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Ricca Ocampo

Post-COVID advertising. Darwinism at its finest.

The advertising industry is one of the key industries that had to evolve swiftly and in multiple times over the last decade. And it is continuously doing so as largely led by digital developments. From agency structures, tools, offerings, focus, strategies, and talent – the changes have happened so fast and those who couldn’t adapt quickly would’ve been left behind in the game. The goliaths of the industry are no longer untouchable. It’s evolve or die; and those who are still around are those who are fast or lucky enough to ride the tides.

Then 2020 happened. Is this our extinction event? At times it feels like it. But if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s the resilience of our industry. After all, we’re in the business of finding creative solutions for our clients. It’s only a matter of time before we find one for ourselves.

So how do we survive?

For this article, I want to focus more on how we as individuals weather this storm… How we stay relevant and find security in an industry that’s struggling to prove its relevance in a time of pandemic. Today’s employment numbers feel grim. Singapore just reported its highest spike in unemployment levels in more than a decade. While that sounds alarming, it presents us an opportunity to expand our core competencies and provide better value to our clients. The winds of change is back, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t seize the opportunity. Here are three quick ways to rethink your approach in doing our business:

1.  In isolation, we need to be more connected than ever before

While we all get comfortable fixing the upper half of our bodies for a video conference and having our EarPods lounge in our ears throughout the day, and work from home seems to work for us, let’s not take personal relations for granted. We thrive and succeed in this space because of the people surrounding us.

Physical encounters still make a load of a difference – whether for improving communication, driving action, or simply uplifting a relationship. As we continue to work from home over the next few months, it is important to be mindful and protective of the relationships that we have – from our internal colleagues to partners and to clients because after all, people are at the heart and soul of the work we do (and love).

2.  Keeping your clients in business keeps you in business

The lack of face-to-face encounters must encourage us to further sustain, improve and build on our relations with our clients and add value to the relationship. More than ever, our clients need our help in solving their business challenges. A simple catch up with them over coffee or a brainstorm session to nail a business problem could be all it takes to help them amidst a crisis. At the end of the day, our specialty is not creating pieces of art or the most beautiful films; it’s offering a creative solution for a matter they may not have thought could be solved creatively.

3.  Re-skill, re-skill, re-skill

The most common thing we keep asking is “when do we get back to normal?” What we should be asking is “are we ready to face our new normal?” COVID is the meteor crashing, and we’re now in the ice age. There’s no going back and those who think 2021 will be like 2019 will end up like fossils in the dust. Ask where trends are heading, how technology is now being used to do the most basic things we did in the past, and what people are giving up to survive. And with that, ask how you can make your mark moving forward.

Now that our fears and uncertainties are starting to simmer down, it’s time to move forward and consider how we can not only stay relevant in the game but how we can course correct to better equip us for the future. From online courses to learning cross functional skills, now is the time to take that leap and evolve.

As consumer behaviour itself is changing, so must our thinking and approach to our industry.

We are expected to have a strong foundation on communications, hence it is essential to show initiative and leadership from our side. At the end of the day, our work is not just measured by the pitches we win or the number of campaigns we sell. What’s more lasting is the impact we have on the evolution of our clients and how we look out for our own personal growth.

How do we survive? We adapt.

There are no playbooks, formulas or templates for doing business during a pandemic. The uncertainty can certainly be terrifying. But it can also spur a spirit of invention within all of us. With no ready-made answers, we will have to invent our own solutions to move forward, keeping people and relationships central in our thinking.

A vaccine may come in a couple of months and while it may help end our isolation, that vaccine isn’t the miracle drug that gives us immunity to the change brought about in our industry for years to come.