And, you were part of the solution.

As of March 20, 2020, all of us have responded in a significant manner to COVID-19. Stories are beginning to emerge of great hardship and loss. Others of inspiring support and of humans working together to navigate this challenge.

There is nothing we all want more than to be part of the solution to this disease. In times of war, some went to the front lines. Others served in our factories and other institutions. Those of us in business all have a role to play in battling this disease. Our roles may be changing, but business is vital, nonetheless. 

Our firm is no different from yours. We may be working differently to serve the dynamic and changing needs of clients. But like you, we have family members in harm's way. Friends that have already lost jobs. We are adjusting to new childcare situations and many other demands. And we are concerned, even scared, about where this is heading.

I'm not sure it's helpful to draw upon history when the world is navigating a 'black swan' event that is difficult to compare to past events. Experts abound in prognosticating outcomes, and I'm clearly not an expert. I do believe we will see advancement in our approach to healthcare, work environments, even globalism, that will eventually advance the prospects of humanity in ways not possible without this crisis.

I understand the risk of proffering a viewpoint. But deep in my heart, I believe in the power of action during a crisis. It's driven my need to do something, even when my brain may be frozen in contemplation of the information that says to retreat, retract and stand still before acting. I'm writing from a place of action now. 

I was on a plane and in the air the morning of 9/11. By the time we landed, advertising was devastated. But over the next year our performance marketing-driven clients had their best year of the 23 we've been in existence. By evolving through the experience with hard work and innovation - flexing instead of contracting - our clients and our company morphed into something more deeply relevant than we were before.

This time it's different. There is no true 'ground zero'. It's our friends and family. It's every business. Every institution. The highest priority is clearly the brave women and men within our healthcare system treating the afflicted and racing to find a cure or method to mitigate the effects of this disease. But, I believe we still all have a role to play. 

So what significant adjustments can we make in advertising during this time?  

The government has already defined television and media as an essential service. We are seeing the rationale for that designation in audience rating data, with skyrocketing viewership numbers across many programs and dramatic shifts from sports to news programming.

My degree in economics anchors me to the reality of how our economy functions. There is a multiplier of money when there is economic activity, and multiplied decline when there is reduced activity. So my heart is today supported by my head in taking action. I believe action is good for the soul. I'm certain it's good for the economy.

Many industries have less choice in how to act. The government has had to make difficult choices and ask some industries to shut down to stop the spread of this disease. And shutting down in many cases means closing doors for good.

For many other industries that are able to operate, they are rushing to harness their entrepreneurial vitality and find new ways to generate economic output, cash flow, and ultimately maintain employment. Clearly, our healthcare system must come first. But, we all have an important role to play to ensure all our institutions remain viable.

It's with great dignity and respect for the work we do in advertising that's kept me actively engaged in this industry for more than 34 years. Adding value to products in intangible ways may seem like something that could be sacrificed during a time of great crisis, but both my head and my heart know otherwise.

Commercial activity, of any sort, is vital for the economy. Commercial speech that informs and educates has value during these uncertain times. We have changed our consumption patterns with lightning speed to adapt to today's realities. And our basic needs are more pragmatic. We are also paying attention to advertising that informs in this new reality.

I believe in my heart that stepping up as industry leaders -- connecting advertising to value creation for consumers and businesses and stimulating economic progress -- is a noble cause. 

Through a career in advertising, I have come to learn there are vital contributions to make. And when we have solved this disease and begin to repair the damage done, I want to be able to say our industry was part of the solution. 

In health,

Chuck Hengel
CEO, Marketing Architects