Covid-19 has sped up the world and if you have been ignoring this warning up until now, you and your brand will soon be irrelevant, forgettable and replaceable.

The time has come to develop 'phygital' expertise in a digital world.

From a client and brand perspective, you can't ignore the audience shifts and the levels of engagement that we are seeing in the digital space. In a recent McKinsey survey of global consumer sentiment (April 2021), the pandemic has driven rapid adoption of digital channels across countries and industries.

And even as the pandemic eases up and we 'return to normal', digital consumption post-Covid is far higher than before by an average of 20%, especially among developing countries. In addition (given digital's borderless nature), once exposed to best-in-class experiences and offerings, consumers won't settle for less.

Improved user experience, better offerings and increased security and privacy need to be a key focus for brands, as well as developing 'phygital' expertise. This is done by using technology to bridge the digital world with the physical world to provide a unique interactive experience for consumers.

Media owner partners have an important role to play here. How do they develop and integrate their offline and online platforms seamlessly and evolve their offerings to accommodate this significant shift in the way people experience brands? The answer is that they need to be flexible and continually re-evaluate their offerings to remain relevant and at the forefront of technological change.

We have all seen what has happened in the print space, with very few publishers surviving the past year. Let this be a stark reminder to the television, radio and OOH owners that have offerings such as live streaming, podcasts, social media and influencer integration will see themselves remain relevant in a constantly evolving space.

Digital integration is no longer a nice-to-have but an imperative. From a media agency perspective, digital integration is critical. The way that people consume media (and experience brands) is much more blurred, with seamless consumer journeys online and offline and often at the same time.

The need to develop hybrid strategists and planners who fully understand the role of digital in the consumer journey and how it needs to work with traditional channels is imperative. Here, we need to ensure that three things happen:
  1. Up-skilling our teams is critical to not only ensure that 'traditional' strategists and planners understand all things digital, but also that the digital teams understand the interplay between online platforms and offline platforms very well.
  2. We need to facilitate continual learning through mentorship programmes; the more informal training ground that will give practical on-the-job experience, with on-going and current real-life scenarios should not be under-estimated.
  3. Actively work on breaking down the silos. I fully appreciate that we still need specialists in the digital space, especially due to the incredibly intense nature of these campaigns and the amount of attention needed to switch on, track and optimise. However, the more we separate the disciplines, the more disjointed our campaigns will be and consumers will notice it.
This last point speaks to a general challenge in our industry as a whole, having separate agencies for different channels. Pitches and tenders that still separate traditional and digital services.

That isn't to say that it can't be done, as we have many accounts that are split between agencies. It just requires a lot more time and energy to pull things together and, at the end of the day, the speed to market will be compromised. This is unless deadlines can't be shifted, which just ends up putting a huge amount of pressure on the agency and client teams to deliver.

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