Wednesday 16 September 2020 8:48 am

Big businesses have a ‘national duty’ to return to work, says ad boss

The UK’s large businesses and public sector have a “national duty” to get back to work, the chief executive of ad firm Ocean Outdoor has said.

Tim Bleakley told City A.M. that mid-cap firms were leading the charge in getting back to the office, but urged larger companies to follow suit.

Read more: Ocean Outdoor revenue drops as coronavirus hits advertising industry

Management at Ocean Outdoor, which operates major ad sites including Piccadilly Lights, returned to work in mid-May, with a gradual return to the office for other staff in recent weeks.

The comments came as Ocean reported deepened losses in the first half of the year as the coronavirus lockdown sparked a sharp decline in footfall and slashed advertising budgets.

The group said its pre-tax loss deepend from £4m to £29.5m, while revenue slipped 2.4 per cent to £36.5m.

Bleakley said the outdoor ad sector had been the “worst hit perhaps second only to cinema” after the government “switched off our audience”.

He took aim at a series of “handbrake turns” by the government on coronavirus policy, warning it would impact advertising confidence for the remainder of the year.

Ocean’s sites broadcast a number of government coronavirus campaigns during lockdown, while Piccadilly Lights played host to a message from the Queen in April.

Read more: Ocean Outdoor launches £10m media fund for virus-hit firms

But Bleakley warned constant changes in government policy was causing ongoing uncertainty among advertisers that would lead to “stop start” trading for at least the rest of the year.

Despite the impact of coronavirus, the advertising group said there were some signs of recovery in the market, with ad campaigns picking up particularly in the mobile, tech and motor manufacturing sector.