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Agency networks WPP, Publicis and IPG restrict staff travel to China during coronavirus outbreak


By Stephen Lepitak, -

January 29, 2020 | 3 min read

Advertising networks including WPP and InterPublic Group have asked staff not to travel to China during the outbreak of the Coronavirus which has taken over 100 lives so far.

The Drum has contacted a number of the advertising agency networks to understand their travel policy during the outbreak with IPG banning travel or staff to the country and WPP issuing an advisory notice to staff not to fly to the country.

As the outbreak has begun during the Chinese New Year, it is not thought to have been distributive at this time but could become problematic the longer the issue continues.

“After consulting with our medical advisors and closely monitoring the travel advisories from the US Center for Disease Control, the US Department of State and other public authorities, we’ve decided to impose a company-wide travel restriction to China and Hong Kong due to the Coronavirus health situation. Effective immediately, all non-essential business travel to and from China and Hong Kong will need to be put on hold until the situation improves,” read an internal IPG memo, seen by The Drum.

“At this time, this restriction only applies to China and Hong Kong. As always, this decision was made with employee safety and well-being in mind. We do also realize some travel may be necessary so the current restriction does allow for some business-critical travel in certain case-by-case situations. If there’s a critical business reason to travel, the travelling party must provide written justification along with management approval to IPG’s Risk office prior to ticketing. In the meantime, even if you don’t travel for work, there are simple precautions you can take to stay healthy,” explained the memo. “We will provide further updates as necessary and thank you for your cooperation.”

WPP also expects staff to work from home following the end of the current holidays, in keeping with government regulations, while Publicis Groupe has also issued restrictions this week.

“We have a restricted travel policy in place and have asked that people avoid non-essential trips; those who need to travel to China will require a specific authorisation. We continue to closely monitor the situation and follow the recommendations we are receiving from our security providers," explained a spokesperson for Publicis Groupe.

“We’re closely monitoring on the outbreak as it develops,” a Havas spokesperson told The Drum. “While at this stage we haven’t implemented a specific group-wide travel policy, we are strongly advising staff to follow local government and WHO recommendations. In general, these advise against all travel to Hubei Province and against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China, and a period of self-quarantine for anyone who has returned from Wuhan within the past 14 days. Some of our offices – particularly those in South East Asia – have chosen to actively enforce similar precautionary measures for anyone with a recent history of travel to China.”

Accenture Interactive declined to comment on its policy around the outbreak when approached, while Omnicom has advised staff to use their common sense when considering landing in the country.

Dentsu Aegis Network has also been contacted but had not replied by the time of publication.

At the time of writing the number infected by the disease was 6065 people worldwide with all but 68 infections taking place in China.

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