Agencies ramp up support for Ukrainian staff

Publicis Groupe has pledged a guaranteed salary for the rest of 2022

Mar 02, 2022 10:17:00 AM | Article | Imogen Watson

Ad agencies are strengthening support for Ukrainian employees, who are enduring a sixth day of the Russian invasion. 
 
Publicis Groupe held a virtual meeting with Ukrainian staff earlier today (1 March). Staff were told in a memo from chief executive Arthur Sadoun that the meeting "will be the opportunity to listen to you, answer your questions and update you on our approach". 
 
Publicis has 350 employees based in Ukraine and says it has been keeping in touch through a flat connection system, where each case is treated personally and directly. It has set up an email address, a community on its intranet Marcel, and an emergency hotline, which means lines are open at a local level, regional level and global level, 24/7. 
 
WPP has 200 people in Ukraine, working for Wunderman Thompson, Ogilvy, VMLY&R, Group M and Hill & Knowlton. Chief executive Mark Read says his focus is on their safety. "We have been in constant contact with each of our leaders there, who have been checking in with their teams at least twice daily," he confirmed. 
 
 
Major Ukranian cities have been coming under increasingly heavy bombardment, yet Read highlighted the “remarkable calmness” of WPP's local staff and their conviction that they will prevail. 
 
Financial support 
 
Beyond emotional support, many of the big global agency groups including Publicis, WPP and Dentsu International have been offering financial help. 
 
At today's meeting, Publicis Groupe promised Ukrainian employees a guaranteed salary for the rest of 2022, telling them not to worry about the future of their jobs. It will pay salaries every two weeks for the rest of the year and has delivered March's payment to bank accounts early. 
 
WPP made a special payment to its people last week to help meet their immediate needs. It has also given them access to medical advice and other practical resources. 
 
WPP agency Blue State has partnered with UNHCR to run an emergency fundraising appeal (supported by pro bono media via GroupM) to help the thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine. WPP is making an initial donation and will match fund all donations by WPP employees. Follow this link to donate.
 
Dentsu has made a £250,000 donation to The Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal fund.
 
Wendy Clark, global chief executive of Dentsu International, wrote in a memo to staff last Friday: “[It’s] critical to contribute financial support to those who will be on the front line of this humanitarian crisis."
 
Donations to the fund can be made here.  
 
Relocation 
 
Some agencies are working to relocate their Ukrainian staff outside the country. 
 
Havas says it has already been able to help some do this and that they are now being supported by its team in Poland.
 
WPP has transport on standby to help staff get from the Ukraine-Romania border to the Romanian capital Bucharest. Read said: "They are preparing to welcome Ukrainian colleagues with office space, equipment and accommodation."
 
In addition, WPP staff based in Prague in the Czech Republic are collecting donations and offering support. 
 
"We have had many offers of help and support from our people in neighbouring countries," Read said. "Our colleagues in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and elsewhere have offered accommodation in their own homes to their colleagues in Ukraine who have been able to leave the country." 
 
Publicis is making use of the immigration know-how involved in its 'Work Your World' initiative to help people relocate. The initiative allows Publicis employees to work from another city where the company has an office, for up to six weeks each year. 
 
The Publicis internal platform Marcel is also understood to be helping keep staff connected, improve their language skills and find opportunities outside of Ukraine.  
 
Campaigners push anti-war ads at Russian people 
 
In a separate development, Western campaigners are running ads to try to alert ordinary Russians to the realities of the war. A team of self-described digital campaign experts are paying for the digital ads with a fundraising drive on Crowdfunder.
 
The initiative was launched on Saturday and as of Tuesday afternoon had generated over 500,000 impressions and over 11,000 clicks, according to campaign co-ordinator Rob Blackie.
 
Blackie is a digital strategy consultant who has worked as director of social at Ogilvy & Mather and as London managing director of Blue State Digital, the agency mentioned above which is famed for helping Barack Obama get elected as US president in 2008.
 
Blackie wrote on Twitter on Saturday: “These ads will be shown to people in Russia, and Russian-occupied Ukraine. We’ve built a team of digital campaign experts, who can get around Russian government restrictions. We’ve already run some test advertising this weekend – showing people news from independent news websites.
 
“We may need to stay a little vague about how we are doing this advertising – to avoid it getting shut down – but we will share what we can in updates on our Crowdfunder page.”
 
(This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk)