Wednesday 8 July 2020 3:00 pm

London ad campaign could be a sign of things to come

Ronel Lehmann is the CEO and founder of Finito Education

How do we begin again when we’ve lost so much? Ronel Lehmann has a pertinent example

‘It’ll be just like starting over,’ John Lennon once sang. I’ve been humming that song this week, as beginning again is precisely what we’re all doing now. 

Nothing in the song – or in the news over the past week – makes you think that it will be easy. Even those of us who have had a fortunate coronavirus season will never take success for granted now. We have been educated afresh in the fluidity of the world – its remorseless restlessness. 

To look at the news this week, with the 12,000 or so jobs lost in the UK, we hardly need reminding that some have had a very bad time – and will have a harder time beginning again. In some cases, there will be no alternative but to try their hand at something new.

Should the world ever fully reopen some names we’d grown used to seeing won’t be there to the same extent or perhaps won’t be there at all: Upper Crust, Byron, Bella Italia. And all this at a time when the furlough scheme hasn’t even ended yet. 

We should therefore especially applaud those who have stepped up in difficult circumstances. 

My favourite story of the past week is the campaign by London Advertising which launched – with appropriate symbolism – on our first full day back at work on Monday.

Some background. The company has announced that as a result of Covid-19 it lost 80 per cent of its revenue this year – a near terminal decline. However, this alarming statistic seems not to have knocked the confidence of CEO Michael Moszynski who has taken it as an opportunity to – well, start over. 

It is the very definition of a media blitz. Moszynski has bought up 9,000 spots on Sky News, and the campaign is flooding social media and print. Dame Helen Mirren and Liam Neeson star in their commercials. 

It’s not only an energetic rearguard action – but an honourable one to boot. I hear that eventually the value in furlough payments the agency will have received will be treated as a share in the company. 

In the event the company is successful, Moszynski will not only pay back the original amount but also an equivalent dividend to HMRC. That will trigger a capital gains payment to the revenue should there be an exit.

It’s not the first time that Moszynski has shown this kind of imagination. 

The business originally launched two weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. At that time, the agency showcased the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme by offering a £100,000 prize to identify the best digital talent in the UK. The firm incubated the winning idea and secured £4 million in funding to make it the most funded tech start-up in Europe. 

Of course, it is easy to be cynical about this kind of thing – and there will naturally be those who will view this new campaign as a lamentable exercise in rampant capitalism and selfless promotion. 

Such people may not be dissuaded by the fact that the agency is owned by its staff. They may not even be moved by the fact that the firm is advising British Theatre on a significant fundraising programme to engage the entire nation called #ActNow.

But I hope that for others it proves an exciting example. It might especially be an inspiration for those young entrepreneurs who now have an unexpected window in which to bypass traditional career paths and strike out on their own.

We have experienced an awful shock – and perhaps we’re in a kind of collective denial about its severity. A doubter might see Moszynski as an example of that – betting the house, just as it and everything else is about to burn down.

But the business world is all about energy: if we go at things with the right attitude then there’s always a sense that we have won half the battle. It’s rare that the rest doesn’t fall into place. 

And imagine if there was more of this – more gumption, and less caution. Would the economy not overnight be in a better position? It would be just like starting over.