E3 international agency network

It’s been six weeks since China went into lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus. Since then, the entire country has pulled together, with front-line workers, neighborhood volunteers, delivery drivers and key service workers all going to extreme measures to make sure the country pulls through. Even in a city as populated as Shanghai, shopping malls remain deserted and you can actually get a seat on the subway (now that it’s running properly again). While all this is temporary, we are yet to see what the long-term impact is going to be. Having said that, for business and agencies like E3 member Brandigo, and its China team, the last few weeks have been a very interesting period in China agency life, to say the least!

We’re all virologists now
As news of the new virus broke and slowly started to dominate traditional and social-media, WeChat and other China social platforms have become home to an army of new (and very vocal) virologists, all with a genuine insight on what it is going on. Not a single group or network doesn’t contain a bunch of these guys showing off the certain ‘facts’ we all have to know about COVID-19. The WHO should sign them up now! For us, there is a lot of noise out there that our campaigns have to cut through.

No one wants to go viral!
Back in the time BC (Before Corona), going viral was seen as a good thing by agency bods and marketers. You might want to check how you use that expression moving forward.

Lies, damn lies and statistics
Whose data is legit? Who’s covering things up? What is the difference between suspected cases and confirmed cases? If you are sick in Beijing but got infected in Shanghai, whose data set do you belong to? Many China digital outlets have been helpfully releasing daily trackers so you can monitor what is going on, even down to whether or not someone in your compound has caught the bug. Cue a whole bunch of social media debates from all the statistics ‘experts’ out there. China has always been an early adopter, data-savvy nation but we are seeing a step-change now which will influence how we present data in the future.

Turns out all heroes do wear masks
This year’s must-have office item? It’s not the latest iPhone, it’s not the coolest wireless earbuds, it’s a 3M face mask. Everyone is wearing one these days darling, not least the army of local neighborhood security guards, volunteers, healthcare professionals, delivery drivers, supermarket staff and restaurant workers who are working incredibly hard to keep the country moving forward during the crisis. And there is also a ‘Fendi’ or ‘Gucci’ option available from your local tourist market if you are looking for something a bit more haute couture.

Remote control
Despite being such a tech early adopter and a 5G pioneer, home/remote working has never really been a thing for most Chinese workers, it simply doesn’t match the working culture here, even in forward-thinking agencies. That has changed overnight with many businesses having to quickly figure out how it will work in practice, keeping staff on task and clients up to date.

Being pitch perfect
Similar to the above, most of the new cases we are being invited to pitch for don’t involve face-to-face meetings. We recently pitched to a SE Asian government-funded organization which involved a two-hour video presentation and Q&A. So all those presentation and networking skills honed over the years are going to need refining moving forward.

The shows must go on
China is home to some of the world’s biggest trade exhibitions, with millions of people from all over the world, and working in all sectors, converging on cities all over the country. They have proven to be essential for global trade and a busy time for agencies whenever one comes to town. Obviously, we are seeing a lot of postponements at the moment which means the backend of the year is going to see crowded calendars for agencies working in exhibition support.

Temperature tests
This isn’t about how hot your client’s brand is right now, it’s not about tracking market sentiment. Here in China, you will literally have your temperature taken before entering any building, shopping mall, subway station, whatever. It’s then recorded along with your phone number and ID information.

Briefs aren’t so brief
With clients, teammates and suppliers now scattered far and wide, communication and consensus is taking a little longer than usual. One good habit to come out of the situation is marketers on both sides of the client/agency fence are thinking more about the brief. More detail, more information, more clarity right from the beginning. And that can only be a good thing.