Home Interviews Covid-19 pandemic: Brands’ advertising communications should be sensitive – Paul Ugoagwu
Covid-19 pandemic: Brands’ advertising communications should be sensitive – Paul Ugoagwu

Covid-19 pandemic: Brands’ advertising communications should be sensitive – Paul Ugoagwu


Brand and marketing communications can be a two-edged sword, especially in a time of crisis. So, there is a thin line between a brand’s advertising message coming across as spotting an opportunity and empathising with the consumer and being callously opportunistic. In this interview with MARKETING EDGE, Paul Ugoagwu, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, STB-McCann, Lagos posits that brands should be kind and sensitive in their creative messages.

What is your take on the current creative messages being churned out by some brands that are still advertising in this critical period of COVID- 19 global pandemic?

Some brands are migrating their adverts to other stations.  For instance, since the football season in Europe was suspended, most clients migrated their TV ads to CNN. Some other clients have creatively added the COVID 19 stay safe messages to their communication (either new or modified) as a CSR strategy which is good.

What do you think should be the thrust of brands creative messages in this season of embattled consumers and the global audience?

Brands should be kind and sensitive in their creative messages at this time.  However, lockdown in key cities is opening up fresh digital opportunities for brands to engage captive audiences.

What do you think companies who have stopped or suspended their brands advertising campaigns stand to lose or gain?

Some brands which have suspended their advertising campaign did so for specific reasons – economic meltdown, media strategy realignment or marketing objectives readjustments.  There is a fresh opportunity for brands and agencies to re-strategise and engage their target audience based on new realities when the lockdown would be over.

Maintaining advertising campaigns in the face of economic and social disruptions/distractions presented by the pandemic could be counterproductive and hard to justify especially for non-essential goods and services.

What do you think companies who are currently pushing their brands advertising campaign stand to gain?

Keeping the target audience continually engaged has the advantage of top of the mind .Depending on their message, such brands could use CSR as a strategy for maintaining their share of voice.

Why do you think companies are panicking over the possible economic fall out of this pandemic?

Global shocks will reverberate and adversely affect companies across every continent.  A world-wide recession is already on. Reduced consumer spending will impact negatively on companies’ bottom line. Companies such as airlines, tourism, luxury goods, hospitality, construction, real estate, and manufacturing will struggle to reboot. Needless to say, some of these companies may never recover.

Do you consider as logical if a company should suspend or stop brands advertising campaign at this time in the life of the nation?

There is always a strategy to this.  No option is off the table at this time. Long term viability or sustainability of any action is key. Remember that brand advertising is just one option. Brands/companies can engage their target audience by other means to keep up top of the mind awareness. No brand should stay completely silent!

What should the advertising people be preoccupied with as companies are uncertain about the market outcome if tomorrow comes?

Advertising people can see tomorrow. COVID-19 pandemic is not the first in history. Advertising people can begin to strategise by identifying current and future opportunities in terms of media and target audience engagement options.

Secondly, for sectors capable of quick recovery post COVID-19, the work starts now. Thirdly, advertising people should prepare and indeed lead a post COVID-19 cultural shift in terms of professional practice.

How can creative advertising professionals find more relevance in brands management business post COVID -19 global pandemic?

Post COVID 19 will also likely usher in the 5G revolution which will without doubt change brand management practice among others. It will cease to be business as usual. A smarter approach to problem solving and target audience engagement driven by smarter technology is the way to go.

Do you foresee a major backlash on creative advertising business post COVID-19?

Brand advertising support budget is always the first victim in a recession economy.  Post COVID-19, expect a reduction in ad-spend, harsher scrutiny of budget and a do-it-yourself approach by clients. Fiercer competition among agencies for surviving deep pocket clients is almost inevitable.

What do you envisage to be the next paradigm shift post COVID – 19? If not, what scenario do you envisage playing out at the end of the day?

We see a further fragmentation of the business of advertising.  IoT, AI and convergence of technology will all conspire to cause a genetic mutation in the way we knew brand advertising. Smarter agencies, smarter workforce and remote working are all here to stay.

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