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3 Transformative Lessons Learned From a Year of Covid-19

by Krista Thomas, December 20, 2020

Key Takeaways:

  • Covid-19 brought about a massive need and opportunity for consultative customer engagement; Amobee seized on it, and will continue to do so.
  • Amobee’s talent is our competitive edge.
  • #AdTechCares showed us the importance of building the world’s most powerful messaging machine.

Despite the obvious and onerous challenges of 2020, there are shining moments of empathy, creative problem solving, and innovation that stand out. And while the year ahead will bring great sighs of relief as vaccines are eventually delivered to communities around the world, it will also require extreme patience. We will continue to maintain social distance, wear masks, and miss holiday family gatherings because, to paraphrase UN Secretary-General António Guterres, none of us is safe until all of us are safe. 

There were many valuable lessons learned that are worth documenting and sharing as we look ahead and plan for 2021. 

Covid-19 Impact #1: The great reset and the need for a playbook

When the virus first hit, it became clear that some of our clients — those in travel and hospitality for instance — would be profoundly affected, while others, such as Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) and Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) companies, would be less so. With the hoarding of groceries, for example, some CPGs pulled back ad spend dramatically citing the rush of demand. Why spend at prior levels when they literally could not keep product on the shelf? Still others, in the alcoholic beverage category for instance, struggled due to the closure of restaurants and bars and cut back on advertising spend as a result. 

By the first week of April it was clear that Foursquare’s David Shim was prescient when he predicted the “Great Covid Reset” in online consumer behavior — “an historic opportunity to grab or defend market share.” So we set about creating Amobee’s Covid-19 Restart Playbook to provide our customers and prospects with a series of thought-provoking questions and prescriptive steps for reinventing their strategies, messaging, and media plans to adapt to both increased consumer time spent with traditional linear TV and connected TV (CTV), and the anticipation of renewed retail consumer spending behavior due to the eventual global restart in summer.

What we learned: 

  • That proactively taking the lead, even in a time of great confusion, was the right thing to do. Marketers and agencies appreciated the outreach, the Playbooks, and the ongoing support. They knew that we were committed with tools and resources to help them out in real-time.
  • That as much as we knew that each customer is unique, the pandemic made them even more so. What worked six months ago for a given client was not going to work given the current circumstances, and the only constant in the pandemic would be change. Once you wrap your mind around that, you stop looking for shortcuts and get down to the hard work of adaptation. We will be refreshing our Playbooks in the new year to help our customers bridge the gap as the vaccines make their way across global communities.
  • That our gambit had paid off. With our omnichannel expertise, we were uniquely positioned to help brands and their agencies across linear TV, CTV / streaming OTT, and all things digital, including social. This gave us a wider variety of tools and optimization levers we could pull, plus a valuable view from above. 

Covid-19 Impact #2: Our talent is our competitive advantage

It would have been easy to panic as herky-jerky demand gave the industry whiplash, and many in our industry trimmed staff. But with the backing of our corporate parent Singtel, and the teachings of the Covid-19 Reset crisp in our minds, we realized that this crisis was indeed our opportunity to both defend and take market share. 

So instead of making cuts, more than 150 senior leaders took a temporary salary cut. We collectively made this concession to put the financial health of our colleagues and our business first to avoid cutting a single well-performing employee working diligently to move our customers’ businesses forward. 

This gave us the ability to protect our employees and maintain stability despite the global slowdown and through the emotional vagaries and vicissitudes of the pandemic. In fact, we continued hiring for open roles across product, engineering, and sales around the world, leveraging our position to add muscle. 

What we learned: 

  • That people can and will make sacrifices through a crisis in order to make a difference, and specifically to ensure that their teammates are able to both continue their good work and put food on the table for their families.
  • That the risk was worth it. We were able to continue to provide unrivalled service to our customers, delivering unique expertise and new insights forged in the fire of crisis that strengthened our partnerships. 
  • That facing adversity as a team builds far stronger bonds than any company offsite or culture program. 

Covid-19 Impact #3: Building the world’s most powerful messaging machine, #AdTechCares 

In a proactive initiative conceived by one of our engineers, Anand Natarajan, in mid-March, we teamed with Universal McCann Worldwide to co-found a new kind of industry consortium: #AdTechCares. The initiative brought together advertising agencies, technology companies, influencer marketers, and publishers around a unified mission to combat misinformation about Covid-19 and support fact-based journalism to keep humanity well. 

We started by creating a Covid-19 PSA Campaign to benefit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). We amassed a powerful array of industry partners that you can see and join here on our dedicated LinkedIn page, including the 4As, AdCouncil, AdColony, Adelaide, Bidswitch, Celtra, Connatix, Curb, Daily Motion, DoubleVerify, District M, eBay Advertising, Freestar, Hollar, Influential, Integral Ad Sciences (IAS), InMobi, IRIS.TV, Magnite, Media.net, MediaVine, Newsguard, NYIAX, Ogury, OpenX, Origin Media, Outfront, PlayStream, PlayWire, PubNative, SpotX, Spaceback, TikTok, TrueX, Vox Media, and more. 

As our friend and partner Freddie Godfrey, founder of Origin Media, said in early summer as we reached the 1 billion person milestone, “We have built the most powerful messaging machine on the planet.” 

As of today, this Covid-19 PSA campaign has served 4.5 billion impressions and reached 2.2 billion people across 222 countries worldwide. 

With the murder of George Floyd and the corresponding protests across the U.S. and around the world, we knew that we needed to take decisive action. We went back to our coalition and, in September, we were thrilled to announce that #AdTechCares had rallied to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. We are now doing so via Campaign Zero’s Nixthe6 (PSA) campaign, which raises awareness about the ways that individual citizens can help reform law enforcement, city by city, around the U.S. 

What we learned: 

  • That people and the corporate entities that they work with genuinely want to help. One simply needs to give them an invitation and roadmap to find their way.
  • That even companies that are hotly competitive in the marketplace can come together for the greater good and a cause greater than their own profit motive.
  • That, once again, we make our own reality. There is nothing we can’t do if we set our minds to it and put in the work. By assembling a flexible team of planners, strategists, creatives, engineers, and publicists, we have built an unstoppable force for good. 

Next up? 

We’re exploring additional causes to support with the #AdTechCares team. Join us! For a walkthrough of how Amobee can help you unify all your linear TV, digital, and social media investments, contact us at solutions@amobee.com.

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