What will the ‘new normal’ be for the advertising industry?

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It won’t be news to you that the coronavirus pandemic has changed how we do marketing in 2020. Consumer behaviour and confidence have been transformed by lockdown restrictions around the world, with digital and TV now the primary media consumed. Many media channels have seen significant changes to pricing inflation forecasts, with digital the only media forecast to see inflation consistently, if at reduced levels compared to forecasts earlier this year. Many other media, particularly the traditional ones, are expected to suffer severe deflation.

The brands that emerge the most unscathed from this crisis will be the ones that have adapted to the rapidly transforming media landscape – not least because those changes will have lasting repercussions for the advertising industry and marketing as a discipline. Furthermore, many brands will have acquired or honed a new set of skills and mindsets which will help them to succeed in the ‘new normal’.

More digital than ever

The principle reason for the resilience of digital media over the last few months is the fundamental change in consumer behaviour. Bored at home and without the diversions of normal everyday life, people have turned to the internet for entertainment. Brands have followed them – but this move makes sense not just because of the increased eyeballs. Digital is also more agile than the traditional media, allowing for swift changes in direction: programmatic means that campaigns can follow impressions. The more traditional media are frequently less flexible, meaning that, at the start of the pandemic at least, many TV and OOH campaigns jarred with the new reality. Brands that previously relied on offline media have had their eyes opened to the opportunities that digital presents.

Genuine purpose

The idea of purpose being at the heart of a brand’s marketing strategy isn’t new, but the pandemic has seen a desire for more authentic behaviour from brands. In this time of great hardship for so many, it’s not enough to pretend: brands must be genuinely supportive, whether that’s by offering a service, helping a specific community or simply by providing high quality entertainment. What brands say is less important than how they behave, and they should focus on solutions rather than purely selling. 1 in 3 consumers have punished a brand that has not responded well to the pandemic by persuading others to stop using that brand.

A new skillset

The pandemic has forced advertisers and agencies to adapt to a new way of operating, with new skills and mindsets acquired or honed. These skills will serve the entire industry well as we all emerge slowly into a post-coronavirus world, and could be behind an exciting shift.

The advertising industry hinges on innovation, and never has it been so necessary as now. The coronavirus pandemic has overturned normal ways of working and living, necessitating new ways of reaching and engaging with consumers. AI and chatbots, for example, have been harnessed by many brands who are having to rely on virtual services more than normal – and it appears that consumers are also becoming more comfortable with this way of communicating

Of course, the ability to innovate and work with the latest technology is born of a willingness to be open to new ideas, and to collaborate closely, despite restrictions on physically working together. Sharp U-turns in strategy and messaging require trust in partners and decisive action. The result is an approach to marketing which centres on testing and learning, rather than caution, and that can only be a good thing in such a fast-changing industry.

Let the consumer be your guide

Ultimately, the key to successful marketing has not changed: it is the consumer that should be at the heart of a marketing strategy. Brands and their agencies need to focus on the consumer’s needs and desires as a guiding light, using data to understand exactly what those are. In that way, the post-coronavirus world won’t be very different – but reaching that end point might be.

Image: Aon Khanisorn / Shutterstock

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