The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

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By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

March 18, 2020 | 3 min read

Around the world, increasingly serious measures are being taken by governments to minimise the spread of Covid-19 and there is now no doubt about its potential for disrupting the ad industry and the wider business community.

However, is the ad industry letting short-termism dictate its response to the crisis? Speaking on the drastic situation, founder and chief executive officer of NY Collective, Nicole Yershon has criticised the lack of preparedness within the business sector, saying: “It reminds me of the short-term thinking we see in business all the time. Businesses always want money quickly, but this is a long-term issue”.

As part of The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival, Yershon – formerly of Ogilvy Labs – discussed the effects that safety-measures such as self-isolation will have on workers, businesses and the wider industry, as well as how companies can take action in the present moment to safeguard their survival in the future.

The consensus was that companies will often strive for disruption and agility, but the current moment will test the realities of these goals in an unprecedented way. For Nick Crawford, founder and chief executive officer of Work Networks, companies will need to embrace new technologies that enable communication if they are to respond effectively to the situation at hand.

"We are seeing a very fragmented world inside organisations, and businesses will need to harness that and provide their people with a platform that is consumer-friendly – a platform that will ensure cross-organisational visibility and allow leadership to connect with everyone, wherever they are."

Natalia Talkowska, founder of Natalka Design agreed that a willingness to embrace new technologies will be crucial at this time and cited the use of tools such as webinars as an example:

“We’ve been working online a lot for the past few years, on things like webinars, which maybe weren’t so attractive to clients before, but now we’re going through a phase of having people ask us how we can help. Now we’re training people to see how they can use these online tools better.”

Preparedness, she said, will be vital going forward: “whether it’s embracing new tools, going digital, re-thinking leadership. Go with it, rather than sitting and watching in fear, which will only breed more fear and anxiety for your team.”

Yershon believes that success will come for businesses that embrace the changes that self-isolation and working from home bring, and that resilient leadership will be crucial to this:

“Hierarchical structural systems are going to totally shut down. If you’re micro-managing staff and telling them what to do and where to go and not giving them the freedom to be creative - that will really determine if you’re going to survive.

“You’re going to have to use these technologies and you’re going to have to trust your staff to get on with it. It’s a very different mindset and leadership is what is going to set the tone.”

You can watch the full session here on The Drum's dedicated Digital Transformation Festival microsite.

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