Here’s how ad agencies are responding to the invasion of Ukraine
In the week since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, ad agency networks with offices and staff in the country have been keeping a close eye on the war.
Independence Square in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine / Unsplash
Ukraine is home to many people working in the advertising and marketing industries, and since the Russian invasion began in late February, international businesses have been working to help safeguard their staff.
Publicis Groupe, for example, has guaranteed the salaries of its 350 employees in the country, while WPP and S4 Capital have each released statements regarding their staff in Ukraine and Japanese holding company Dentsu has made a large donation to the Red Cross. We’ll be keeping this article up to date with the latest responses from agency networks as the situation develops.
British holding company WPP said that it has 200 staff in Ukraine. The company is providing financial assistance for all employees.
A spokesperson told The Drum on February 25: “Our priority is our 200 people based in Ukraine and we are of course very concerned for their safety. We are in ongoing contact with our agency leaders in the country to provide whatever support we can, including financial support packages for all our people and other forms of assistance. The situation is fast-moving and we will respond to developments as they happen.“
In an email sent to all WPP staff on February 28, Read confirmed that WPP had paid each of its Ukrainian staff extra cash “to help meet their immediate needs“ and that it was providing access to medical advice and other practical resources.
WPP staff in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and other locations are providing accomodation to colleagues that have left Ukraine, and helping to transport their colleagues and their families from the border; the company's Warsaw campus site is collecting items such as mattresses and children's car seats. Ukrainian staff that had reached Poland have been given new positions within WPP's Warsaw agencies. Similar initiatives around transport, accomodation and working space are being established in Bucharest and Prague.
Meanwhile, WPP agency Blue State is working with GroupM and the UNHCR to organize an emergency fundraising appeal. WPP will make a donation of its own and match all donations made by its employees.
Read said: “I want to ask everyone to be mindful of the many people in and beyond our company affected by these awful events. We have many Ukrainian colleagues working in WPP agencies around the world, desperately concerned about family members at home. There are countless more people in the broader region whose lives have been touched by the crisis, and are appalled by what is happening. Please do check in with your colleagues, wherever they are in the world.“
Dentsu International has 500 employees in the country. EMEA chief executive Giulio Malegori said in a statement: “In these difficult times, the welfare of all Dentsu people and partners impacted by the ongoing escalation remains our top priority. We will do everything in our power to protect and support our people. In Ukraine, we have 500 affiliate employees and we are in regular and close contact to provide support, as and when required.
“We are a people-based business with a global community of 45,000 people. More than ever, we all stand in solidarity and stay closely connected to our teams in these impacted countries and ensure they feel the full support of Dentsu.”
Dentsu International chief Wendy Clark announced on Saturday (February 26) that the company had made a £250,000 donation to the Red Cross to aid in the organization’s humanitarian efforts.
On March 4, the company announced that it had set up a crisis team in central Europe to support evacuation plans from Ukraine and to provide humanitarian aid to refugees. A spokesperson said: “We are in daily contact with leadership from our affiliate business in Ukraine and continue to monitor the situation and review support required. We are preparing support plans for people who have arrived or due to arrive, especially for mothers and children. We are also working with our affiliate partner on how we may support their people in Dentsu Ukraine in the longer term.
“We are focusing on sharing ideas, initiatives, and strategies across CEE, DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) and northern Europe to support arrangements for accommodation, transport from borders, legal assistance, psychological care and daily essentials (clothes, first aid, mobile phones, sleeping bags, food). We are working in collaboration with clients, partners and our peers to ensure efforts are focussed and effective.“
On March 9, its CEE team launched a resources hub offering day care, prepaid cars, donated food and hygiene supplies and internet access to Ukrainan mothers and children who’e reached Poland.
A spokesperson said: “The team in Poland is joining forces with our local clients, former clients, competitors to launch this in the next few days. Two more will launch next week and we are asking other markets to reach out to their local clients and suppliers to come together in this difficult time to pull our resources together and help incoming refugees.“
Interpublic Group has also made a donation to the Red Cross and to Doctors Without Borders. In an email sent to IPG staff, chief executive Philippe Krakowsky said: “We have all been deeply saddened and shocked by the images that we are seeing coming from Ukraine. Our hearts break for the Ukrainian people who are in harm’s way, as well as for any among us who have family and friends in the country during this incredibly difficult time.
“As we all come to grips with the disturbing reality on the ground in Ukraine, you should know that we have spent the last few months in contact with our affiliate offices there to offer what assistance we can. We will of course continue to keep those lines of communication open, so as to best support our colleagues.
“We are also in contact with our leadership across the region to see what’s either possible or required in neighboring countries in order to look after our people. As you would expect, we have suspended business travel to both Ukraine and Russia, and will continue to monitor the situation and adjust plans accordingly. We’ll do our best to keep you posted regarding any and all developments relevant to each of you.“
Krakowksy said that while IPG “joins the international community in condemning these acts of unilateral aggression, and will support US and other sanctions levied against the Russian state,“ it was committed to the “hope for an effective and coordinated response that leads to the de-escalation of this conflict.“
French holding company Publicis Groupe has 350 employees in Ukraine. Chief executive Arthur Sadoun said in a statement: “We are deeply concerned for the anxiety and apprehension that our 350 teammates in Ukraine are experiencing as events unfold. We have been monitoring the situation in Ukraine very closely in the past weeks and our number one priority in these difficult times remains the safety and wellbeing of our people and their families.
“The concrete actions that we have already put in place including security alert systems, emergency hotlines and financial assistance are being further reinforced to adapt to the rapidly evolving context. We are in continual contact with our Ukranian teams to ensure we are responding to their questions and needs. At every level of the Groupe, from leadership to our worldwide Publicis community, we are by their side, and ready to help and support our Publicis family in Ukraine.”
In an email to group staff worldwide, Sadoun wrote that the company was offering “emergency training, security alert systems, information hotlines and dedicated support teams, as well as financial assistance.
“The courage and resilience our Ukrainian colleagues are showing is nothing short of extraordinary. I know I speak for all of us when I say we stand with them in this terrible moment and are keeping them in our hearts and in our thoughts.”
In a call between Sadoun and Publicis' Ukrainian team on March 1, Publicis guaranteed the salaries of staff throughout 2022. It plans to pay salaries on a fortnightly basis (rather than monthly) and has given staff an advance on their March paychecks.
Omnicom operations in Ukraine include FleishmanHillard, OMD, Tribal Worldwide and DDB. Its agencies are working with local humanitarian efforts to provide medical supplies to people in the country.
A spokersperson for the holding company told The Drum on Monday (February 28): ”We are in communication with our Ukrainian-based agency leaders and are providing support as they navigate these difficult times. We will continue to offer assistance as we monitor developments.”
On Tuesday (March 1), Omnicom chief executive officer and chairman John Wren said: “We are in communication with our Ukrainian-based agency leaders and are providing support to those leaving the country with a range of measures including transportation and offering accommodations in countries surrounding Ukraine.”
“In addition, individual Omnicom agencies in local markets are supporting NGO relief efforts as well as working with clients and partners to source medical supplies, clothing and food to send to the people of Ukraine. The number one priority during these difficult times remains the safety and well-being of our people and their families in Ukraine, and we will continue to offer assistance as we monitor developments.”
A spokesperson for Havas, which has one of its agency ’Villages’ in Ukraine, told The Drum it had been working to help its staff leave the country.
“Since the beginning of the conflict, we have been in close contact with our affiliates in Ukraine directly or via Alberto Canteli, Havas Group’s regional manager for the area, to do all we can to support them in these very difficult times.
“We have already been able to help some of our Havas colleagues to leave the country and they are now being supported by our team in Poland. In addition, in the family spirit that characterizes the Havas Group, we are committed to helping the people in Ukraine in a tangible way. As such, we are setting up a process for all employees to give safely to support the people of Ukraine.”
Commenting on February 24 (the day the invasion began), Sir Martin Sorrell, executive chairman of Media.Monks’s parent S4 Capital, said: ”We’re trying to make sure our people and their families in Ukraine are as safe as possible.
”We have been in constant communications with all our Monks today across the world. We are all obviously very concerned about our colleagues and all in Ukraine.”
Advertising workers based in Russia are also likely to be impacted by the invasion, either via the sanctions levied against Russian financial and economic systems, or by government security systems. Dentsu International told The Drum last week that “while our operations in Russia continue to work as business as usual, we have been and will continue to closely monitor the impact of the situation for our people, clients and the communities we operate in.“
This article was first published February 24 and last updated March 9.