It has long been said that every challenge brings opportunity, that every crisis has a silver lining. With companies failing, jobs disappearing—and, tragically, lives being lost around the world—seeing positives in the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t easy. But let us take a moment to consider the upside for those businesses best able to adapt.
In a year of worldwide change that no one could have predicted, the advertising and marketing industries have been—and continue to be—severely tested. The effects range from workforce welfare issues, supply chain disruption and decline in sales, to ever-changing travel restrictions and lockdown rules. Yet, in just a few short months, many businesses have learnt to cope by rapidly changing the way they operate and developing innovative ideas.
The “new normal” is already a cliché. However, it is clear there will be no return to pre-pandemic ways of working. The world was already turning digital, but that transformation has been accelerated by a factor of… I am sure data analysts will eventually put a figure on that. Indeed, data analysis will play an increasingly crucial role in the months and years ahead.
Because the more digital content and online activity we engage in, the more data we generate—from which marketers must extract the trends and insights that deliver competitive advantage. Successful brands will be those that adapt to constant change, accept uncertainty as a way of life, and tell a good story. Brands that don’t embrace innovation and try to protect the status quo will see their lifeblood drain away—the classic “Kodak syndrome.”
In adapting to unexpected challenges, what better role model than the State of Qatar itself? As part of the worldwide Grey communications network, our Doha business has long understood the importance of adapting to regional social and cultural differences: the so-called “glocal” approach of thinking globally and acting locally. During the years of political blockade, as well as in the current health emergency, Qatar has shown a remarkable resilience and the ability to adapt to rapid change.
For business and commerce, the greatest positive of the past year has been a quantum leap in the adoption of e-commerce, social media engagement and online platforms. As an agency, we are adapting our structure and skills base to help clients deliver what their customers increasingly expect, namely better apps and websites, highly engaging social channels, interactive online events, virtual tours, and distinctive, relevant digital experiences.
Going forward, we must all renew our commitment to ideation and re-invention—ensuring our client-brands penetrate local culture by being “talked about.” In leaving traditional thinking behind, at a speed that has now dramatically increased, we aim to further embed digital technologies in all that we do, while building on human insights and respecting our social responsibilities.
In the agency world, to ensure our own businesses remain financially viable in the face of smaller budgets and fierce competition, we should strive to broaden our income streams into areas that may go beyond the traditional advertising remit. Given the tectonic shift and economic disruption our industry is experiencing, the most adaptable among us will not only survive, but will emerge proud—and stronger—from these unprecedented times.