After the cancellation of Mobile World Congress last month we wrote a piece about how this could potentially set in motion a chain of cancellations or postponements of media and advertising events as coronavirus started to spread around the world.
Four weeks later and the stream of events cancelled, or postponed in our industry is growing by the day with question marks being asked around any large media event scheduled to take place from now until the end of May with the likes of SXSW, Ad Week Europe and even Cannes Lions Festival at risk now.
In a bid to protect staff, delegates and clients from potential exposure to coronavirus many of the world’s biggest adtech companies and brands ranging from Adidas to Facebook have imposed travel bans on their staff and the result has left organisers with some tough choices as key sponsors, speakers and delegates can no longer attend.
However – and we speak with bitter experience – organisers are often caught between a rock and a hard place. Of course organisers want to cancel or postpone any event that could potentially put its staff and clients in danger, but the hard reality is unless a government rules an event cannot take place – because of coronavirus in this case – then they are faced with the prospect of their insurance policies being invalid if they pull an event before this happens. It means they are on the hook for all of the costs they have paid out in advance, everything from the venue and catering to production and furniture.
The resulting effect means a number of these suppliers will potentially not get paid and sponsors will inevitably lose out on investments already made in activations for these events.
The consequences of all of this could mean the dynamic of events in the ad industry change. As a sponsor questions will be asked about whether not being involved in an event they have been doing for years really makes a difference to the success of their business. If it doesn’t the event risks losing these key sponsors in future and the event itself could struggle to run again. Without doubt there will be organisers who will have to bring the curtain down on their events as they cannot financially survive and the result will be a changing of the landscape, a reshaping of priorities and potential opportunities for those clever enough to take them. Maybe it is finally time for virtual events to rise to the fore, there have been many false dawns, but 2020 could be the year they start to gain credibility in the industry.
Whatever happens the industry does have a responsibility to keep its staff and clients safe, while trying to unravel what happens with events in the space next.