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22 - 26 March

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Omnicom's John Wren: How to navigate the profound shifts shaping our industry

As part of this week's Agencies4Growth Festival, we've asked some of the brightest minds in marketing why agencies matter today. Here, Omnicom chairman and chief exec John Wren explains the role agencies can play in attacking digital acceleration, the explosion of e-commerce and the return of mission shopping.

With the outbreak of Covid-19, in a matter of months, almost every single person around the world was forced to live, work and think differently.

Our agencies were no different. They had to quickly reinvent marketing strategies to match the times. Our people pivoted quickly to working remotely, to give our clients relevant insights into how people were thinking, feeling and behaving. They provided counsel on where, when and how brands should show up differently.

In fact, Covid-19 induced and fast-tracked many lasting and profound shifts in consumer behavior. Here are the biggest changes at hand.

Digital takes over

Online activities are growing exponentially as everything from school and work to exercise classes and doctors’ appointments have moved to new mediums. Time shifting is changing routines. These aren’t new trends, but there has been a quantum shift. Consumers expect effortless, interconnected brand experiences that need to be delivered through increasingly complex and non-linear paths to purchase.

Our agencies are designing these experiences for our clients and executing them seamlessly and efficiently. We already have the highly specialized talent needed to do this, and over the last six months we have proven just how liquid it can be. Borders and time zones are no longer the barriers they might have once seemed.

E-commerce explodes

Another lasting trend is the tremendous shift to e-commerce. For a period of time this year, for most of our clients, e-commerce was the way to transact any commerce. From CPG to retail to autos to education and many other industries, e-commerce adoption happened in a period of days and weeks whereas it would otherwise have taken years. We helped our clients reimagine the way their brands were presented in this environment and drove and captured consumer demand using new insights, tools and platforms, always combined with great creative ideas. We’ve all experienced this change in the past several months and it is here to stay.

The return of mission shopping

A third major shift we have seen is the return of the shopping list – people are once again mission shopping – making fewer trips to physical store locations, ordering online ahead of time and just picking things up inside or outside the stores. They are looking for convenience in the way they shop, planning more carefully and stocking up when they can. The shopping list, which had all but disappeared in favor of browsing, has made a big comeback and with it a new need for marketers to create awareness of their brands so consumers put them on their shopping list before they see them in a store.

Trusted brands make a comeback

Whether in-store or online, brands that are best known and trusted are ones that people turned to during the pandemic, and will continue to turn to, as these shifts in behavior take hold for the long-term. Helping to build that familiarity, affection and trust in a brand is at the core of what we do, and we are well-positioned to help our clients succeed. We have the creativity to think differently, to design and create experiences that are relevant, resonant and, more importantly, rewarding.

We know this is what will drive growth for our clients and they have responded with tremendous appreciation. They have expressed how much they valued the critical, timely pivots made by our people. I heard from and spoke to many of our clients and, without exception, they are grateful with how we collaborated and acted with sensitivity, creativity, speed and efficiency. As we navigate the challenges posed by this year’s unprecedented events and their lasting effects on consumer behavior, we will continue to offer our clients a unique understanding of their audiences – as people, not just as consumers – and to deliver world-class creative ideas based on these insights.

Which brings me to my final point. While the pandemic will have a lasting effect on many of the things we do, there is one thing that isn’t new or Covid-19 induced – creativity. It has been at the heart of Omnicom’s belief system and strategy since the day we started, and it always will be.

John Wren is chairman and chief exec of Omnicom Group. For more insights, inspiration and celebration of the advertising industry, tune into this week’s Agencies4Growth festival.

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