With operations in Ukraine and neighboring regions the major ad groups are taking numerous steps to help employees and their families who are in harm’s way or otherwise impacted by the conflict. And along with most of the rest of the global business community, they’ve condemned Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.
Most of the actions come after weeks of planning as the Russian military mobilization on the Ukraine border expanded before the assault began late last week.
“Our focus is on the safety of our 200 people in Ukraine,” WPP CEO Mark Read wrote to staffers in a memo issued Monday afternoon. “We have been in constant contact with each of our leaders there, who have been checking in with their teams at least twice daily.”
Read said the company paid additional amounts to employees in the region last week to help meet their immediate needs and have given them access to medical advice and other practical resources. “Our agency leaders in Kyiv are showing remarkable calmness and the way in which our people are looking after each other is truly inspiring,” Read wrote.
Read also noted that WPP employees in neighboring countries are assisting traumatized colleagues seeking to evacuate the Ukraine. Staffers in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and elsewhere are opening their homes and offices and providing critical supplies to Ukrainian colleagues who have been able to get out of the country. Donations are also being collected to provide support.
The company has set up a matching program with UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency and WPP agency Blue State has partnered with UNHCR to run an emergency fundraising appeal (supported by pro bono media via GroupM) to help thousands of people forced to flee their homes for safety in other parts of Ukraine or neighboring countries. WPP is making an initial donation and will match donations by WPP employees.
“I want to ask everyone to be mindful of the many people in and beyond our company affected by these awful events,” Read stated. “We have many Ukrainian colleagues working in WPP agencies around the world, desperately concerned about family members at home. There are countless more people in the broader region whose lives have been touched by the crisis and are appalled by what is happening. Please do check in with your colleagues, wherever they are in the world.”
Shortly after hostilities broke out late last week, Interpublic CEO Philippe Krakowsky updated employees on actions being taken by the company.
“As we all come to grips with the disturbing reality on the ground in Ukraine, you should know that we have spent the last few months in contact with our affiliate offices there to offer what assistance we can,” he wrote. “We will of course continue to keep those lines of communication open, so as to best support our colleagues.”
Like others, the company has suspended business travel to Ukraine and Russia, Krakowsky stated. “We are in contact with our leadership across the region to see what’s either possible or required in neighboring countries in order to look after our people [and] will continue to monitor the situation and adjust plans accordingly.”
“We join the international community in condemning these acts of unilateral aggression, and will support U.S. and other sanctions levied against the Russian state,” Krakowsky confirmed.
He noted that the company is making donations to both the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. “Most important, we join the global community in the hope for an effective and coordinated response that leads to the de-escalation of this conflict.”
Today IPG briefed clients on developments via an update hosted by Weber Shandwick’s Geopolitical Strategy & Risk Group. The firm’s senior strategists in Europe and North America offered thoughts about issues and trends they’re seeing impact companies and organizations, as well as emerging implications, risks and considerations for business leaders.
This morning Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun sent a memo to the company’s 350 employees in the Ukraine outlining continuing support with security, housing, relocation and other assistance. In a bid to provide solace to those in the region, Sadoun stressed that all employees in the country will continue to have jobs with guaranteed salaries through the end of the year including an advance on full March pay to address immediate needs.
“We know that your lives have been completely upended and can only imagine the anxiety, the worry, the pain it is causing,” Sadoun wrote to the Ukrainian employees. “So while these financial measures can only help a small part of the turbulent reality you face today, we hope it will give you some sense of security, help provide for your loved ones and allow you to plan and take back control of your lives.”
Sadoun and several members of the Groupe’s global and local leadership teams also hosted a virtual town hall today to connect directly with employees in the Ukraine to get direct feedback on ideas for additional support.
Publicis Groupe has also set up a dedicated Ukraine community on its global internal communications platform Marcel, where Ukrainian employees can find resources and support. Also, employees globally can access links to make donations, find the latest news updates, offer housing and other support to employees who may be leaving the country with their families.
Last week Sadoun told staffers that that company had been very closely monitoring developments in the Ukraine for weeks and developing plans to help keep employees in the region as safe as possible in the event of war. The plans include emergency training, security alert systems, information hotlines, support teams and financial assistance and other aid.
“The courage and resilience our Ukrainian colleagues are showing is nothing short of extraordinary,” Sadoun wrote in his memo late last week. “I know I speak for all of us when I say we stand by them in this terrible moment and keeping in our heart and in our thoughts.”
Omnicom is also supporting employees in the region who are leaving with a range of measures including transportation and offering accommodations in countries surrounding Ukraine, CEO John Wren noted in a statement.
Also, Wren said that individual Omnicom agencies in local markets are supporting NGO relief efforts “as well as working with clients and partners to source medical supplies, clothing and food to send to the people of Ukraine. The number one priority during these difficult times remains the safety and well-being of our people and their families in Ukraine, and we will continue to offer assistance as we monitor developments.”
One example of local agency support: DDB Prague made a donation of $700,000 CZK to the People in Need SOS Ukraine initiative.
Stagwell Chairman and CEO Mark Penn issued a memo late last week noting that the firm is offering assistance and support for its people in the region. Stagwell Media Network agency Assembly has people on the ground in Russia who are coordinating a comprehensive support effort.
Penn condemned the Russian invasion but opined that it has been met with “unparalleled global solidarity” in opposition to the attack.
As with other groups, Havas is focused on securing the safety of its people in the region. “Since the beginning of the conflict, we have been in close contact with our affiliates in Ukraine directly or via Alberto Canteli, Havas Group’s regional manager for the area, to do all we can to support them in these very difficult times,” Havas CEO Yannick Bollore told staffers in a recent email.
“We have already been able to help some of our Havas colleagues to leave the country and they are now being supported by our team in Poland. In addition, in the family spirit that characterizes the Havas Group, we are committed to helping the people in Ukraine in a tangible way. As such, we are setting up a process for all employees to give safely to support the people of Ukraine.”