The Post-Pandemic Future: The People Revolution, Powered by Technology
From the great resignation to increased scrutiny on how social media affects our mental health, we’ve experienced a demand for change this year. Change in the way people want to work and be valued. Change in the way customers want to share their data and shape online communities. Change in where people focus their time and our money, both as employees and customers, to build a fair, equitable and sustainable future, powered by the right technology that can connect us to the people, services, and products we need.
Our sixth annual agency panel on December 9th featured a discussion among top leaders across North America on how technology is harnessed to build a new workplace vision. How do we connect with audiences on their terms and drive value for customers in a post-cookie world? How can we be both a force for growth and a force for good in the post-pandemic future?
Learnings from 2021
A lot of learnings came out of 2020, but what was different about those that came from 2021? Our panelists had something slightly different to say based on their company’s experience.
For Lewise Hiltz, VP Digital Transformation at KPI Digital, they focused on looking internally and analyzing how the business was operating and whether the business was operating at its full potential. In 2021, Lewise said that they learnt to “expect the unexpected.” It was key to always have an emergency plan, which was something different in comparison to how they approached their business in 2020.
Similar to Lewise, Mo Dezyanian, President at Empathy Inc., chose to focus on how the business chose to operate. He explained that after 2020, they learned to be more lean and disciplined. They dropped anything unnecessary and concentrated on the company’s core strengths.
President of Ogilvy New York, Carina De Bois, felt that flex and fluidity became more important and the two biggest driving factors in 2021, more so than the year before. She explains, “with clients building their marketing plans, I always tell them, ‘don’t plan so far ahead for the next few years;’ it’s almost a matter of months or quarters versus years.” It’s the companies who are flexible and fluid that succeed in this new marketing landscape.
Sean Stanleigh, Head of Global Content Studio at The Globe and Mail, highlighted the importance of adopting a big picture approach to its marketing. He explains, “Because I work for a media organization, I’m involved in so many different types of content and different topic areas, that I tend to think about the broader world and then what is marketing’s position within that broader world.”
Creativity is key, but how do we foster it in this new hybrid work environment?
Creativity is key to a brand’s success, and as Carina explains, “if done right, allow[s] a brand to be unique and do things differently.”
However, the hybrid work environment has changed the way teams operate and facilitate creative discussions, brainstorming sessions, etc. It’s difficult to foster creativity when you are all working remotely. Sean highlights the importance of combining several different types of creativity. Whether that’s ‘forced creativity,’ in the form of a formal presentation by a company’s creative lead, a daily virtual meeting for the entire team to have the allotted time to connect to discuss, or a more individual approach, whereby team members have the opportunity to take 2-3 hours out of their day to sit, do their own research, scroll through TikTok to look for new ideas, or just ponder. It’s the combination that is key.
Mo builds off of Sean’s notion of the different ways we can foster creativity by saying that we must give our employees the freedom to choose how they work best. He explains that to do this, their company does a lot of coaching and asks their employees, “what is it that you need to come up with the best solutions and sort of personalize your style of work to what you need to have that maximum creativity?”
With the shift to hybrid work, we’ve also seen opportunities to attract more talent. Carina states that it has “opened up a different way of looking at creativity and given talent opportunities to touch all different clients and partner with people all different clients and partners with people all over the world that we didn’t have before.” We’re no longer experiencing the barrier of location.
Lewise explains that along with the globality that the pandemic has fostered, it has also allowed them to work with more clients in a shorter period of time due to the new way of working with their clients that they have experienced. The pandemic has lowered the amount of travel required, and now they can do workshops and counselling from their home offices. Thus, creating more space to take on more clients.
How have clients’ expectations changed? What are they expecting now that they didn’t expect a year ago?
Clients want answers. This hasn’t changed from previous years, but it’s becoming more important as uncertainty has grown. As Mo explains, “Strategy, creativity, anything that gives big answers to big questions, is going to be what clients need and it’s kind of what they’ve always needed, but they just need it a little bit more because it’s not a matter of, can I execute faster, better, cheaper, more efficient? It’s what do I do?”
Within the last year, Carina has also seen a change in who is asking and communicating from the client-side. They’re starting to hear from the CMO that their CEO wants to talk to the agency because everyone needs answers in the current environment.
For Sean and The Globe and Mail, their clients are increasingly looking for guidance and leading them through uncertainty. They’re looking for them to give everything from brand awareness to thought leadership to everything in between while understanding that a brand still needs to sell. The expectation has turned into, “don’t just give me one piece; give me all of it.”
Like Sean, Lewise has seen a big change in expectations around guidance and timing. Clients now expect what used to take seven years to be accomplished in months. She explains, “the expectation is there that we will hold their hand, that we will give them strategy and guidance, and we will help them move mountains in months.”
What are the growth opportunities in 2022?
We have much to look back on for 2021, but what’s to come in 2022?
For Lewise, she believes that the growth in the next year will come from a better understanding of customers. Specifically, she states that “it’s going to come from the customer experience and improving that customer experience.” To take advantage of this growth opportunity will come down to changing and adapting business models in order to match what the customer needs and wants. It’s not just enough to understand the needs and wants of the customer. Brands must then make the necessary changes to serve them.
Mo, on the other hand, feels that the growth comes from their people and their employees because they are the ones that bring us insights and creativity. He explains, “everything we do is insights, intelligence, people.”
Sean sees the growth opportunity in 2022 as “marrying human creativity with research and insights.” With the increase in technology, we have access to more information, insights, and research than ever before. However, Sean highlights the importance of combining this with the human element. We need the human element because we’re all humans, and we all crave connection. As marketers, we need to focus on “creating [these] connections that feel like they’re rooted in our humanity and in our ability to connect and [do] it in a smart way.”
Carina, like Sean, touches on the technology piece with her identified growth opportunity to figure out how digital and physical come together. She states, “we’ll continue to see smart brands and marketers think, ‘how do we tie the two?’ Because, that’s going to be the new hybrid world we’re living in; day-today, not just working in.”
Special thanks to our Partners that make events like these possible, our presenting sponsor – KPI Digital, our Supporting Partner – Empathy Inc., and our Technology Partner – Q One Tech Media. Additional partners include: The Globe and Mail Media Group, HeadStart Copywriting, Schulich School of Business – Executive Education Centre, Lulu Marketing, Lapse Productions, Score Promotions, Simple KPI, Marketing Talent Incorporated, DM Magazine, and Access Employment.
Lastly, a huge thank you to the panelists, Lewise Hiltz, Carina De Blois, Sean Stanleigh, and Mo Dezyanian, as well as Eric Tang, for moderating.