Staff Reporters
Nov 28, 2019

How agencies are adapting to Hong Kong uncertainty

SOUNDING BOARD: Amid the recent cancellation of projects and events in Hong Kong, we ask agency heads about the repercussions for them, and whether clients are wary about the situation.

How agencies are adapting to Hong Kong uncertainty

Jasper Donat, CEO, Branded

Note: Donat put on a conference last week in Hong Kong called Live Matters.

Many industries are facing challenging times in Hong Kong, few more so than live sports and entertainment and B2B event producers. So it was even more important to gather and connect with as many of our friends as possible in an invitation-only forum.

In this instance financial profit wasn’t the motivation so we didn’t charge for attendance.

Safety of all our guests was an obvious priority and thankfully we had access to high level advice from local security firms that gave us the confidence to proceed.

A few overseas speakers and delegates were nervous about the unease in Hong Kong but many still came so we had a really good mix of attendees from all over the region and further afield.

Originally, the event was planned to take place onsite at the Clockenflap festival however a few weeks ago we took the decision to go indoors. We naturally kept an extremely close eye on the situation all the way up to the day of the event to ensure Live Matters was safe for all. Aside from that, we faced few challenges.

Even when heads are down, people still like to be entertained and businesses need to connect. This is why Clockenflap and other entertainment, sports and B2B events cancelling is such a shame for the whole city but it’s completely understandable. The overall spirit in the room was that the HK events industry can bounce back quickly.


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Natalie Ackerman, EVP Greater China, Jack Morton Worldwide

Brands and agencies have a responsibility to their audiences and their teams. They need to put safety above all else. Generally, that risk is much greater in public events, so we have seen a handful of cancellations in the public events space. As we’ve seen, public events involving large gatherings like Formula-E and Clockenflap and others have also been impacted.

Even though there’s been a number of cancellations in the public events space, other corporate events have gone ahead where the value of bringing people together to share is important. Some also feel a sense of allegiance to Hong Kong to continue to bring communities together, honouring their commitment to HK and wanting to keep things going.

Retail, consumer, travel and hospitality brands whose sales may have been impacted are thinking ahead to how they can regain market share in 2020 and looking to us agencies for creative engagement strategies and planning.

Chris Ryan, managing director and partner, Asia, AnalogFolk

There has been some emotional impact.  But overall, spirits at work have been high and we have continued to support one another as well as our clients.

As with all companies in Hong Kong, the safety of our staff is of paramount importance. We have found ways of working together remotely - among ourselves and with our clients.  It has been effective - we haven't seen any adverse effects on our business.

All clients are taking the same approach as us, and all remain 100% committed to Hong Kong as a place to do business, as are we.

Mark Patterson, APAC chief executive officer, GroupM
(These comments were made during the tumultuous week of November 11 to 15.)

The overriding priority is the duty of care to all our employees, to ensure they are safe, comfortable and not feeling pressure to travel so that we can facilitate their agile working. This weekend I've got 80 to 90% of the entire Hong Kong team working remotely and in a highly professional engaged way with their clients. Clients are very understanding because clients are in exactly the same position.

So we’ve just got to make sure that all our people are feeling they care and attention and understanding from the company through what is a traumatic time. We just have to understand and accept there are completely different and broad political views amongst our 400 people. We obviously have to be respectful of that.

It's getting logistically harder every day, particularly this week, to work. But it’s becoming the new normal of working remotely. People are used to working remotely and it's the output not the location. It’s certainly sustainable for a period. Hong Kong people are very smart, very resourceful, and have a great attitude toward work.

It's a different set of emotions as an expat compared to someone born and bred here and I always try to remember that as well. It’s highly emotional for many people, but it's a different emotional set if it’s your home land.

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