Christian Juhl on being in Quarantine: Juggling the New Normal

GroupM Global CEO Christian Juhl was interviewed by Alison Weissbrot on AdExchanger’s new podcast “Social Distancing With Friends” to discuss how he is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic from a personal and professional point of view. Any normal day sees Juhl focused on juggling being a single dad with being global CEO of the world’s largest media buying firm.

His focus during this time is on being under a shelter and place order in his Bay Area home, making sure his 12-year-old son Luke gets his remote schoolwork done while also ensuring GroupM is taking care of its people and clients.

In an effort to keep a healthy balance between work, the news and Luke’s school, both Christian and Luke find some time to disconnect by taking their golden retriever for walks, catching up on Netflix and Disney+ shows and breaking out some old board games.

The situation can be challenging: “Luke has never heard me on so many video calls before,” Juhl said. “Sometimes they are more tense than others. He’s very sweet. I came out the other day from one of the meetings we were having and looked and me and said, ‘you need a hug.’ And he just comes up and gives me a big hug. To have that kind of help around you makes things a lot easier.”

When focusing on business, though, his main concentration is the wellbeing of his 36,000 people across 80 markets around the world. Juhl makes sure GroupM does everything possible to support employees’ health, mental health and well-being, especially given the likelihood of extended remote working and isolation for many.

Secondarily, he’s focused on making sure clients know GroupM is open for business. “Our clients need us now more than ever,” Juhl said. Part of helping clients is being on top of how consumer behavior is changing. GroupM is focused on what this means for brands right now and into the future. “We need to be mindful of how consumer behavior is changing and then how they are going to be experiencing brands and different types of services and products in the future. And how much of this is temporary and how much of this is going to be long term.” GroupM is monitoring this with focused reporting on a country by country basis.

Finally, on long term planning, he told Weissbrot: “It’s about being human right now and understanding that most people are still just scared…can I count on my partners to support me through this? After that, they are saying ‘where is my businesses going to be and what do I need to be prepared for.’”

While it’s too soon to say the specific impacts, Juhl believes there will most likely be shifts in doing more online, both in interactions with brands and the way work gets done, even after the pandemic ends.

At the end of the day, though, “I’m an optimist and I believe that we’ll be okay through this. There will be some challenging moments but, as humanity, we tend to find a way to persevere.”

You can listen to the full interview below or on AdExchanger’s website here.