Business Line explores how some of the giants in the cargo industry are dealing with the Covid 19 health crisis. The team also looks at how the world’s biggest brands have adapted their advertising during the pandemic.

As the covid 19 pandemic presents humanity with unprecedented challenges, the cargo industry is extending a crucial lifeline during the health crisis. Dubai-based giants Emirates SkyCargo and DP World, the port operator, are no exception.

Meeting urgent demand
Emirates SkyCargo, is the airline that moves the most weight in freight internationally in the world. When the passenger arm of Emirates grounded its flights completely as the Covid 19 pandemic took hold, the cargo side had to intensify its operations to ensure the flow of essential goods and life-saving medical supplies.

“There’s a huge need for medical equipment, masks, sanitisers, pharmaceutical products, so we had to sort of maintain the cargo operation while we were essentially shutting down the entire passenger network,” says Nabil Sultan, the Regional VP for Cargo Emirates.

Explaining how the company has adapted, Sultan goes on to explain: “Immediately we’ve embarked on this initiative of actually using our passenger aircraft as cargo only. I mean, we literally had to create this cargo network within three weeks. We bring in the cargo to Dubai and then from Dubai, we use our passenger capacity, which ranges almost from 20 to 40 tonne. And then we get a lot of these products literally across the world. Into Europe alone we operate today almost 60 flights per week into 10 destinations.

Tackling the Covid 19 storm head on
Dubai is also home to one of the world’s largest port operators DP World. The company has 78 terminals on six continents. It too, has had to move quickly to tackle the pandemic.

“We took steps to protect 15,000 people in the ports, says Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, DP World Chairman and CEO. Their role is more vital now [and these workers need] to be healthy. Segregation, wearing gloves, wearing masks and most importantly, really implementing all the regulations in each country,” he says.

For both companies, technological innovation has been fast tracked and mobilised to help cope with the colossal task at hand.

“Our warehouse and terminal, cargo terminal, had almost nobody. You know, it’s a 60,000 square metre area, fully automated when it comes to handling cargo. And that actually came [to the] rescue at times like this, where there’s a very minimal human intervention, interaction, that happens, says Nabil Sultan.

DP World head Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem sums things up.

“We had many, many systems we were planning to launch and with this pandemic, we have to launch them faster. So we rolled out actually, a few ether [ethereum] platforms. One of them is ‘SeaRate’, which basically enables shippers to move cargo from anywhere to anywhere in the world with the click of a button. And it’s amazing actually how efficient it is. We learned something in a situation where we have to work differently.

Fashion joins the fight
Right around the world, as businesses adapt to the covid 19 pandemic, some companies are transforming their offering entirely. Even some brands associated with the luxury sector are now in the business of producing personal protective equipment (PPE) for key healthcare workers and frontline staff.

The Arab Fashion Council, based in the UAE has launched the #thread4cause campaign to repurpose clothing manufacturing facilities for the production of personal protective equipment.

“We have the capacity, we have the power. And the Arab Fashion council, together with the Dubai Health Authority, launched a campaign thread4cause. We are here at the facility of Marmar Halim, Egyptian born Dubai-based designer, producing surgical masks,” says the organisation’s CEO Jabob Abrian.

But shifting from couture fashion to protective surgical wear isn’t easy.

“Actually, it’s like [a] big switch. There is specification to do that. This fabric is not easy. It’s not easy to do any mask, insists fashion designer Marmar Halim. “You have to make something to protect the people really. So we are calculating like from 10 to 20 thousand masks per day. We want to give more and more. We have to provide them whatever they need to protect themselves,” she says.

In Ukraine, fashion studio Hoyra is producing surgical masks with a Ukrainian twist, free of charge for health workers.

“The mask consists of linen on which the embroidery is made, interfacing and another layer of fabric. This is how the three layers of the mask add up,” says Iryna Khrystynych, the owner of the fashion studio. She adds: “The Italians support each other through singing, we can support and continue to support with Ukrainian embroidery.”

“In my opinion, these masks have a number of advantages over a pharmacy mask,” explains Maria Bulavko, a doctor at Lviv Regional Clinical Hospital. “As you know, the pharmacy mask must be changed every two hours, while this kind of mask is reusable. After two hours of use, you can subject it to heat treatment: wash at high temperature and iron,” she says.

Even if that means refashioning themselves entirely, from Ukraine to Dubai, such initiatives demonstrate how businesses have adapted themselves to confront the pandemic showing solidarity with those on the frontline.

Advertising in a pandemic
The spread of Covid-19 has changed the world we live in affecting all sectors of business and advertising is no different. Much of the industry is on pause due to social distancing. Some adverts are being pulled from the airwaves, either because the service is no longer available or the message no longer reflects the world we live in. Other companies are adapting their ads to fit with the times in order to keep their brands in the public eye.

Andria Vidler, CEO of the marketing firm TAG EMEA says: “There are obviously some brands that have had creatives, executions that have been made that are no longer appropriate. Kentucky Fried Chicken and its slogan ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ is probably not one that’s most appropriate at the moment. There’s a Hershey’s ad that had lots of hugs and that has equally been pulled. I think over and above that though, even if there’s something not explicitly right in the creative, there’s a tonal difference which all brands have to pay attention to.”

Some digital advertisers have also been quick to adapt their style and tone to the current climate, harnessing increased viewer engagement as billions stay at home but remain online.

Nick Entwistle, founder of the ad firm One Minute Briefs says:”One of the most important and biggest ads that came out of the briefs that we ran this week is one that we did for Guinness and it was a very, very simple poster that had the message of ‘Stay at Home’ on it. And in 24 hours it had gone global. Now Guinness themselves have actually taken this on and repurposed it for their own creative advert across all of their social channels worldwide.”

It would seem that the uncertain times we live in have given rise to tact, resourcefulness and creativity. Qualities that will be key for the survival of any business going forward.