IAG chief marketing officer Brent Smart has said he will not be cutting any of the insurance company’s agency fees despite the economic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus.
Speaking to Jules Lund on the latest episode of Marketers in Pyjamas, Smart said marketing leaders need to think about the pressure agencies are currently experiencing, noting many have to cut staff to survive this turbulent period.
“When things like this happen, the first thing we do is cut back,” he said, adding: “I will not be cutting any of our agency fees, period. And that is a really important principle for me.”
Smart said he wanted to ensure IAG does everything it can to help its agencies not simply survive, but to “come out of this in as strong a position as possible”.
“I’ll do everything I can to ensure no-one who touches our business loses their job in the next little while,” he said.
Smart also said IAG isn’t currently experiencing any budget cuts amidst the current pandemic, with audiences growing in a way he “hasn’t seen in a long time”.
“There’s a lot of great digital opportunities we’ve got to reach people. So I actually see it as an amazing brand opportunity and a time to invest.”
Speaking on having flexibility with marketing plans during a crisis, Smart said it’s “bullshit” that brands need to be strategic and “stick to the plan”.
He said: “I think right now you’ve got to be very clear. You got to look at all your creative assets. We pivoted our whole brand campaign in a week, and that’s a kind of pace you’ve got to work at.
“I always talk about you’ve got to move at the speed of culture. Right now, culture is moving way faster than marketing departments are used to moving.”
Smart also shared his advice on how marketers should be connecting with customers during this time, suggesting that “removing yourself from being the CMO” is key.
“You’ve got to really try very hard to think about how people are feeling and thinking about what people want to hear from brands and think about what they’re getting inundated with daily. And that’s a really hard lens when you’re a marketer.
“We always overestimate how much people are looking forward to that next communication from our brand. And I think we massively overestimate the role our brands really play in the world.”
On the current opportunities for marketers, Smart said the environment we’re living in gives brands more time to develop work and create some “really smart strategic marketing”.
“[It’s] time we wouldn’t normally have because we’d be too busy in the tactical thing that we’re always doing.
“Yes, respond to what’s going on now. Of course, you have to. But also, can you take this time to actually get a few things developed and get a few things worked out that will actually be so right when we finally come out of this.”
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