Creativity thrives in an abandoned Central Park, New York City.

But the shield wrapped around our anxiety is wafer-thin.

As of Thursday morning, global COVID-19 cases reached more than 200,000, with deaths about to surpass 9,000. 

Reality has hit home.

Mainstream media headlines are bleak and unavoidable. Industry headlines are better, but ugly. And there’s no sugarcoating it; they’ll get uglier — heinous, even — as the full economic impact becomes more apparent in these coming weeks and months. 

But there is optimism, positivity and resilience everywhere we look in adland.

For many, this is only the first week of a new, remote world — and advertising has already stepped up. Agencies and brands wasted no time in doing what needs to be done, from AT&T waiving internet data caps to Havas live-streaming meditation and other rituals for the world to join in and decompress. There have been grants to small businesses. Donations to bartenders. Media space aid to spread World Health Organization advice and updates. Product innovation to help social distancing.  

Meanwhile, those on the front lines are sharing highs and lows. We’ve heard from remote experts like We Are Rosie whose company was founded on a work-from-anywhere culture, to the WFH rookies suddenly charged with leading hundreds of people in a juggernaut agency scattered across the nation. 

There’s some seriously good stuff coming out of adland right now. We’ve made a list. These are not surface-level initiatives which capitalize on a global pandemic (I mean, those are definitely happening, but there’s no way in hell we’d give those air time). These are human and genuine. They are also a distraction from the wafer-thin bubble shielding our industry from its own anxiety. 

Chatter among adland’s C-suiters is one of goliath concern for their colleagues. Those who have less than desirable WFH situations (holla at me all my 500sqft studio apartment-dwellers) to the more serious mental burdens of keeping their family and elders safe and healthy at this time. Leadership is juggling immense empathy with running a business, all without human interaction. Testing is an understatement.

This past week has been extremely telling on the CEO side. We’ve seen crisis-management internal memos from all the major holding companies and the tone and language varied wildly. Those who were bang on the money, in my opinion, include WPP’s Mark Read. He managed to make an email to 100,000 people sound incredibly personal — marrying brutal honest about the storm ahead and stressing encouragement for support of one another. A tip of the hat to Yannick Bollore, as well. The Havas Group CEO was quick to assuage job fears by underscoring the company’s strong financial state.

Campaign US will do its part to champion all things positive, as it always strives to. But we can’t do that without you.

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