The pandemic has continually put partnerships under immense pressure, where only the most meaningful survive. 2020 was a year where agencies had to demonstrate the ability to pivot with startup-like agility to support clients’ response to the triple crises of public health, socio-economic, and ecological challenges.

For us at OMD, it was not enough to merely survive. Our ambition was to jumpstart our clients’ road to recovery by learning faster and acting faster than the competition. We sought to make better decisions, faster and deliver business growth.

The mobilization effort: Harnessing the power of people, platform, and process

The pandemic broke the predictive models of consumer behaviour. It prompted the need for new data-powered applications that were fit for an uncertain future. A future in which teams could turn insights into action at speed. OMD were quick off the mark in building the Fast Start Dashboard (FSD), which pulls in 1.5 billion data points from 25+ partners on topics including media consumption habits, ad rates, shopping behaviours, consumer sentiment, foot traffic, government restrictions, and fluctuations in COVID-19 cases and mortality rates.

The dashboard’s delivery of real-time, market-level information regarding the critical data points around recovery and readiness, including key market signals on consumer sentiment, and the media supply chain, provided an actionable framework for brands to determine when, where and how much to invest. Its widespread use enabled our teams to protect our clients’ core businesses, as well as drive growth in priority areas including connected commerce.

Bacardi used the FSD to shift marketing dollars toward its ready-to-drink Bacardi Rum cocktails last summer as stay-at- home restrictions eased, and people became more willing to venture outside. Bacardi, which spent 65% of its planned media budget in the US to support the product’s launch in May, increased its planned spend to the same percentage in June and July - from as low as 10% of its budget in June and 0% in July.

New perspectives revealed new opportunities to support consumers

The new conditions changed everyone’s perspective. It shone a new light on challenges and, in many cases, expanded the bravery index.

At OMD, we looked beyond getting through the crisis to emerging stronger than ever before. That intention inspired us to partner with our clients to actively define what a better future could look like.

That mission led to a new level of trust and partnership, resulting in work that continues to make a difference.

A great example of this is our work with Levi’s in EMEA – to understand consumer behaviours, a test and learn program, accounting for +20% of investment, was started with the sole aim of driving incremental revenue. This included tests on platforms such as Pinterest and Affiliate partnerships offering students, and in the UK NHS workers, discounted products.

Gen Z share of traffic grew from 14% to 26% on and saw a 30% growth in revenue from this audience despite economic downturn. We managed to deliver a +21% total e-commerce revenue YoY.

Deeper commitment to the practical application of empathy at scale

As empathy became a more urgent need amongst agencies to more effectively connect with customers in a time of deep uncertainty, campaigns with greater authenticity and value were deployed.

An example of this is the Kellogg’s Nigeria Study from Home campaign: When the pandemic disrupted schools around the world, public schools needed support to keep children educated. In a first for the country, OMD negotiated a partnership with a leading grassroots media house (Wazobia TV/FM) for Kellogg’s and the Ministry of Education to introduce a virtual class program for secondary school students on TV & radio that would serve as a prep course for their West African Examination Council.

The team developed branded Study at Home with Kellogg’s content, taking ownership of segments on popular TV and radio programming, and created a Q&A segment to support product giveaways, providing an opportunity for the brand to engage with its target audience in a relevant and empathetic context, keeping Kellogg’s top of mind.

Business growth is a team sport: We move faster when we move as one team

Agencies dealt with the complexity of 2020 by collaborating in new ways to deliver more inventive, resonant, and culturally connected work. As we continue further into 2021, we believe that in the future brands will increasingly nurture data-informed ecosystems, bringing together e-commerce, CRM and content into one integrated offering.

In April, Pepsi brought fans together in their living rooms through a partnership with Global Citizen’s One World: Together at Home event. Held on April 18 and streamed internationally across TV, digital and radio networks, the event aimed to unify fans across the world. Working within a tight window, OMD was able to shift all Pepsi TV and digital marketing spend to promote the event on the same scale as its iconic Super Bowl Halftime Show, with both traditional and non-traditional media assets.

2020 was the year where performance mattered. A year when crises demanded our full commitment and irrevocably changed the way we work, for the better. We delivered by giving our clients the ability to look at multiple data points, from a variety of real-time data sources.

This has, and will continue to dial up confidence around investment decisions across markets, and channels at pace, identifying new revenue opportunities that will see our clients emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever before.