By The NSA Team

With everything happening in the world today, if you find yourself wondering what’s next, you’re not alone. Let’s be honest, that question is hard to answer, and your outlook could change by the minute. At NSA Media, we’re not only asking ourselves what’s next, but thinking about that question for our clients and their evolving business objectives. We talked to some of our agency leaders to get their insight and here’s what they had to say.

Our foundation at NSA is client service. What has been the largest challenge to the dynamic of account support right now?

Shannon Wagner, Chief Client Officer: Flexibility has been critical to support our clients in these uncertain times. Information is being updated constantly, decisions are being made last minute, changed again and then revised. Our clients need us to be an extension of their team, preparing for flexing priorities and providing efficient and accurate insight. Our clients are under intense pressure for a variety of reasons, from stores being temporarily closed to the desire to limit traffic for those with open stores that are deemed essential. Regardless of the client’s situation, they are looking to NSA to support their initiatives by finding solutions and resolving issues without adding to their already considerable burden. 

Kerry Smith, Vice President: The largest challenge is arming our clients with the most relevant information to help make decisions. There is so much information in the news that finding the most pertinent to them at the right moment in time is challenging. It is imperative that we understand what the internal client conversations are to help us predict what they need. It is trying to prepare for the unknown as things are changing by the minute.

Annie Deschamps, Account Director: The largest challenge to the dynamic of account support right now is adjusting to more of a reactive environment rather than a proactive environment in recent weeks.  NSA typically works alongside our clients to proactively plan, and that has not been the case these last 8 weeks. We have been reacting quickly to both essential and strategic media changes while also proactively looking to the future based on the fluid landscape.

What are the most important things we as an agency can do to assist our clients in their ad spending decisions today?

Kate Pustay, Vice President: Be flexible, show empathy, ideate and evolve more than ever before. As our clients do their best to navigate through this pandemic, we need to show our support and step up to whatever their asks and needs may be. We as partners need to pivot from our standard projects and instead shift resources to where it is most beneficial to their business. We can arm our clients with the data and insights needed without them having to ask. We can stay up to date on the fluidity of the stay at home orders and CDC guidelines, provide insights and trending specific to their locations, understand potential implications to major media modifications, consistently monitor the competitive landscape, and understand the shift in messaging our consumers need with this new journey.

Annie Deschamps, Account Director: We can continue being an extension of their team and a channel thought leader. We have to be able to change and evolve with each of our clients based on their needs and priorities. The challenges and pain points our clients are facing today are much different than they were 6 weeks ago. We as an agency need to be able to quickly pivot strategies.

What’s been the biggest change or impact you’ve seen to brand decisions from either a media or overall business perspective?

Kate Pustay, Vice President:  It’s hard to determine this as each client’s MBOs and KPIs vary so drastically. Looking at Retail as an example, each brand’s impact varies based on factors such as: state orders specific to store location, if curbside is or can be offered, if their business is deemed essential, how strong their ecomm is, competitive presence in the category, selection and stock, if CDC guidelines are being followed, do employees have the protective gear needed if deemed essential, will customers feel safe based on additional social distancing guidelines and the cleanliness of each location etc. Every brand needs to build trust with their consumers through uplifting and/or informative content and support. They need to do this while at the same time, being mindful of how the consumers preferences and journey will evolve.

Kerry Smith, Vice President:  This is an unprecedented situation with no modern history of how to handle, so most retailers and grocers were not prepared for a pandemic of this magnitude. The biggest change is the decisions that are having to be made are now not just based on company performance and initiatives, they are now heavily reliant on State and Health (CDC) official guidelines.

From a business development perspective, what are you hearing as points of feedback or potential optimism from prospects and contacts within the industry?

Jason Allington, Director, Digital Business Development: I think that in the beginning, there was an uncertainty around brands advertising during such an uncertain time. That’s no longer the case. In fact, we’re sharing a lot of recent content showing that in down times, brands that maintain or increase advertising emerge far ahead of their non-advertising competitors once the good times come. A lot of brands are fighting to keep and grow their business and we just want to help them in all way possible.

What is one of the biggest changes to the digital landscape right now and how is NSA responding?

Jim Hagan, Director, Digital Strategy: These unprecedented times have reshaped media usage by consumers. I really think this new normal of media interaction will have lasting impacts with how consumers change overall preferences in reliable technology and sources of information. I also think how brands interact with consumers and what they communicate is starting to evolve and consumers will expect the same type of thoughtful messaging after this is all over. It will be a great change for the entire industry – more thoughtful engagement and communication from all marketing components. At NSA, we must follow the data – we must continue to understand where consumers are spending most their time and adapt to the quickly evolving messaging components that are now expected from brands.  This is the perfect time to test and learn. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but with so many ways to connect with consumers from a digital perspective, it gives us and our clients huge opportunity to learn and adapt moving forward.

How has the advertising industry been impacted most so far?

Shannon Wagner, Chief Client Officer: The most significant impact to the advertising industry has been the cancellation of much of the advertising planned for March, April and even May. Clients cancelled advertising in many channels due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and its timing. In some cases, stores were closed or resources that would go toward supporting ads were diverted to other activities that were critical to keep essential stores open and sanitized. We are seeing clients add the advertising back as we go into May, however annual plans are changing and will continue to be adjusted throughout the year based on how the pandemic progresses and the various impacts that it has to clients. 

Annie Deschamps, Account Director: There has been a definite increase in need for flexible media tactics. Media consumption habits are rapidly changing as people adjust to being at home more. Advertisers have been gravitating to and utilizing media tactics that are nimbler. With the environment changing almost daily, brands need tactics with shorter lead times and less creative restraints so they can pivot quickly.

The retail space has sectors that were fragile prior to the pandemic. What do you anticipate being the largest change to retail after all of this is over?

Kate Pustay, Vice President: Ifa retailer has proven to be agile, they will have a stronger sense of their customer segmentation’s and the variation of their needs and preferences. Our partners have always owned the ability to navigate through the ebbs and flows of the business: to gain more customers, grow their brand, increase profitability and drive more sales. I’m not sure those business goals will change.  However, I do see agility as a necessity in order to survive these rough waters. Data driven insights are essential more than they ever have been. And the who, what, where, when, why is shifting on a dime.  Businesses will need all aspects of their organization, including all their partners to illustrate flexibility, creativeness and evolvement. For those that choose to evolve and prove their agility and creativeness through data driven messaging and media tactics, they will be the ones that will come out stronger on the other side. 

Kerry Smith, Vice President: Communication with the customer will be key, specifically for national programs that will need to find their footing on how they want to welcome guests back. I think consumer shopping habits will come into question as they adjust to the new normal of social distancing. We will likely see shifts in day of week, time of day and desired way of shopping (in-store, online, curbside pickup, delivery).

Annie Deschamps, Account Director: Our belief is that retailers will continue to expand offerings and add new services, like curbside pick-up and delivery, to cater to consumers looking for new ways to get their merchandise. Some of these services will be essential in the coming weeks and months as safety precautions for retail workers as well as customers.