Measure Twice, Cut Once. Brand Strategy For A New World.

Thoughts on an industry change over the year of COVID

From Member Pranav Yadav, US & Europe CEO, Neuro-Insight

 

As we look back on this past year, how do you think the advertising industry has evolved? 

 

Unfortunately, my answer is that “it hasn’t evolved enough”. For many years now we had seen advertising becoming more and more formulaic, without any roots in human truth or insight, relying heavily on the material, celebrity or shock and awe to get people’s attention. And this became very apparent during covid – firstly nobody knew how to react so they kept running the same ads during March, then they all had the SAME idea (again formula based – somber music + “difficult times”, watch this video for context), then they were late to the party with topics to talk about and representation of masks, and by the time they adapted people had moved on during the holidays with the vaccine announcements to a more optimistic place – and we failed them yet again.

 

Due to the various COVID restrictions, what are some innovative ways in which agencies have produced content? 

 

Agencies have been very good at innovating around production – I’ve been on several major zoom-based shoots, but I have particularly enjoyed the usage of user-generated content stitched with shot footage to bring together a cohesive story. It really speaks to the mastery over the craft, but it is the lack of connection with the consumer is where we fail. So I commend the agencies for their innovation around a very challenging production situation, but we still need to go back to the basic roots of human truths, understand how people are feeling, tell authentic stories, and find ways in which the brand in question could play a part in people’s lives in this current situation – that is the only game in town.

 

How do you think media strategies have shifted in the past 12 months?

 

First the facts (read CMO Survey): 1) CMOs estimate a 5% reduction in traditional advertising channels in the next 12 months 2) there has been an over 70% lift in social media marketing budgets in the past year 3) over 50% of CMOs indicated they have “shifted resources to building customer-facing digital interfaces” or “transform their go-to-market business models to focus on digital opportunities.”

 

Though brands are still struggling to figure out what channels and creative strategies to implement, the action is mostly ‘reaction’ based rather than proactively figuring out where the world is moving. TikTok is a prime example – we ran a study in August last year to prove the efficacy of the platform, and not many were advertising there, and only now suddenly everyone wants a TikTok strategy – they’re overpaying for influencers, and underinvesting in figuring out what role the platform could play for the brand.

 

How do you believe COVID has influenced the ways in which we consume media? Has the industry adapted accordingly?

 

The decline of traditional linear TV is not new. The increase in content consumption during covid isn’t news either. The increased need couldn’t be satisfied by traditional mediums, so much like granny learned to use zoom to talk to the grandchildren, there was mass adoption of digital mediums.

 

As mentioned in the previous answer, this led to a ‘reactionary’ shift to move media dollars there, but without much of a strategy. The problem is much bigger and deeper – there is an over-reliance on agencies, and the agency business has been bleeding for years to have a huge chunk be freelancers anyway, and Covid was another hit to the agency world. And when your (the brands’) biggest support system is shaky, your ability to stay ahead of the curve is also shaky. All brands are trying very hard, but the solution lies not with the agencies, but in the insight that only the brands can get to by understanding their consumers – they know how to do it, they have done it before, they just have to remind themselves that they have to measure twice and cut once, rather than rushing to execute without having a clear strategy.

 

 


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