by MarkLives (@marklives) MarkLives is tracking South African and African brand and ad agency reactions and news related to the covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page (opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive). Most-recent announcements will be added on top. This is for 16–20 March 2020.

While we have your attention: Please would you consider taking out a MarkLives membership to help finance our operations? The covid-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on society and industry. With your support, either as a once-off or monthly contribution, we can continue our coverage of its impact on our industry.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Save the Event Industries LIVE Conference

A live broadcast, hosted by MJ Event Gear and EFX Productions yesterday, Wednesday, 18 March 2020, discussed the covid-19 impact on the events industry.


Triple Eight MD talks about hygiene, handwashing programme

Sarika Modi, Triple Eight founder and MD, discusses hygiene and handwashing programmes run by her agency:


Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Ogilvy Joburg CCO criticised over internal #covid19 video

Upset members of Ogilvy Johannesburg‘s creative team emailed MarkLives a YouTube link on Wednesday 18 March, shared by the agency’s creative leadership team, addressing staff on the realities of working remotely due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Read our story here.


Mortimer Harvey implements action plan

The Mortimer Harvey (MH) covid-19 action plan was updated on Monday 16 March to align and completely comply with all requirements stipulated by the national state of disaster declaration. This includes travel bans to any foreign destination and restricted local travel for all staff, other than personal transport where required.

  • MH has secured a stock of Bioscrub (a surgical cleaner and soap used in hospitals, clinics and doctors’ rooms as existing hygiene protocol). This is being applied to clean common surfaces such as handrails, light switches, reception, bathrooms, boardrooms and kitchens, and everyone will clean their own desk. Support staff at MH have already ramped up a rigorous cleaning protocol of these areas every two hours. Staff have been addressed and advised that all need to take responsibility for their own workspaces, common areas frequented and personal conduct.
  • MH has a stock of an approved hand sanitiser, including access to ongoing supply, which has already been placed in key work spaces and common areas, especially reception and boardrooms. Any arrivals at MH are required to use the hand sanitiser before entering.
  • In addition, MH has always retained the services of Supercare Hygiene, which takes care of intense hygiene services in all its bathrooms, including a monthly deep cleanse of each facility and the provision of hand sanitiser in each cubicle. Supercare Hygiene has been engaged to activate additional services that it’s providing as a result of covid 19.
  • A work-from-home (WFH)/offsite protocol is being double-checked through the agency’s specialist IT service provider. This has always been the case for certain staff by virtue of extensive offsite meetings. Secure VPN access to our servers, Chase and other key business tools are already being double-checked on all laptops. Criticallym though, the very nature of quality creative development and output, notwithstanding the size of files creative teams work on, means it isn’t entirely feasible for all to work from home/offsite at once. MH is therefore ensuring that all protocols are manged to ensure business continuity, as well as quality of output, balanced with absolute adherence to covid-19 protocols. Importantly, MH recognises that many of its staff do not have high-end fibre or reliable WiFi solutions at home, especially during loadshedding. The agency therefore must work around that.
  • With support from clients, meetings are limited to telecons, Skype or other such software tools. Protocols in the MH building do provide for the very real necessity of actual meetings with clients at critical stages, when required, to ensure all outputs progress unhindered.
  • MH already has substantial business-continuity insurance cover and its brokers will be furnishing MH with details on how this could be applied in the case of covid-19.
  • All MH staff that have to use public transport are either able to be accommodated in a lift pool or MH drivers will assist using the company vehicles to get them to work. No staff will be using any form of public transport and, if no other alternative will suffice, they will be required to remain at home.
  • A toolkit of relevant communications, to be placed in all key areas of the building, was finalised over the past weekend, following the Task Team Meeting. These are the absolute facts for covid-19, what to do, what not to do etc, as derived from the WHO and alongside guidelines from South Africa’s Department of Health and National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Certain of these are being prepared for distribution on MH’s social platforms and to its client and supplier base. Hard copies are available to MH staff to take home to assist and educate their own households and communities. The appropriate containment and management of COVID-19 begins at home!
  • MH’s head of talent has contacted the appropriate medical professionals with a view to have all staff vaccinated with the latest flu vaccine when it’s released later this month. While this is standard protocol each winter season across the world , it does remain voluntary. While this won’t yet be a covid-19 vaccine, preventing contracting any strain of flu will assist to maintain the body’s immune health over the general flu season.

Business continuity, adspend

According to Andrew Fradd, MH MD, the agency has received formal communication from most clients outlining their business-continuity protocols. “Most have implemented a [WFH] policy, specifically for marketing staff in our case. Meetings at the agency will be limited to critical requirements only and all other day to day contact, including status meetings, reviews, presentations etc are being conducted via Skype or other selected software and telecons”

Regarding discussions on spend, Fradd says clients are looking to redirect spend, specifically away from planned events and activations. “The intent remains to ensure business continuity, sustained and relevant communications, whether B2B or B2C, in the next two quarters from all clients. As an agency partner, we are tasked with developing proactive and recrafted, relevant communications to the appropriate and/or alternative channels to adapt to the environment consumers and businesses are facing. This type of challenge is one we relish, thrive on and are well poised to do,” he says.

“Lessons learnt from many countries is that covid-19 remains fluid, unpredictable and an ever-moving target,” he continues. “Whilst the short-term indicators are that clients will redirect spend and ramp up comms on certain channels, we must be cognisant of the ongoing global and local economic impact. As such, it would be naïve not to prepare for the potential impact on our bottom line, although the extent or severity of what this could look like remains unknown.

“In terms of day-to-day business operations and business continuity, we now have to understand the alternative impact on overheads and expenses on the [WFH] model. High-quality, reliable connectivity, IT infrastructure and cyber security [are] critical and core to all that we do, and it is very difficult to manage this in staff’s home environments. Obviously, the increased claims for individual cell phone and data costs, amongst other IT related costs, can ramp up significantly. It is also not possible to implement a corresponding reduction in IT and connectivity costs at the office, as the ‘Mother Ship’ must critically continue to operate as before.”


Makro enforcing customer limits


Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Meta Media: Covid-19’s potential effect on media in SA

MarkLives pulls some key insights from a release put out by Meta Media concerning the various ways covid-19 may impact the media industry:

  • Air travel is being massively impacted by covid-19, thanks to international travel bans and strong recommendations to avoid domestic travel where possible. As a result of passenger numbers declining, airport media owners will start to feel the pressure as advertisers aren’t going to be fighting for prime airport real estate anymore.
  • Commuter transport will also, in time, be affected, with a lot fewer commuters traveling to work as companies begin allowing people to work from home. Activations have already started being put on hold, making it more and more difficult for advertisers to connect with their audiences.
  • More people working from home means fewer people on the roads and therefore less audience for roadside billboards. Less audience means that advertisers might start to see OOH as a less-attractive media option for their messaging, and so spend might be affected.
  • If people aren’t commuting to and from the office as much, what will the effect on radio be? When you look at the RAMS data of where people claim to be actually listening to the radio, it turns out that listening in-car is not as big as you might have assumed (only 30%, according to the latest RAMS release). The majority of listening is claimed to be at home, so radio should be largely unaffected. Meta Media suggests looking at alternative time channels, however — perhaps mid-morning and early afternoon, outside of drive time, which is typically more expensive. This will make your radio advertising more cost-effective with lower CPMs than in drive time.
  • With more people staying at home and self-isolating, TV is probably one of the platforms best-placed to benefit from the effects of the pandemic.
  • It is well-known that sport is a primary driver of DStv subscriptions. However, what the coronavirus has done is effectively shut down all sports world-wide. With effectively no sport to broadcast, how is  DStv going to encourage subscribers not to cancel their subscriptions and move across to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime?
  • Which brings us to digital: aside from TV, digital is probably going to be biggest winner among all of the covid-19 chaos. News has always been an important driver of online content consumption but we believe that the newsworthiness of covid-19 will drive increased traffic to news sites such as News24, IOL, EWN and the like. Advertisers targeting news verticals and interest categories may pick up big audiences.
  • Online search advertising may well benefit as more people turn to the web to find out where to buy their goods online, giving a great opportunity for advertisers to target relevant keywords to ensure visibility in this virtual shop window! Some researchers predict that companies which adapt to online trading will be the least-impacted by a potential recession.


M&C Saatchi Abel issues response plan

These are certainly unprecedented times both from a health perspective and also an economic one. The situation calls for a considered and consistent response as it unfolds. As the agency leadership our job is two-fold:

    • Decisive action and interventions to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus in alignment with the government’s plans
    • Ensure we address the challenges in a way that makes our business resilient to this uncertainty for now and the future

From a personal health perspective:  There are very clear and well documented guidelines and procedures around COVID-19 which we have already shared and which apply to any and all circumstances both as individuals in our daily lives, as well as to businesses and their day-to-day operations.

From a business health perspective: It’s important to note that the agency is not “shutting down” nor is it “closed for business” nor is it “an extended holiday”. The agency remains fully open and functioning within the contracted working hours, starting at 08h30. We are simply looking at a combination of remote working and specific in-office engagements to “significantly thin out” the number of staff in the building at one time. The physical campus remains open and will be used by various departments, HODs, clients and suppliers as and when needed.

In order to do this we will be putting in place a remote working strategy that seeks to balance these two important and dependent priorities.

For an initial 2 week rolling period from tomorrow, Wednesday 18 March through to Wednesday 1 April we are implementing the following:

1. Working remotely:

In an effort to land a successful and sustainable model in these uncertain times we want to enable as many people, as need be, to be able to work remotely. This is no easy feat for a business like ours. We need to ensure we continue to deliver on time and in full as this is fundamental to remaining a healthy and viable business. What we ask of you is to now, more than ever, is to work together to do this. We are all adults and know what needs to be done, please lean in to this. There will be learnings along the way and we will enhance on the below interventions as we evolve.

Simply : the “what” we do remains exactly the same, it is the “how” that needs to change.

Working remotely: Who should stay at home from tomorrow?

As of tomorrow, the following people should start working from home:

    • Primary caregivers: If you are a primary caregiver of a child or children that you need to be at home for
    • Immuno-compromised: If you, or any member of your household have a qualifying pre-condition (including: diabetes, asthma, HIV+, asthmatic, cardio-vascular)
    • Pregnant: If you, or anyone in your household, is pregnant
    • Elderly: If you or anyone in your household is 60 years or older
    • Feeling sick: Per previous correspondence, if you have any cold or flu like symptoms please stay at home until symptoms clear up or you are cleared by your doctor
    • Confirmed covid-19 contact: If you or anyone in your household has been confirmed as having had contact with covid-19 (the 14-day quarantine period would apply immediately). Equally if someone in your family or household has recently returned from a High-risk country, then you must also observe the 14 day quarantine as a safety precaution.

Please notify your line manager and HR today, if you fall into one of the above categories and elect to work from home.

Working remotely: For everyone else

Over the next two days, each department will be briefed by their department head on the plan for remote working to look at minimizing the amount of people in the building at one time. The plan will differ by department and will be a mix of off-site (remote) and on-site (office) working time. Heads of department and key functions in the agency will still be predominantly based in the office. Naturally as we learn more (and as the situation evolves) we will assess and evolve too.

What we’re doing:

Department plans: Department heads will discuss and align on a remote working plan and what key moments are needed on-site.
Office hygiene: Per existing communication many initiatives are already in place, and a few extra precautionary measures will soon be implemented (including: common area hand sanitizers, visitor sign-in in the event that we need to trace & track anyone, meeting registers to trace & track people who are in meetings together, deep office cleans).

What you need to do:

Use the technology: Before you leave you must confirm with your line manager that you are equipped with the existing IT solutions that are in place to facilitate working remotely (MS Teams, VPN access, Email access). A separate email communication is going out with the specific details around this.

Be available: Please ensure all your details are with you line-manager and team members so that people can get hold of you. Also ensure that you have email installed on your phone to ensure easy and ready access specifically during office hours. Not being in the office, it is critically important that you are available at all times (as you would be in the office) as normal working hours apply.

Data usage: For those without fixed internet at home use your smart phone as a hotspot and buy data bundles, which can be claimed as part of an itemized expense claim. Alternatively you can request a data bundle code to be issued to you from IT. The detail around this will come in a separate communication.

2. Travel: Air travel

    • It is important to note that domestic travel is allowed but we will be aligning with the Government’s “Essential travel” directive.
    • For our purposes Essential Travel is: Travel that is required to get a specific deliverable out by needing your physical presence in a specific geography or location (e.g. a shoot). For JHB, please use Lanseria (regional airport) and fly at off peak times as necessary.
    • For any Essential Travel please discuss with your line manager for alignment and approval.
    • If you have been in a high-risk country please let your line manager know ahead of returning to work, and if you haven’t done so already you will need to go into self-quarantine and get tested if you develop symptoms.
    • It is obviously not the best time to be travelling outside of South Africa, so for the next 3 months we would recommend not booking or travelling internationally. If this is unavoidable please let your line manager know of those particular circumstances.

Travel: Public transport

If you need to be in the office and depend on public transport to get to and from work we would like you to consider the following:

Off-peak travel: Please discuss with your line-manager about commuting at off-peak times
Alternative transport: Please make use of alternative transport (like car-pooling) if possible
Specific needs: Please discuss options and arrangements with your line manager.

3. Client, supplier & staff engagements:

    • Going forward please re-format as many Client and Supplier engagements to take place virtually vs. face to face
    • If there is a need for a face-to-face meeting please be sure to practice the necessary hygiene interventions, as well as keep a log of the meeting if you’re the meeting owner (the relevant forms will be provided)
    • Reception at both our campuses will be open and recording all visitors should there be a need to track & trace around a suspected case
    • All bigger gatherings like : Staff meetings, Wednesday breakfasts, Friday drinks & Department gatherings are postponed until further notice

4. Task team:

A task team has been set-up for a few weeks already prepping for this eventuality. This team is already close contact with all the company heads. They continue to meet twice a week to align on updates, learnings and further interventions:

Robert Grace: EXCO oversight
Maciek De Waal Dubla: Internal comms
Warren Lawrence: IT and Technology
Wiggie Johaadien: Campus interventions
Tracey Wasserman: HR

We will be using Microsoft Teams to communicate updates on the COVID-19 Updates team handle.

5. Changing our language:

These are challenging times. But we have to work together to ensure we all get through this. Our intention is to manage the financial and economic impact on our clients, our agency, and our various suppliers as best as is possible.

At this time we all have a role to play. We need to be conscious and careful of the language we use and the information we spread. Specifically in the agency we don’t want to use language like “closed”, “unavailable”, “cancel”, “stop”, or “on-hold” – this is not the time for delivering less, or going slow. Similarly language that builds anxiety and panic are not useful either.

The way through this is to be calm, pragmatic and practical.

If you have any questions please contact your line manager who will direct them to the task team.

The Partners


Pick n Pay to have special pensioners’ shopping hour

Move focus to staff retention, says Mike Abel

“…[A]s business leaders, our obsession must be on finding relevant and useful solutions for our clients, customers and friends — but with a clear eye on staff retention.”

Monday, 16 March 2020

Agency 3Verse issues remote-working protocols

We are living in unprecedented times, and 3Verse is 100% committed to a plan that helps contribute towards the slowest possible rate of infections of COVID-19 in our community. In response to President Ramaphosa’s address to the nation last night, 3Verse is implementing the following measures to protect our team and the extended communities we’re all part of:

    • Travel Restrictions: We will no longer be attending face-to-face meetings, and accordingly, we’ll be doing no travel until the domestic & international travel advisory is lifted. This is important to protect our clients as well as our team members.
    • Creative Production Restrictions: All planned productions & unplanned creative productions will be delayed until further notice. Where new assets are required, clever use of stock imagery and existing assets will be repurposed to meet campaign needs. Radio recordings will go ahead, with only Sound Engineer and VO artist present, with agency attending remotely to avoid close contact.
    • Remote Working Protocols:
      – As of tomorrow, 17th March, all 3Verse team members will be working remotely and virtually. Strict protocols already planned for will now be implemented. We are very confident that our virtual office contingency plan will yield amazing results when placed into action, and we hope to use these learnings to work virtually more in future.
      We stress, there will be no break in the delivery of work & services by our agency. It remains business as usual in terms of campaign implementation and rollouts, as well as planning for the upcoming FY periods. Our full team will be online, and available for phones calls & emails throughout the working day.
      – Backend office staff (i.e. cleaning/reception) have been placed on a paid leave of absence and encouraged to avoid any forms of public transport to protect themselves & their families.
    • Limiting Movement: we’ve strongly advised all team members, to avoid societal movement as much as possible. And ensure that while out and about, and especially on returning to their homes – that strict hygiene measures are taken to protect them and their families.

At times like this, we should recognize that despite all the technology in the world, we are actually an intimately connected society, deeply reliant on one another and close relations. The coming weeks surely will not be easy for any of us as we adjust to a very different way of existing among one another.

We know South Africa will beat Covid-19. As a small business, we call on all businesses who can, to try and implement similar protocols in their organisations, and look after their most vulnerable and most at-risk team members.

Stay safe, care for your family, and demonstrate responsibility as you move through society, with a particular focus in keeping our elderly and at-risk citizens out of harm’s way.”


Commercial Producers Association issues sector response

Covid-19 has impacted the South African production sector with reports that some international clients are cancelling jobs due to concerns ranging from reluctance to transit through international airports to delays on products due to be shipped out of China for sale elsewhere.

Although many international commercial productions are going ahead in March and April there has been a sudden decline in requests for South African production companies to quote on international jobs. In the local market there are questions about the impact of Coronavirus on shoots and discussion on how this can be mitigated.

The CPA has consulted with The Chesterfield Group on the insurance implications and has established the following:

    • Generally speaking, agencies and Production companies are not able to insure against the effects of the Coronavirus and their policies exclude events caused by communicable diseases.
    • In some policies, cancellation of shoots may be covered however it is unlikely that a postponement or relocation will be covered.
    • It is therefore very important for all agencies and production companies to check directly with their insurance brokers to establish the extent of their cover.

Once this has been actioned, all parties must agree on the way forward in the event of a cancellation, postponement or relocation. This discussion should happen before the shoot and the agreement formalized in writing.

It is also important for suppliers, crew and talent (and their agents) to be aware of the implications as they too may be affected. In some instances, clients may agree to pay cancellation on all agreed upon costs if a job is cancelled due to Covid-19 however they may also request that jobs go ahead on risk. This means that the supplier accepts the risk that the job may be cancelled and that no cancellation fees will be paid if it is. In the client does request this, we recommend that agencies and production companies communicate this up-front to suppliers and agents — it will then be up to them to accept or decline the offer.

We encourage everyone in our industry to resist the urge to panic. Instead it is important that everyone take the necessary precautions and do their utmost to avoid the virus and to remain healthy.

In order to assist you with this, we have prepared some documentation that can be displayed and circulated on set – the aim is to keep the message simple, clear and consistent. We recommend that all production companies attach this information to your call sheets and provide facilities on set so that people can regularly wash or sanitize their hands and take other precautions necessary to halt the spread of Covid-19.


Star Film Co responds with new client guidelines

The Star Film Co wishes to assure clients that production work can continue, even as it implements new safety measures in response to covid-19.

Details of the statement below:

Until such time as advised/dictated otherwise, The Star Film Co will continue operations, with the health and safety of our directors, producers, crew and clients, top of mind. The Star Film Company wants to make sure that we all continue to feel safe, live relatively stress-free and feasibly still create great work. We are examining every detail, big or small, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in a means to flatten the curve. We are giving this virus the utmost attention and encourage everyone to do the same.

We are striving to implement the following into our production protocol:

1. Castings

To avoid gatherings at casting studios, we are implementing self tape casting. Potential talent send casting “self tapes.” This would still require the efforts of the casting director to ensure a smooth workflow (and adequate briefing). We aim to continue access to the great talent pools in South Africa.

Furthermore, we would request declaration of health to be submitted alongside the self tapes as well as declaration of any travel the potential cast member may have taken in the last three months. Extensive screenings to be administered where required. Having said this, we would build time into production schedules to allow for this screening to be completed accurately.

2. Remote meetings

Where possible, our directors will pitch and present via video conferencing, All preproduction meetings and briefs to be conducted this way to implement social distancing.

3. Smaller, nimble units

Shoots can gather up to 100 people in no time, and there is a country wide ban on gatherings of over 100 people. We propose additional caution for shoots to continue in a streamlined fashion; limiting the size of crew and considering the shooting locations and time spent in confined spaces. We aim to maintain a safe distance between working crew and implement strict hygiene protocol.

4. Hygiene & safety

Whilst the requirement for a qualified medic on set has been around for a while, the medic will ensure the practice of safe hygiene, ensuring adequate hand sanitizers and wipes are available. [Disposable] Gloves and face masks can be provided to all crew members, agency and client.

5. Agency & client on set

We would like to extend the option to agency and client of remote VTO for shoots, streaming the shoot to an ipad or monitor at a location of their choice. We’re definitely not trying to kick client and agency off set, this is a temporary measure to aid in lowering the numbers of people on set and alleviate further risks for the spread of the virus.

6. Remote post production

All post production will be handled remotely, in a similar manner to face-to-face meetings. Approvals will be conducted either with video conferencing (where required) or WIP edits to be shared via email for approval and feedback. This will be scheduled accordingly.

7. Backup measures

COVID-19 is completely out of our control, but we can do our very best to limit its spread. It is not possible to insure crew and cast against communicable diseases. Crew will be requested to complete declarations of health and will supply declarations of recent travel. Should a crew member fall ill with the virus before the shoot or on set, they shall be removed from the project and replaced (if possible). Affected individuals will still be guaranteed their salary for the job, this will be paid from our company mark up so as not to put anyone at financial risk.

Please note that in light of the above, the following Covid-19 notification clause will be included on all Cost Estimates going forward:

NB: The latest developments regarding Covid-19 may impact our upcoming productions. Please note that any and all costs related to any delay, postponement, abandonment or cancellation caused directly or indirectly by the virus, are not covered within the insurance premium indicated within this cost estimate. Presently, both Production Companies and Agencies are unable to insure against the effects of Covid-19, and no insurance company is currently prepared to underwrite this type of cover due to the Communicable Diseases exclusion clauses in their existing policies. Hence, there is no cover in place in the event that the production is impacted by the virus. As a result, any and all costs related to Covid- 19 delays, postponements, abandonments or cancellations would be entirely for client’s account.

8. Star Talent Pool

We have the great fortune of representing a large pool of exceedingly talented directors at the Star Film Co. In the unfortunate event of the virus affecting one of our directors already committed to a project, we can assure that another of our equally skilled directors will complete it to the standard and satisfaction that is familiar for all Star Film Co productions. While we do want to take every precaution possible, it is also important that the industry continue to function. In particular we need to think about the thousands of freelancers who may have no income if the industry were to shut down for months on end. We look forward to continuing all our working relationships in a safe and responsible way, with care and consideration – centered in kindness.


The Fugard Theatre suspends operations


eNCA anchor off air, in self-quarantine

Jane Dutton, eNCA anchor of the The South African Morning weekday morning show, together with eNCA, has taken precautionary measures for her to self-quarantine against the spread of the coronavirus, following a trip to the US.

The eNCA anchor will present herself for testing and remain off-air until the stipulated self- quarantine period has passed, and she has received a clean bill of health.


Virgin Active gyms remains open, advises hygiene awareness


Marble Group of restaurants to temporarily close


Telkom zero-rates coronavirus info sites

Telkom has zero-rated official coronavirus information sites on its network. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and South African government websites — and — are all accessible to Telkom’s subscriber base free of charge.

Telkom has zero-rated educational URLs  which include institutions of higher learning and TVET colleges to help the youth access education. This will enable learning and teaching to continue as the country works to contain the spread of the virus.

See also

Update 23 March 2020: Poster toolkit removed due to licensing issues.


MarkLives logoThis MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.

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