The advertising sector in China is rapidly returning to business as normal, finds a new survey by the World Federation of Advertisers. But it’s a new normal.

In a survey of executives in charge of agency-management relationships at 24 multinational corporations, an overwhelming majority, 81%, said they felt business discussions with most agency partners and vendors in China were back to normal.

And 82% said the experience of the pandemic had strengthened their ties with their agency partners, and 88% said the crisis had offered an opportunity to reshape plans for the future with key agencies and marketing vendors in China.

Half of respondents said they had managed to maintain business as usual and had not really changed their way of working during the crisis.

But 31% of respondents said they had helped agencies by updating the scope of work, allowing an agency to carry out work that could be done remotely, and 12% had offered immediate payment of invoices, with 12% said they had offered other assistance, such as supply chain financing.

Those surveyed also said they had now started to reward the agencies and vendors who had helped them the most during the crisis, with 36% offering more marketing projects to agencies who were most helpful, and 20% saying they had extended the length of existing contracts; 16% said they hadn’t rewarded agencies yet, but were planning to. A further 24% said they hadn’t rewarded agencies and were not planning to.

The majority of advertisers said they had found alternative ways to work in order to get around restrictions, such as shooting in alternative locations unaffected by the virus, using stock images or CGI, relying on key opinion leaders to produce content in their homes for advertisers, or repurposing existing content.

Communication received a huge boost, with 81% of respondents saying the crisis had forced them to communicate more regularly with agency partners and marketing vendors in China. And 82% say they have invested more in tech and tools to maintain good relationships with partners. However, somewhat at odds with this, only 20% of advertisers say they have evolved their performance evaluation models to reflect their agencies' contributions during the crisis.

Sourced from the WFA; additional content by WARC staff