As the digital media industry prepares for 2021, many of us are looking back over the past 9 months to examine what we’ve learned. From how internal teams operate, to how we evaluate partners, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to change the way we do business, and certain changes seem likely to stay long term
In our latest deep dive with partners from buy-side, TheXchange blog interviews Mike Parker from iCrossing as he provides his perspective on the state of programmatic today and the impact of the pandemic on certain clients like Kraft and Beam Suntory.
Mike Parker is the Global President of iCrossing. iCrossing is a data, content, and performance-oriented digital agency with offices all over the globe. Mike lives in the Bay Area, where he’s been sheltering in place since the pandemic started. He normally spends a great deal of time traveling – between offices, teams, and clients. It has been a significant change for him not to be in airports and new cities every week. A silver lining has been spending more time with his family, especially with his teenagers who will be going to college very soon.
OpenX: How has your day to day business changed as a result of the pandemic?
Mike Parker: We were well-positioned to pivot to a 100% remote workforce incredibly quickly. As an agency that is distributed across the US, with offices in a number of cities, we were already accustomed to video calls and already fairly mobile, so we truly didn’t miss a beat in our ability to deliver for our clients. I actually think we are doing a better job of staying connected and communicating across teams, whether it’s daily stand ups for client teams or our regular all-company town halls. We are getting excellent feedback from employees.
OpenX: How has COVID impacted your business overall? Are you surprised by any of the impacts?
Mike Parker: Each of our clients’ businesses have been impacted in different ways, as the effects are felt differently across industries. For our packaged foods and eCommerce-driven retail clients, business is strong and it has been more about capitalizing on greater demand. For other categories like automotive and entertainment, we have been more focused on either reducing spend or being very strategic in how to stimulate and convert demand. It has been a bit surprising how many consumers have reached for nostalgia and comfort, especially in the food category for clients like Kraft. Also, absent the ability to visit bars and restaurants, people are doing much more cocktail mixing, which impacts a client like Beam Suntory.
OpenX: What do you predict to be the new normal for agencies and when will you get there?
Mike Parker: The COVID situation has opened our eyes to how well we can work virtually and certainly made us consider our space needs going forward. I still think we value physical spaces that can help facilitate creativity and collaboration, but we will likely see shrinking office footprints as a part of realizing we don’t need everyone in the office every day to get the job done. Unfortunately, I think the financial pressures on clients’ businesses also get passed down and I see clients continuing to look for cost efficiency – from their partners or in-house teams – more than ever. Finally, I think this time further emphasizes the focus on accountability of marketing spend – connecting activities to business impact.
OpenX: Has COVID made you rethink what you look for in technology and media partners?
Mike Parker: The idea of partnership is more important than ever. We are all in this together. Clients are looking for insights and ideas that can move their business forward and we need partners who can collaborate and help us unlock revenue-generating ideas. We are focusing on connecting the technology or media to what specific impact it is going to create for the client versus what features or audiences it provides.
OpenX: What are you most looking forward to when the lockdown is over?
Mike Parker: I’m really looking forward to leisure travel – the chance to go somewhere with my family for a change of scenery. Also: getting together with my wine group. We typically meet every couple of months but the past couple of events we’ve had to hold digitally, which just isn’t quite the same as being face-to-face!
We hope you enjoyed this conversation with Mike Parker at iCrossing. Be sure to look out for our next Insights from Buy-Side blog post.