When will the industry recover from the COVID-19 crisis?

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Being one of the world’s largest creative communities, Creativepool is in a unique position to understand to what extent the creative industry is recovering from the COVID-19 outbreak.

We had the power to make a difference by asking about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on businesses, employees and freelancers across the creative industries in the past year. We created two surveys and launched them as a follow-up to our first reportone for full-time employees and freelancers, one for business leaders from agencies, creative services, brands and creative companies. Both included a section for unemployed professionals.

This is the last of a series of articles which have looked at the impact of COVID-19 on the creative industries. Looking at what we uncovered in the previous parts of the report, we will try to speculate on what comes next for creative professionals all around the world, in the attempt to discover if the creative industry is already adapting to a new normal.


Photo credit: Posterscope

The new normal: Remote Working, Flexibility, Job Market

If you came here for a quick answer to the headline, you should know that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for all sectors of the industry. But there are some trends and patterns that we can anticipate, and they all come from the same assumption: the industry isn’t recovering from the crisis – but it is adapting to it.

There’s no denying the COVID-19 crisis has brought a plethora of financial, interpersonal and professional issues in the industry. Job offers have been cancelled, some jobseekers have turned to freelancing to make a living, but at the same time the freelance industry has struggled to work for a while. You can find an overview of our survey at the end of this final report.

There is one silver lining in all this: the coronavirus emergency has accelerated change and the adoption of measures which would have possibly taken years to implement. Most importantly, widespread support for remote and flexible working.


Graph 1 - Business Leaders Survey

75% of the surveyed business leaders will keep supporting remote or flexible working after the lockdown [Graph 1]. Remote working is here to stay and giving workers and staff in the industry at least the choice to stay home or come to the office will most likely be the future of creativity.

This pandemic has proved that people are perfectly capable to carry out their duties while at home – if anything, some believe they have been even more productive, at least after an initial period spent settling down and getting used to the new reality.

This does not mean that the job market has thriven, though. Over 60% of the unemployed respondents believe there are less opportunities for their skillset right now [Graph 2], though the number of job adverts and postings is currently on the rise. As mentioned in the Unemployed section of our report, some of the ones who cannot find a job will just resort to freelance work to wait out the pandemic.


Graph 2 - Jobseekers Survey

This of course has not stopped jobseekers from applying. Less than 1 in 10 has stopped looking for a job, while 90% are still actively applying [Graph 3]. The problem with that is that offer will not meet demand for quite some time still.


Graph 3 - Jobseekers Survey

61.5% of the industry is currently not hiring nor looking for new talent. Only little over a quarter (27%) are currently hiring, possibly translating into a competitive job market with few jobs left for too many applicants [Graph 4]. This is presumably due to a reduced budget in agencies, as well as a decrease in client spending and, sometimes, consequent loss of clients too. However, it must be noted that the numbers were much more discouraging back in March. When the world started shutting down, exactly 80% of all creative companies were not hiring [Graph 5]. Not a huge improvement compared to then, for sure – but a 19% increase nonetheless. The job market is slowly recovering.


Graph 4 - Business Leaders Survey


Graph 5 – From the first part of our survey, for comparison

The jobseekers who have actively experienced this climate are of course living all of this uncertainty on their skin. Most (44.3%) are still not sure what 2021 might have in store for them, professionally speaking. And while 25% is keeping optimistic (believing they will have more or the same opportunities as now), another quarter (26.4%) believes the situation may even get worse [Graph 6].


Graph 6 - Unemployed

But with so many professionals having more time on their hands and grasping the opportunity to reinvent their own career, we can easily assume that the creative industry of the upcoming few years has the potential to be more diverse than ever, especially in terms of skillsets [Graph 7]. A more specialised workforce will not only improve its own employability and market value, it also has the potential to make employers much more efficient and productive. Of course it is hard to predict which way it will go, and one year is still too little to help the workforce entirely reinvent itself – but a good fraction of it will, and this could lead to a new dawn for the industry.


Graph 7 - Jobseekers Survey, all responses aggregated

The proverbial quiet before the storm is now long gone, and we are deeply stuck in the core of the blizzard right now. But there’s a rainbow at the end of every big storm – and the job market will rise again.

Here are some comments from our respondents:

Although this is a temporary set back in terms of job loss and work load, I believe once we’re through the pandemic it will improve massively, especially due to the fact that people have relied on the creative industry for entertainment and sanity during this time.
Junior Designer, Creative Services Company, United Kingdom

There are ups and there are downs. Although this is an extended down, it can't rain forever, and things will go back to normal gradually. Maybe how work is done will change - more work at home jobs - as it will save overhead costs for companies.
Support Manager, Web Development Company, Pakistan

What about mental health?

That is, if the industry keeps finding efficient ways to handle mental health. Creative leaders all around the world have done extremely well to cater for their teams so far, but those freelancers without a team are invited to look for connections as much as they can. Even looking at the responses from our business leaders, most of them are still struggling and most predict at least around 6 months for their business to get back on track [Graph 8] [Graph 9].


Graph 8 - Business Leaders Survey
Graph 9 - Freelancers Survey

With financial uncertainty and a competitive market in the picture, the industry’s mental health has been hit hard and levels of stress have gone up [Graph 10]. But this data does not show the full picture and it tends to hide the tiniest details. The truth is that the industry is faring much better now than it was back in March. While freelancers are still the most affected group in the industry, some have reported having been able to pick up work again and a good number of agencies was able to retain clients during this time.


Graph 10 - Members Survey

After an initial couple of months of fear, uncertainty and confusion, the industry has started to bounce back. And it is now slowly getting back on its feet, one project at a time, one creative piece of work after the other. Proof be it the fact that we were able to put together a list of the best lockdown campaigns from Creativepool alone which were all extremely compelling – and there were plenty more to choose from.

Here are some comments from our respondents:

We’ve come back from recessions before - the model might change, but our industry was under threat before this. Perhaps, perversely, this will help us rethink what it means to be a professional creative.
Executive Creative Director, Private Consultancy, United Kingdom

Work from home has improved efficiency, productivity and passion for new ideas. It has considerably decreased politics, unnecessary meetings, discussions and breaks. Clients are getting things before time and since people are in the comfort of their homes, they're less stressed and happy to work. Not sure about the clientele improvement but the quality of work and efficiency will definitely improve.
Copy Head, Creative Agency, India

The future of the industry post-coronavirus

So here we are. Apparently, after an initial time of distress and complete uncertainty, the industry has found its own path in this mess – though big parts of it are still struggling to stay afloat. It is quite easy to guess which ones are – after all, how can you run events if we are all stuck at home? And how can you make event shoots and assets if there are no events to attend?

In some cases, these sectors have been able to find at least somewhat of a temporary balance. Some production companies, such as yolo films and GoodFilms, have adopted remote filming as their current standard and are growing much more familiar with the state of the art in software tools. New solutions are being released every month, including GoodFilms’ own software tool for remote filming, which we will detail soon in a later article.

It would be inaccurate to state that the industry is recovering from COVID-19. Rather, the industry is slowly but surely adapting to life from remote, with new solutions including remote shoots, meetings, pitches and more. After a career going back and forth from the office, creative professionals all around the world are finding a new balance. This gives us hope. And the industry is starting to realise that as well.

When asked about the future of the industry back in March, 34.4% of the respondents stated that the creative industries would, at some point, “go back to normal.” For better or for worse, an additional 37.2% believed the industry would evolve into “a new normal” [Graph 11]. But now, when asked the same question, 54.9% of the business leaders have positively stated that the industry will gradually improve, with an additional 11.5% stating that it will be stronger than it was pre-pandemic. Only around a quarter believes that it will get even worse.

This sentiment was consistent across all the different groups in our survey – employees, freelancers and jobseekers alike.


Graph 11 - From the first part of our survey, for comparison


Graph 12 - Business Leaders Survey

This could be a chance for a new beginning. With time and care, the industry will recover. It will be our responsibility to look at the past, see what’s worked and what hasn’t… and shape our future from there.

Here are some final comments from our respondents:

Whether the industry will recover or not depends on whether the question applies to short-term or a long-term period. As of now, I believe we're pretty much at a point where there's nowhere to go but upwards. The creative industry is one in particular which has always had the innovation and spontaneity to better adapt to unforeseen circumstances, and was one of the first to begin implementing changes to cope with the pandemic on a local as well as a worldwide level. Perhaps it's just naive hope, perhaps it's an unrelenting belief in the capacity of our industry – but I do believe things will get better, and strive to help with this process as much as I can.
Content Marketing Associate, Advertising Agency, India

The industry will change. But as it finds ways to deliver value again, it will become stronger.
Partner, Product and Service Development Company, Australia

I believe in advertising.
Creative Director, Production Company, Portugal

Creativepool Coronavirus Survey Report – Part 2

Header image: Droga5


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