Crisis in Ukraine: How the Industry Is Responding

By Josch Chodakowsky

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves throughout the world. With so much information sent digitally today, the events have been unfolding in real-time with no filter, and often with no commentary. This can be extremely confusing for everyone trying to understand the current situation, and how to respond, whether marketers, retailers, consumers, or institutions.

People around the world are looking for a response from those with the power of global conversation, and brands are naturally part of this. There is a responsibility to address what's happening, and to respond with authenticity and transparency.

When it comes to brand response and responsible ads, Robert Gibbs is the CEO of NOM, wrote recently for ANA, "Whether you want your brand to serve as an advocate for social justice, climate action, or for nothing at all, you can't escape brand responsibility in 2022... Placing any kind of consumer ad against the backdrop of global tragedies will make your brand seem tone deaf or even callous, so you need to navigate your media investment strategy carefully and persistently.

Here's a pro tip: Inclusion lists work better than exclusion lists. End of story. Any responsible advertiser should sooner sacrifice empty scale for the assurance of well-placed, relevant, and non-invasive ads."

The resources below look at how associations, brands, and consumers have already responded to the crisis, and also provide some guidance on the right ways to go about it without being performative or exploitative.

Industry Association Response

  • ANA Urges Members to Support Sanctions Imposed by U.S. Against Russia. ANA, March 2022. 
    The ANA has urged all its members, both those doing business in Russia and those which are not, to support the sanctions being imposed by the U.S. and other nations against Russia. We also ask them to seriously consider taking proactive steps to demonstrate that their companies and brands are part of the global effort to end the crisis in Ukraine.

    According to an informal ANA survey taken shortly after the Ukrainian invasion, an estimated 23 percent of the 180 ANA member respondents do business in Russia, and of those, 25 percent have suspended or reduced their media spend in that country. The survey also showed that half of the respondents support providing Ukraine with humanitarian aid, while one-third said they plan to either cease or scale back their operations in Russia. The ANA strongly supports and applauds their actions and those of the greater marketing community to assist with humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and promote peace. The ANA believes that when we come together with one voice for the humans we serve, we truly can make a difference."

  • WFA Calls On Brands to Reconsider Media Spend in Russia. World Federation of Advertisers, March 2022.
    Like the ANA, the WFA has expressed its own call to action for brands. A statement reads, "The WFA expresses its horror at the needless human suffering caused by Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The thoughts of the entire organization and our membership are with the victims. Many of our members have businesses in both countries and are rightly prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of their people.

    WFA conducted a poll amongst its members to understand multinationals' responses in relation to their media and marketing investment in Russia. Of the 31 global brand owners representing $43 billion in global ad spend who responded, three in four have reallocated, reduced or cut spend altogether. WFA calls on all members to carefully review and reconsider their current media and marketing investments in Russia, in particular with those media outlets that are close to or effectively part of the Russian administration.

Brand Response

  • How the Marketing Industry is Responding to the Ukraine War. Ad Age, March 2022.
    Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, agencies and marketers have been speaking out about efforts they are taking related to the war, including supporting staff in the region and halting business with Russian entities. Ad Age has been tracking (with constant updates) how these agencies, brands, and others are taking action following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Recent updates include:
    • Amazon stops sending products to Russia, cuts off Prime Video.
    • Discovery latest broadcaster to go dark in Russia.
    • L'Oreal suspends Russian advertising and operations.
  • Crisis in Ukraine: How Brands Are Stepping Up to Help. Adweek, March 2022.
    Since launching an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Russia has bombarded cities across the Eastern European nation and displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians. The war, Europe's largest since World War II, has sparked global backlash against Russia and ally Belarus, with penalties including sweeping economic sanctions, ejection from most international sporting events, air travel restrictions and severed ties with a wide range of corporations. Like Ad Age, Adweek has created a frequently updated digest of how consumer brands, industry groups and other commercial entities are offering aid to Ukrainian refugees, cutting Russia off from their services, or otherwise contributing to efforts aimed at ending the conflict.

  • Over 300 Companies Have Withdrawn from Russia, But Some Remain. Yale School of Management, March 2022.
    The Yale School of Management has identified several dozen companies with particularly significant exposure to Russian markets. In the days since they initially published their list, many of the "remain" companies have responded to public backlash and decided to withdraw, and they are continuously revising their list to reflect these decisions as they are made. The full, current list of companies that have curtailed operations in Russia as well as those that remain, as of March 9, can be seen at their site as well as by clicking here.

The Role Marketing Plays in Global Crises 

  • Ukraine Conflict Tests Whether Marketers Can Address Crisis Meaningfully. Marketing Dive, March 2022.
    Consumers want brands to take concrete measures addressing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a reflection of growing public awareness of the influence companies wield over major global events and widespread concern over the conflict. Despite these expectations, marketers should not rush to wave their flag around a situation that is fast-moving and highly sensitive — though many organizations may have already learned that lesson following two years marked by society-wide crises.

    A survey Gartner conducted found that most U.S. respondents were concerned about the Ukraine crisis, with eight in 10 naming at least one step they would like to see marketers take. At the top of the list was reconsidering doing business in Russia or with Russian partners, cited by 60 percent. Other leading recommendations included ensuring the safety of personnel in regions embroiled in the fighting (55 percent), minimizing disruptions that could affect product supply and pricing (46 percent) and preparing emergency measures in case the U.S. is more directly impacted (46 percent). Sixteen percent of consumers said they don't think brands should do anything in regards to Ukraine. Gartner polled 281 consumers between Febuary 25 and March 1 for its research. Marketing Dive's sister site Retail Dive has also been tracking brand's responses. See that article here.

  • 5 Things Marketing Leaders Must Do in the Wake of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. Gartner, March 2022.
    You may wonder what marketing could or should be doing at this time, especially if your sector or industry is not immediately impacted by the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. But between being accountable for your brand and serving as the de facto voice of the customer, it's vital you have a seat at the table. Although marketing is sometimes seen as secondary in managing and mitigating enterprise risk, marketers are accountable for their brands and serve as the de facto voice of the customer. Consequently, it's important that you ensure you have a seat at the decision-making table. Once you get there, take these five essential steps:
    • Build scenario plans.
    • Be prepared to flex your strategy.
    • Talk to your media agency.
    • Partner with your comms team.
    • Prepare for downstream budget implications.
  • At Times of War, Marketing is Rendered Superficial and Ridiculous. Marketing Week, March 2022.
    Anyone on social media with a conscience and more than five minutes to doom scroll through their feed was inevitably dumbstruck by the juxtaposition of the everyday marketing minutiae of influencers, advertising, and awards and the posts that followed showing men and women preparing for darkness, war and death. It's hard to take the "threat" of private labels seriously when the post that follows it shows enemy tanks barreling down Ukrainian roads at breakneck speed. The 'risk' of inflation was looking relatively benign compared to the threat of nuclear weapons that surfaced over the weekend. But even given what's happening in the world right now, there are ways brands can respond without appearing tone deaf, and Mark Ritson of Marketing Week explains how.

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Josch Chodakowsky is a senior manager of research and innovation at ANA.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Futures Pulse are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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