, and they seem to think its all the politician’s fault.

As in most countries, testing, tracking and tracing of the infected is building a picture of the spread and local lockdowns on a rolling basis are now managing the crisis, just. Currently more than a quarter of the population are isolated in lockdown.

Still there are green shoots of recovery, and Prime Minister Boris Johnston is looking beyond the coronavirus and setting out a national strategy to “build back better”. And why not? As he said; Britain has abundant resources; “As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the UK is to wind”: But he did add the caveat that “it’s going to continue to be a bit bumpy until Christmas.”

Some of this guarded optimism must surely relate to the final departure from Europe on New Year’s Day and the fact that Britain will then only have its own national debt to worry about.

The forthcoming A-UK Free Trade Deal should put Australia back in the box seat on a level not seen since the 1970s and the expatriate Alexander Downer and Tony Abbott have donned flack jackets to do their bit in negotiations.

In the advertising-led broadcast media, the mood changes daily. Channel 5 report that sales fell £500M between March and June, weakening their ability to join Channel 4 and ITV in Freeview to fight back against the US streaming giants.

Meanwhile the BBC and ITV are joining forces to counter, with ultra-high quality content on their Britbox streaming platform soon to launch in Australia. 

Amid the despair of crowd-free football matches, there is humour. Spare a thought for Oxford United who’s team coach broke down after the liberal use of alcohol hand sanitiser affected the driver’s breathalyser triggering the vehicle to be immobilised for six hours. The Accrington taxi company was the beneficiary this time before they went on to win 4:1.

So, as we batten down the hatches, the scaffolding that has hidden Big Ben from London eyes for three years is starting to come down as renovation of the Elizabeth Tower is almost complete. The great bell should be ready to toll its optimistic note by the end of the year. 

As my mother used to say, don’t worry it will all be over by Christmas – let’s just hope that it’s this Christmas … and if not, James Bond will return in 2021.