The novel virus later dubbed Coronavirus and much later christened as COIVD-19 by the World Health Organisation started in the city of Wuhan, China as a mere rumour. The authority in the city state tried suppress its reality to no avail. Dr. Li Wenlieng, a Chinese ophthalmologist at the Wuhan Central Hospital was tagged a rebel and anti-state agent subsequently penalized, Li warned his colleagues in December 2019 about a possible outbreak of an illness that resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome, later acknowledged as COVID-19.
These “novel’ controversies are yet to settle or concrete solutions proffered. Globally, medical experts and the WHO are still far from a convergence for the solution.
Difference schools of thoughts have emerged especially on the cause and aftermath of the pandemic. One holds that it’s a supremacy battle between China and America orchestrated by the latter which incidentally goes awry. Another school says it’s a 5G technology ignited virus killing and destroying across nations but the sponsors have used the Wuhan market as a decoy! Thank God, most of these have been debunked by experts, anyway.
Truth be told, psychologists have warned that we are not bulk down with the horrendous causality statistics which is indeed scary. However, a passing mention may not be out of order, to underscore the importance of this piece. As at Tuesday, April 14, 2020, total cases globally has reached a frightening figure of 1, 978,165, while 121,897 deaths have been recorded. America led this infamous group with a staggering over 120,000 affected cases and 25,000 deaths.
In Africa, the case isn’t different except for the fact that the pandemic is less ravaging. However, the occurrence is scarier in that the continent and component nations are always ill-prepared and governments indecisive and laid back in the deployment of data and technology in her response to critical issues including health and wellness.
The fatality and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic since mid-February 2020 when it surfaced in Nigeria is worrisome, the sly virus infection has not only negatively affected the economy, the total lockdown in key cities including Lagos and Abuja has drastically affected the citizens and businesses with palpable fear in the land. While the federal and state governments lockdown affects the marketing communications as a sector, proactive players had followed on the steps of the Lagos State, temporary shut down their operations in a “people before profit” fashion.
These actions, as demonstrated by frontline agencies such as X3M ideas, DDB Lagos, BHM and Noah’s Ark among others, however, accentuate the unfortunate steady rise in the figures of COVID-19 affected cases which currently stand at over 300 cases and 8 deaths as at filing this report.
While the Federal government yesterday extended the earlier observed two weeks lockdown by another two weeks, first responder- organisations are more likely to have a good-go when the economy resumes or business resumes. These are the set of players that will deploy the happenstance to advantage when the pandemic subsides and economy roars back to live again.
Against this background, Brandcrunch sent out a-four question questionnaire bothering on the effect, likely new work trend or style; taking advantage of the new trend possibly spurn by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Expositions on the covid-19 subject by key industry players further puts in awry effects in perspective. Jide Adeyemi, CEO, Big & Bold submitted that the pandemic has dramatically disrupted the industry. “It has created a need more than ever before to be creative and innovative. Marketing budgets have been re-allocated and cut down in most cases. Ongoing campaigns stopped in most situations and campaigns that should have broken put on hold. The pandemic, however, creates a massive opportunity for many in the industry to make a mark with creative solutions.
“As a leader of my team in this industry, I will say, I’m a victim of Coronavirus, though I’m not infected”, Adeyemi added in a lighter mood.
Speaking in the same vein, Lanre Adisa, CEO, Noah’s Ark noted that Covid-19 hit the world like an asteroid, No one saw it coming. No one planned for it, especially so early in the year. For the Noah’s Ark’s CEO, “It goes without saying that as the world economy has been badly hit, so has our industry globally and locally”. The degree to which one is affected depends on your portfolio as a business, he asserted.
Underscoring the negative impact of COVID-19 across the industry, Steve Babaeko, CEO, X3M Ideas and Vice President, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, AAAN , observed that the Covid-19 pandemic has totally altered in the immediate term, the marketing communication space.
With the stay at home policy meant to flatten the curve, he noted a lot has changed. For instance, investment in Out of home, activation, one on one consumer engagements, music and sports sponsorships, all took a major hit, Babaeko pointed out. However, this is not without its positives as “Television bounced back as people were forced to stay at home. Daytime viewership also went up as opposed to drive time. Influencer programs and digital also went on the upswing”. He also noted that sadly many companies may not recover from the aftershock of COVID-19 and many jobs will also be lost too.
Responding on a general note but with particular emphasis on the marketing research in Nigeria, Lanre Fasakin, CEO, CMRG Group rightly observed, “There’s a ‘culture shock’ in the marketing research industry that we are still trying to grapple with on account of Covid-19. Suddenly we are seeing a lot of project cancellations and rescheduling because of our inability to adjust to the virtual data collection platforms with the required speed necessary. Many things which we thought were not possible have now become our current reality. Survival now depends on how swiftly the industry can adapt”, noted Fasakin with particular reference to Marketing research.
Also speaking as a research expert, Michael Umogun, Kanter TNS held that COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Marketing and Marketing Communication community to rethink the way we do business. This is so because irrespective of the situation “we must positively respond to our customers’ needs and provide solutions even in these difficult times”. Using the example of the mandatory social distancing to prevent the spread of the pandemic, Umogun emphasizes that despite physical distancing marketing agencies must continue to connect with our customers and offer services especially where physical contact with our customers may have been outlawed.
Babatunde Adedoyin former president of the Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) regrets that like any other sectors and services, OOH sector is really on a shutdown. “Most the campaigns that are all running on very low budgets they are on hold now until after the pandemic” hence putting an already comatose industry in a very precarious situation.
In a similar way, Demola Adedoyin of Troops Integrated, Experiential marketing Agency submits that the lockdown has practically locked up businesses within and outside, so nothing happens except an agency has a robust intra – inter IT infrastructure. For him, change is inevitable in this type of situation. “There are inventions and practices that are reactions to COVID-19 that will not go away”.
Speaking on the how to make the best of the situation, Joko Okupe, CEO, Soulsight and Convener, Mindshift Advocacy, painted the scenario thus, “All around us at home, at work, in school, in business, in our worship centres and practically in all that we do daily , we see unprogressive mindsets at work. Just as the seed is the power that gives life to plants, our mindsets and thoughts is the power source of our attitude, action and behavior”. In order to progress as a people or industry, he recommended, “we need a mind shift to a different mindset. One that fosters progress”. He speaks of a progressive mindset that sets one apart from the norm that abounds all around. To emerged safe and sound from the effects of COVID-19, he bids operators to “Reflect, rethink, do it differently”.
Espousing on change in the mode of work or trend ignited by COVID-19, building on Demola’s observation, Adisa pragmatically noted as follows, “Covid- 19 has forced upon us in three to four weeks a work revolution that probably would have taken three to four years to happen. I don’t see that going away after this pandemic. It will stay with us in one form or the other. Agency business models are bound to change. It may not be a complete one. Some form of hybrids may emerge and some may just be outright remote working going forward”.
In a bid to be guided into the new future or post Covid-19 work trend, Babaeko revealed that his agency ran a poll and most of the respondents felt that things will revert to the status quo as soon as the pandemic is over. However, his long years of training, exposure and knowledge made him differ from this simplistic position. “Some of the lessons we learnt this period is that remote working can actually work in Nigeria. Again, not all meetings require our physical presence. If we take some of these vital lessons and apply them going forward, our country may just be all the better for it”, he noted optimistically.
Like Babaeko, Adeyemi is equally elated going forward as he claimed, “There is already a change”. According to him, the business that is ready to adapt and innovate will benefit from this situation. “Technology had to take the front seat in our ways of working and only business ready to adapt and innovate will benefit from the shift”.
Also emphasizing the myth “you don’t throw away the baby with the bath-water”, Umogun opined that new ways of working found to be suitable during COVID-19 especially remote working may be integrated into the main-stream industry work mode. “Companies may also want to experiment with productivity-based assignment and reward system especially for contract or consultancy projects”, he noted.
Also reflecting on possible new work trends, the “Marketing Researcher” in Fasakin warned as a matter of fact, “Truth be told; our industry will not be the same again! Approaches to data collection, processing and possibly analysis have changed for good. Post Corvid-19 we would do a lot less of face-to-face interviews which call for physical engagement with respondents. Drive focus now would be Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews – CATI, Computer-assisted Web Interviews – CAWI and even use of social media for data collection”. The CMRG Group CEO said that working with colleagues from other parts of the world, has exposed practitioners to situations where product tests and focus group discussions are now being done using different social media platforms. “It’s all so interesting. And guess what? Less expensive and cumbersome so it’s not likely to disappear anytime soon since it’s a win-win situation for all”.
These practitioners, however, recommend some conditions to win in the post-COVID-19 era. For Adisa, practitioners need to confront the new reality as ugly as it may appear. Things are going to be rough. However, this is not the time to panic, he warned. “We need to assess where we are and work on our strength. Every brand will be looking at how to get into recovery mode as quickly as possible once this whole thing is over. They will need agencies that can help them navigate their ways out. That’s where we come in. We need to be ready to give that support. If they can’t find it with us, they’ll search in non-conventional places”, he reiterated.
Babaeko in his characteristic style added a bit of philosophy to it claiming the Chinese say that the best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago the next best time is now. “COVID-19 caught everyone by surprise the next pandemic or disruption shouldn’t”. According to him, X3M Ideas was a bit better prepared as the agency had a documented offsite work plan so it was easy for us as an agency to seamlessly carry on our operation. “We also hired a full time nurse four years ago, through her weekly health reports we picked on COVID-19 before it became a pandemic. That’s why we actually shut-down our operation before Lagos State Government made the call. These are trying times, our prayers are with healthcare workers on the frontline. Together we can defeat this deadly virus”.
While reinforcing that the industry should refrain from going into panic mode, despite the fact that the epidemic has made a nonsense of revenue projections, Fasakin noted, “ we need a strategic response to turn things around. We need to carry the clients along by organizing seminars and workshops that would enlighten them on the features and benefits of the new techniques”. For researchers, he observed that the new era may require a review of our approaches to data quality control because the process will now be driven by technology while adding that businesses would have to “innovate or stagnate.”
Jide comes down more frontally, post covid-19 agencies ditto companies will have to “Innovate or die”. He continued, “New businesses will be born, and some will go extinct. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, we have come to the era of idea mix and modification of thrusts. What we thought mattered, no longer matters and business goes in the direction of what matters”, he counseled.
“We must stop the agency model and wear the cap of a consultant. We have to look beyond advertising in helping our client achieve their numbers. Data will move from gold to platinum, as making informed decisions will be more than necessary now. It’s time for backward integration, as everyone needs to offer value in the digital space convincingly, he warned.
As these experts have proffered, solutions to a prosperous era post covid-19, lie within the agency and individual practitioners, embrace technology, be data-driven, think differently and be a solution provider. Here, Joke Okupe’s words “Reflect, rethink, do it differently”, ring loudly yet again.
Additional reports by Ajayi Olalekan