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How creative agencies are looking to rebound as second Covid wave ebbs asks experts how different were the two waves for agencies in terms of business

Last year’s lockdown had a devastating effect on clients and agencies but people were optimistic about the year 2021 bringing in newer avenues, despite the second Covid wave. According to GroupM’s mid-year TYNY report, the Indian adex will grow by more than 20% in 2021, which is slightly less than 23.2% growth predicted at the beginning of this year.

Now as the second wave ebbs, and towns and cities open up again, brands are expected to increase their advertising and marketing spends. But at the same time, amid concerns over a possible third wave overlapping with the festive period, creative agencies are cautious about business returning in such a scenario.

Satbir Singh

Satbir Singh, Founder and CCO, Thinkstr, said they are seeing an early spike in enquiries and client conversations regarding new campaigns and projects. He said people revised their targets last year and if things go back to normal till Diwali, there might be a rise in expenditure.

“It is expected that clients are going to be a little circumspect and not splurge because everyone will be cautious. Nobody had expected a second wave three months ago and things had started to almost get back to normal. The second wave has put a fear in everyone’s minds about a third wave,” Singh said.

Ranji Cherian

On similar grounds, Ranji Cherian, President and Managing Partner, South, DDB Mudra, said although he is optimistic about the festive period, the next 60 days will determine the final plan. “I don’t think clients will put all their eggs in one basket,” Cherian explained.

Shouvik Roy

Shouvik Roy, President and Head of Office, Ogilvy Delhi, said everyone is talking about growth cautiously. He said despite the fear over a third wave, the collective optimism will come out a winner. “The run-up to the festive season looks promising. The planned line-up of world sporting events is adding to the sense of comfort and pointing advertisers toward the right avenues to spend,” he said.

Ajit Devraj

On the other hand, Ajit Devraj, Managing Partner, Dentsu Impact, said while he expects business to return, the kind of narrative brands are putting out there, because of a shift in the overall consumer mindset, is of a little concern.

Devraj said they are more prepared for the third wave as now more people are getting vaccinated and there are certain control mechanisms in place at all levels. However, he said as the nature of the third wave is unpredictable, they will have to exercise due diligence and care in how they plan and approach the possible festive period spike.

How different were the two waves for agencies in terms of business

Agencies were still preparing for the unlock phase when the first wave subsided and the economy opened up. The second wave has been much harsher on people but with the past experience, clients and agencies are better prepared on the business front.

Creative agencies are hopeful about being better prepared to face such situations in future. As things open up, restrictions on shooting are slowly ending in various states and the production of creative work is expected to resume shortly, which might give the audience better work to witness during the festive time.

“Although 2021 was far more severe, we did not see knee-jerk reactions at the business front this year. But clients and agencies learned from the experience of the past and we were better prepared. Despite the pandemic, some categories continued to do well. The digital acceleration was moving at a fast pace. Consumers were learning to adapt to life on digital and hence opportunities continued to open up across spectrums. Execution of campaign projects will resume as soon as things open up. We will manage travel and safety of our employees in this phase as well with on-site SOPs that adhere to all Covid protocols,” said Cherian.

Roy said the speed with which the second wave spread gave very little time to marketers to react. Now completion of pending projects will get priority and many brands will prepare for the festive season, Roy said. 

Experts say businesses might see another line of pitches with advertisers looking for ways to stay relevant and engage with consumers.

In the first wave, pitching slowed down as advertisers were themselves dealing with the impact of the pandemic. The maximum number of pitch queries was seen between December and March—between the two waves. Roy said we are now in for another phase of new pitches.

According to Devraj, pitching slowed down more during the second wave. “Just like after the first wave, I see pitches returning to normal levels but it might take a little longer for that to happen.”

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