How to make Better decisions, faster when the world stops
15 October 2020

How to make Better decisions, faster when the world stops, was presented at Advertising Week by Israel Mirsky and Jean-Paul Edwards, OMD’s Global Executive Director of Technology and Emerging Platforms, and EMEA Chief Product Development Officer respectively. 


What are the three key questions you should ask now, to aid your brand’s recovery for 2021?

At OMD, our brand promise of “Better decisions, faster”, has never meant more than it does in today’s challenging environment. Long before the Coronavirus, we had begun building tools and processes to evolve new ways to help our teams and our clients make smart, strategic, rapid decisions to create an advantage in the marketplace.

When COVID-19 hit, we needed to accelerate the development of these initiatives to unprecedented levels to reflect a landscape that had begun to change fundamentally on a daily, or weekly, basis in many markets around the world. To get there, we tapped into three core questions:

  1. How must we reconsider our assumptions?
  2. How can we track change as it happens?
  3. And how can we best prepare for possibly dramatically divergent futures?

The tools we have built to aid during this time have proven their utility, and we are developing and entrenching them for use long beyond the recovery from the Coronavirus and into the future.


New fundamentals

The first thing to understand is; we all need to reset our assumptions.

It is no surprise for clients to learn that audience clusters have changed in the wake of the Coronavirus. The consumers that brands were speaking to at the beginning of 2020 have shifted behaviors, attitudes, and patterns. Existing clusters may have morphed into new ones or split into multiple new consumer groups.

The data brands use to base decisions on needs to be reassessed. Brands must ask fundamental questions as though for the first time. Who is buying the product? Can they still afford it? How has their mindset and how have their need states shifted? In today’s shifting cultural climate how do brands need to be behaving?


Tracking change as it happens

By creating a data-driven foundation for tracking what is changing on an ongoing basis, we can identify which changes are sticking and react quickly to those that aren’t. Analysing business and market data, bringing together epidemiological, behavioral, media consumption, location and media pricing data, you can look to the data signals to monitor ongoing changes to consumer behavior and make smart predictions. Brands should be putting comprehensive tracking methodologies in place to enable a rapid response to these shifts.

For example, the UK and France both saw a significant shift to e-commerce across multiple retail sub-sectors during the first lockdown, whilst in Italy, people instead deferred purchases of jewellery and apparel until stores opened again in June.

It’s particularly interesting to see how different retail categories changed based on local lockdown restrictions. In Germany, there was an overall decline in the consumption of apparel content at the height of the pandemic, but the discount retailers saw their share rise.


Planning for scenarios of dramatic change. 

Atop this foundation for planning, it’s no longer sufficient to plan as events develop, and long-term plans are often outdated as soon as they are created. Instead, we have found it is necessary to plan across a range of futures so that you can react quickly enough to take advantage of changes.

For example, it is clearly critical to consider a “continuation” approach based on current conditions remaining similar through the end of the year, as well as at least one scenario in which lockdown returns on a Christmas timeline.

With a second wave now very much in motion, regional considerations must be taken by retailers. For example, Spain has seen a 3% overall decline in retail mobility, while Madrid, currently imposing stricter measures, is down a dramatic 40%. With some of the highest unemployment across the G5, consumer confidence is being hit hard for the second time in Spain. Compare this with Sweden which is already reacting to the changing situation even without a formal lockdown.

By using these types of market signals, advertisers can develop hypotheses to test and create multiple scenario plans for Christmas planning, learning from each market on consumer habits throughout different stages of lockdown.


Resetting brand alignment assumptions for a new world 

From COVID-19 to racial injustice, to an increasingly intense political climate and fractious social media landscape, we are all navigating a tense and culturally important moment. At the same time consumers, many deeply affected by these events, are holding brands publicly accountable for their engagement with platforms and publishers who may be seen as contributing positively or negatively to these issues. Caught in the middle, advertisers have badly needed a quantitative, fact-based approach to deciding what publishers and platforms are aligned with who they are as brands and what they stand for.

Raising the stakes even higher, research indicates that there are fundamental business hazards for brands in misalignment. A study conducted by OMG in 2017 around ‘negative reach’, and since corroborated by similar work, indicates some media activity can leave consumers less likely to engage with the brand than not being exposed at all. The research, which focused on Millennials and Gen Xers, showed that 51% of millennials and Gen Xers are less likely to purchase from a brand, even if the placement wasn’t the brand’s fault. These groups are three times more likely not to recommend the brand and four times less likely to consider purchasing the brand.

The need to reexamine and quantify assumptions around where to invest, align what our brands truly stand for, and then apply those decisions directly to the media plans in progress, as well as those that would need to be planned, lead to developing our Brand Decision Framework. A data-driven approach for aligning each brand’s individual corporate and marketing values and their media investments. Brands are very familiar with using their values to help make decisions as to how to proceed elsewhere in their businesses – this enables them to apply those same standards within their marketing activity.

At its core, the Brand Decision Framework enables us to measure conflicts between brand values and media partner behavior to understand how aligned a brand’s values are with each partner and to establish comparative benchmarks. Those per-partners scores are then applied to investment levels to create a comprehensive understanding of how well aligned a brand’s values are with its media activity, and to track that alignment over time.


When considering how to navigate these decisions, brands should ensure their approach helps to:

  • Clearly align media purchase decisions with brand values.
  • Drive better brand safety decisions across the entire supply chain.
  • Limit “negative reach” and context-driven damage to brands.
  • Over time, improve the amount of high-quality brand-safe inventory available for purchase.

As we expect the world to continue to change at an ever-accelerating pace, we are confident that these approaches – questioning assumptions, creating tracking methodologies to understand how the foundation for those assumptions is shifting, and proactively developing plans for potentially dramatic scenarios, to be applied as they develop – will only become more critical for advertisers.

“We all need to reset our assumptions”

To find out more on OMD’s Fast Start Suite, including the Fast Start Dashboard and Brand Decision Framework, contact us at [email protected]

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