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The Ad World Responds to Ukraine

Much of the world was quick to condemn Putin’s premeditated and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24, and the ad industry has overwhelmingly responded in kind. According to a recent survey by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), 71 percent of polled marketers, agencies and brands are reducing or pausing media spending in Russia. Another 64 percent are pulling back on larger projects or operations. Half also publicly voiced support for Ukraine, which marked a 19 percent increase in that sentiment since the war began. Extreme Reach was quick to express support for Ukraine with a significant donation, the decision to shut down all ad serving and delivery to Russian-affiliated digital and TV destinations, and to support team members in Ukraine and those whose family and loved ones are there. “As the war in Ukraine continues to intensify, it’s clear that the resolve among the marketing community to band together to protest this inhumane invasion is stronger than ever,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “Every day marketers are not only voicing their concern, but also taking direct action by radically altering their presence in Russia.” Here’s what else you need to know.

Brands Respond
For the most part, current public sentiment reflects a certain level of negativity regarding world events. In April, McCann Worldgroup’s Truth Central surveyed 4,500 people in nine countries (the US, UK, China, Brazil, India, Mexico, Germany, Poland, and Romania) and found that only 28 percent of respondents feel positive about today’s global condition. In keeping with that sentiment, 77 percent expressed a desire for brands to offer reassurance in the present moment, while 79 percent believe brands play a pivotal role in uniting society. Many brands believe the correct current move is to cease doing business in and with Russia—while other companies were called out publicly on social media for failing to cut ties there. As of early April, 253 major companies—including Accenture, American Airlines, Reebok, Shell, Uber and more—had cleanly broken free of Russian operations, while an additional 248 groups—Adidas, American Express, Burger King, Disney, Starbucks and Visa, among others—were suspending the majority of their activities (without permanently exiting). Experts believe this level of across-the-board sanctioning will be required to make an impact, and that now is not a time for brands to remain passive bystanders. Those that “come out with a point of view [are] showing they’re listening and paying attention to the situation,” said Laura Simpson, chief intelligence officer at McCann.

Ukraine’s Voice
In addition to standing in solidarity with Ukraine, some industry experts are committed to giving a voice to those the war has tried to silence. The April 25 issue of Adweek marked an unprecedented moment in the magazine’s 43-year history, with editors handing control to Ukrainian creatives for a special installment called “On Ukraine, by Ukrainians.” Insightful content contained essays, articles, and stories about Ukraine’s rich past and unique culture, as well as interviews describing the hopes people still hold for a better future. Cover art was created by Volodymyr Manzhos, an acclaimed Ukrainian designer and muralist. It shows a figure holding an open book while generating sizzling ideas—as evidenced by the steaming head—and charging boldly into the world. Proceeds of all ad revenue went to the freelance fees of the artists, writers, and creators responsible for this unique issue, while the remainder (roughly $75,000) was donated to two humanitarian nonprofits, Nova Ukraine and Ukrainian American Coordinating Council.

Meanwhile, the Office of the President of Ukraine used its own bully pulpit to declare bravery as the country’s main cultural export. While other nations pride their economies on oil or natural resources, the Ukrainian government launched a campaign promoting the fierce courage of its citizens. Billboards co-created by the Kyiv-based Banda agency and the Ministry of Digital Transformation bore messages like “I thought I knew what bravery was—and then I saw Ukraine.” These were meant to not only boost the morale of citizens at home, but also continue inspiring the world to take action and send aid, as the campaign is set to appear in 15 countries, including Poland, Germany, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Spain, Canada, and the US. “The bravery of military men, the bravery of ordinary people, of our cities. There are no countries that are ready to fight against Russia, but Ukraine is fighting, and we’re doing it successfully,” said Pavel Vrzheshch, co-founder of Banda. “This is our DNA, our national resource. Now everyone knows that bravery is being Ukrainian.”

Lending a Hand
As the war in Ukraine continues to rage, displacing millions from their homes and jobs, the Advertising Association launched a platform to help ad professionals find employment in other parts of Europe. The UN believes this is the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II, so companies are joining forces to lend help in multiple ways. Supporting efforts to assist Ukrainian workers as they flee has been the first priority. “We’re providing security, accommodation, financial support and helping them with visas and paperwork,” said Annette King, chief executive at Publicis UK. “Colleagues from neighboring countries have been assisting our Ukrainian colleagues as they cross the border, providing guidance, transport and accommodation.” At the same time, King and others based in the UK are attempting to find local housing and work there for Ukrainians. Havas UK, had helped 41 of its Ukrainian employees relocate as of mid-March, mainly to Poland, Germany and Latvia, while “actively exploring” ways to fund British visas. Omnicom likewise assisted 68 employees and their families, facilitating relocation to neighboring countries like Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic and other nations. The ongoing war continues to reveal new details about the toll being suffered by civilians, and both the ad world and world at large are responding accordingly. Our thoughts remain with all those affected and Extreme Reach stands in support of Ukraine.