What We’re Reading–Week Of May 18th

We’re searching for the most pressing marketing insights this week. Updated daily.

Brand Insider: Skullcandy’s ‘Content-to-Commerce’ Model Was Ready For A Crisis

Media Post

Skullcandy chief marketing officer Jessica Klodnicki says that for the last two and a half years, the company was fine-tuning a program that connects the dots between the brand and commerce investments with more traditional product marketing and product launches, leaving Skullcandy well positioned to support the environment of people shopping online.

Why it matters: Skullcandy tailored its long-planned “Mood Boost” campaign slightly to fit COVID messaging and after the first month of launching, in April, saw 76 million impressions, 10 million video views and 162,000 engagements.

How A Data-Driven Marketing Approach Enables Effective And Efficient Media Strategies


In eMarketer’s Tech-Talk Webinar, Datorama global VP of product marketing and head of evangelism Nathan Barling and Ayzenberg’s Chris Strawser, VP of product and technology and Piotr Urbanksi, associate director of marketing science, discuss the need for a system of record that enables marketers to measure performance and to act quickly.

Why it matters: With the increasing importance of digital channels amid the pandemic, prior effective strategies may no longer be enough.

Adobe Study Suggests Consumers Have Grown Tired Of ‘We’re With You’ Ads

Ad Age

A new Adobe survey of more than 1,000 people found that brand marketers are almost 20 percent more likely to believe that consumers want ads showcasing how they’re engaging with communities in COVID than everyday consumers. 

Why it matters: Brands should consider focusing on everyday essentials and things that offer a much-needed reprieve from the pandemic.

Funding For Beauty, Personal Care Startups Drops


According to a new report from CB Insights, in Q1 2020, private market funding for young companies in the beauty and personal care space declined by over 50 percent compared to Q4. 

Why it matters: During the lockdown, verticals like fitness technology and the food and beverage industry have seen a burst in investor interest.

Skittles Goes Rainbow-Less For LGBTQ Pride Month


Skittles partnered with GLAAD to create colorless versions of its candies, retaining their original flavors and available for purchase in the US for the first time. One dollar from each pack will go to GLAAD.

Why it matters: The move to strip its rainbow coating is an inventive twist timed for Pride month when all large celebrations this year are canceled.

When Times Get Tough, Your Marketing Needs To Get Agile

The Drum

During COVID, marketers should take advantage of decreased levels of competition and lower ad costs by rolling out a micro-campaign to test hypotheses and collaborating with existing partners. Thereafter they should assemble and share data in real-time to inform future collaborative decisions.

Why it matters: In times of economic uncertainty, marketers are shifting from deliberate strategies to emergent ones.

Apple Buys Virtual Reality Content Startup NextVR

Mobile Marketer

Apple bought virtual reality (VR) startup NextVR, a deal reportedly worth $100 million. NextVR works with sports leagues and media outlets to offer programming that people watch while wearing a VR headset.

Why it matters: Acquiring NextVR is part of Apple’s plan to make advertising and user experiences more interactive.

Inside Sony Music’s Strategy To Amplify Songs Trending On TikTok Like ‘Break My Stride’

Business Insider

Matthew Wilder’s 1983 song “Break My Stride” recently became a popular video challenge on TikTok, which has recently become a major driver of music industry trends. When Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings, which manages the song, notices one of its songs trending on social media, it drops a note to the artist and works with them to create new video assets to help users track down the song. Legacy Recordings will also sometimes change a song’s name or track description so that it references the new context.  

Why it matters: Legacy Recordings has found that proactive campaigns are “far less effective” than user-generated challenges that make a song go viral.

Instagram Debuts Guides Feature With Initial Focus On Wellness, Mental Health


Instagram rolled out a new “Guides” feature that enables users to find recommendations, tips and other content from influencers, public figures, publishers and organizations. The feature will debut with a focus on wellness and mental health-related content, in partnership with organizations dedicated to wellness causes and publishers such as BuzzFeed, Refinery29, Shape and Parents Latina. Users can access the content by tapping the middle icon to view “Guides” on the profiles of participating organizations.

Why it matters: As social media usage surges amid the pandemic, Instagram and Facebook have overtaken traditional mediums for news consumption among millennials and Gen Z.

Opinion: What Happens When Live Sports Takes A Timeout?


The no-live sports brand playbook will require brands to engage with customers in a new way using social and/or connected television solutions, and build on the continuity of their brand. Core messages shouldn’t change, just the approach.

Why it matters: Live sports events are canceled but many brands have quickly adapted, reformatting in-person activations to digital and social channels.

Global Brands & Private Label With Kristof Neirynck At Walgreens Boots Alliance

During this 208th episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Kristof Neirynck, chief marketing officer of global brands at Walgreens Boots Alliance.

On the show today, we talk about how Walgreens Boots Alliance has responded to COVID-19. We also talk about Neirynck’s portfolio of brands that he manages, store-owned brands, as well as their global CPG portfolio. We talk about the differences in various markets where they’re a leader in the U.K. and how they’ve entered the U.S. market and the Chinese market in recent history. Then we switch gears and talk about his background and career trajectory. We also talk about his love of plants.

Speaking how the Walgreens Boots Alliance has responded to COVID-19 in three stages, Neirynck advises, “These are times when we need to make sure that we bring the relevant products to the market.” He also encourages companies to “Show that you as a brand care and contribute to society.” Neirynck has a perspective on personalization and leveraging first-party data in a CPG environment. He says, “Good personalization is when you don’t know that you’re being personalized to.” As he reflects about the trajectory of his career, Neirynck suggests, “You need to set audacious goals and go for it.” This conversation is about staying relevant, driving growth through marketing, and delivering relevant content.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Growing up in Belgium. 01:37
  • Kristof’s career path and how he started as an electronics engineer. 02:33
  • The reasons Kristof landed at Walgreens Boots. 06:18
  • Walgreens Boots’ three-stage response to the COVID-19 crisis. 08:13
  • Kristof’s take on managing CPG brands as well as store-owned brands. 12:50
  • Managing No. 7 in different markets. 17:07
  • Capturing the opportunity to leverage first-party data in a CPG environment. 20:31
  • Launching your brand in a relevant way in different geographic markets. 26:15
  • Kristof’s advice for other marketers wanting to enter the Chinese market. 29:10
  • Is there an experience in his past that defines who he is today? 30:05
  • What is the advice Kristof would give to his younger self? 34:18
  • The most impactful purchase he has made in the last 6-12 months of $100 or less. 36:04
  • Are there any brands, companies, or causes that Kristof follows that he thinks other people should take notice of? 37:24
  • Kristof’s take on the top opportunities or threats facing marketers today. 39:00

Resources Mentioned:

Subscribe to the podcast:

Listen in iTunes (link: http://apple.co/2dbdAhV)
Listen in Google Podcasts (link: http://bit.ly/2Rc2kVa)
Listen in Spotify (Link: http://spoti.fi/2mCUGnC )

Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart


Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

Listen In: Chris Do Shares How To Start Over

The second episode of a.network’s new weekly series Listen In, hosted by Ayzenberg principal and ECD Matt Bretz, features a conversation with the Founder and CEO of The Futur, Chris Do.

Chris talks about his experience with reinventing his business several times over his career. Whether a change to your product is motivated by a personal passion or a crisis like COVID-19, Chris and Matt discuss how to bring your new vision into focus and optimize it for the market.

About Listen In: Each week on Listen In, Bretz and a rotating cast of hosts from Ayzenberg will interview experts in the field of marketing and advertising to explore uncharted territory together. The goal is to provide the a.network audience with actionable insights, enabling them to excel in their field.

What We’re Reading–Week Of May 11th

We’re searching for the most pressing marketing insights this week. Updated daily.

Purpose At Work: Ocean Spray’s Key To Leadership During Challenging Times


Ocean Spray senior vice president and chief operating officer Brian Schiegg says that in response to COVID, the company added $1.50 an hour for frontline food manufacturing associates, as well as donated over 100,000 meals and hundreds of thousands of its juices and snacks to people in need.

Why it matters: When asked where he thinks the company’s instinctive reaction comes from, Schiegg says: “People aren’t looking for a picture or a press release. They’re just trying to do the right thing and let that stand on its own.” Schiegg emphasizes the importance of leading with empathy and communicating with internal members as much as possible.

Examining A ‘Safe And Just Return To Work’


The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) released a report titled “A Safe and Just Return to Work” highlighting the need for caution around reopening businesses. The report offers safety guidelines and highlights the need for workers’ input and fair compensation for sick, injured and at-risk workers.

Why it matters: With some businesses poised for reopening, national COSH’s co-executive director Jessica Martinez urges companies to involve their workers in decisions about workplace safety.

Is Your Marketing Strategy Based On The Right Data?

Harvard Business Review

To ensure their data works for them, marketers must start with the simplest dataset required to inform a business decision then build a virtuous feedback loop between data, insight and action. Marketers must also analyze digital data to understand if customers are using the services for which they’re paying and getting the appropriate value, the moments in the customer’s buying process that influence their decision and the conversations that are converting to sales.

Why it matters: As a result of the pandemic, marketers can no longer rely on previous assumptions about their customers. Instead they must evaluate the right data, the right way.

Why We Need To Rethink The Purpose Of AI: A Conversation With Stuart Russell

McKinsey & Company

In this episode of the McKinsey on AI podcast mini-series, University of California, Berkeley, professor Stuart Russell says to ensure artificial intelligence benefits humanity rather than cause us harm, we must abandon the idea of creating “intelligent” machines altogether.

Why it matters: As per Russell: “The key characteristics . . . are first, being of benefit to the humans is the only objective for machines. But the second principle is that the machine does not know what that means. It does not know our preferences for how the future should unfold, and that turns out to be crucial. It knows that it doesn’t know the objective. The third principle is essentially what enables it to learn more about the objective, that our choices, our behavior reveals information about our underlying preferences.”

Constraint Fuels Creativity, Says Cannes Lion Chairman


Cannes Lions chairman Philip Thomas believes that going digital with events isn’t good enough to replace the real thing and that constraint fuels creativity, citing the correlation between low budgets and award-worthy work.

Why it matters: With Cannes Lion and other major events completely canceled this year, brands and agencies alike are trying their best to understand what the future holds.

Goop’s Chief Content Officer On Balancing Self-Care At Work

Harvard Business Review

In HBR’s “The Anxious Achiever” podcast, Goop chief content officer Elise Loehnen tells host Morra Aarons Mele employees should be privy to each other’s mental health conditions and maintain open dialogue about their feelings at work. Loehnen says an easy way leaders can hold space for vulnerability is to sit in a circle and have each person describe their vulnerability as either red, yellow, or green.

Why it matters: Keeping open lines of communication in the workplace helps employers and employees understand each other’s behavior. 

US Fashion And Beauty Retailers Begin To Reopen


After weeks of lockdown, several retail chains like American Eagle, Gap and Macy’s are preparing to reopen portions of their store fleets in states like Texas and Georgia. Gap is reopening 800 of its stores before the end of May, Macy’s has opened 118 stores and American Eagle has opened 43 of its 1,000+ American Eagle and Aerie stores, with plans to open 600 by the end of May.

Why it matters: Precautions like limiting occupancy, hand sanitizer stations, face coverings and new fitting room procedures will make for a very different shopping experience. 

What Industry Leaders Won’t Miss About TV Upfront Presentations

Ad Age

Things annual attendees of the upfronts won’t miss about the event include: fighting for seats, having to travel on Mother’s Day, waiting out in the rain and all the conflicting reviews of each presentation.

Why it matters: The upfront presentations aren’t all glitz and glamour.

Savage x Fenty Creates Community From Self-Isolation In New Campaign 


Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty recruited its brand ambassadors, friends and customers to create its summer campaign via self-photographed images of them wearing the brand’s latest pieces, reimagined by mixed-media artist Rafatoon.

Why it matters: Many brands have started outsourcing creative content at a time when in-person shoots aren’t a viable option.

Bed Bath & Beyond Hires Cindy Davis As Chief Brand Officer

This week in leadership updates, Bed Bath & Beyond hires Cindy Davis as chief brand officer, Coca-Cola’s senior VP of strategic marketing steps down, TikTok names Ashok Cherian as marketing head for India, The Fresh Market hires Kevin Miller as CMO, Walgreens searches for a new global agency and the Cleveland Browns names Dino Bernacchi as senior VP of marketing and media.

Bed Bath & Beyond Appoints Cindy Davis As Chief Brand Officer

Bed Bath & Beyond has hired Cindy Davis as chief brand officer to help deepen the brand’s connection with consumers following its move to cut 500 jobs in February. She will report to Mark Tritton, Bed Bath & Beyond’s president and CEO.

Davis was recently chief digital marketing officer at Victoria’s Secret parent company, L Brands Inc. Prior to joining L Brands in 2018, Davis held executive roles at Walt Disney Co. and Walmart.

Geoff Cottrill, Coca-Cola Senior Vice President Of Strategic Marketing, Steps Down

Geoff Cottrill, Coca-Cola’s senior VP of strategic marketing, is leaving the company after two years, effective June 1, Ad Age reports. The company’s US VP of strategy and planning for bottler delivered brands Alpa Sutaria will oversee marketing until Coca-Cola finds a replacement.

Cottrill also worked at Coca-Cola from 1996-2005 during which time he oversaw the brand’s Nascar sponsorship. He then joined Converse as CMO, followed by a position at MullenLowe Boston as president in 2016.

TikTok India Names Ashok Cherian As Marketing Head

TikTok has appointed Ashok Cherian as the marketing head for India to oversee the platform’s overall brand strategy and marketing efforts, according to Financial Express.

Previously, Cherian led marketing and revenue initiatives at Applause Entertainment and served as CMO at SMAASH Entertainment.

The Fresh Market Hires Kevin Miller As Chief Marketing Officer

The Fresh Market has brought on Kevin Miller as CMO, replacing interim CMO Dan Portnoy, who took over when CMO Mary Kellmanson left the company in February. Most recently, Miller served as CMO at Natural Grocers. Prior to that, Miller was president of KMMP Media Group.

Walgreens Looks For New Global Agency

Walgreens is searching for a new agency to “accelerate its digital transformation,” marking the first big pitch amid the pandemic. Since 2017, WPP has handled Walgreens’ global advertising account. Walgreens Boots Alliance spends $182 million on Walgreen alone on measured media in the US, according to Convergence.

The Cleveland Browns Hire Dino Bernacchi As Marketing Leader

The Cleveland Browns have named former CMO of Mazda North American Operations, Dino Bernacchi, as the organization’s senior vice president of marketing and media. Bernacchi served three years at Mazda. Prior to that, he spent almost eight years at Harley-Davidson and General Motors, respectively.  

Funko Brings On Ginny McCormick As Chief Marketing Officer

Funko has officially announced the appointment of Ginny McCormick as the company’s new CMO. The appointment has been effective since March. McCormick worked for over a decade in various positions at Hasbro, most recently leading its global integrated media organization, leading strategy, investment and measurement for over 20 brands across 34 markets. Prior to Hasbro, she worked at Mattel and Reebok, respectively.

Leadership And Transformation With H&R Block’s Vinoo Vijay

During this 207th episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Vinoo Vijay, the chief marketing officer at H&R Block.

On the show today, Vijay talks about his background growing up and tells us about his job at H&R Block. We talk about the transformation he’s driving there and the advice he has for other marketers in the same role. We also talk about COVID and the response that H&R Block has put into place.

Vijay shares that he attended boarding school at a young age. We then learn about the many achievements that led him to his role at H&R Block. We talk about how H&R Block quickly transformed its business to help clients during the COVID-19 crisis. He says, “If there was ever a moment where needed to help and inspire confidence, it was now.” Vijay shares his approach to leading transformation. He reflects, “I need to find a way to connect people to an idea that is long-term that connects the company towards a transformation.” Throughout this conversation, Vijay brings his focus to how marketing can help a company elevate the client experience and excel at the human relationship.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • The story of how Vinoo went to school in another country, away from his parents, at a young age. 01:29
  • Vinoo’s path from boarding school to H&R Block. 03:56
  • Vinoo’s thoughts on working with Jeff Jones. 08:57
  • An overview of the financial products and solutions H&R Block offers. 12:58
  • The effect of current tax delays on H&R Block. 15:03
  • The three mandates Vinoo has focused on in his role. 17:37
  • The transformation over the past few years at H&R Block. 19:58
  • Advice to other CMOs. 22:57
  • Is there an experience in his past that defines who he is today? 25:00
  • What is the advice Vinoo would give to his younger self? 28:02
  • The most impactful purchase he has made in the last 6-12 months of $100 or less. 29:04
  • Are there any brands, companies, or causes that Vinoo follows that he thinks other people should take notice of? 30:43
  • Vinoo’s take on the top opportunities or threats facing marketers today. 34:22

Resources Mentioned:

Subscribe the podcast:

Listen in iTunes (link: http://apple.co/2dbdAhV)
Listen in Google Podcasts (link: http://bit.ly/2Rc2kVa)
Listen in Spotify (Link: http://spoti.fi/2mCUGnC )

Connect with the Guest:


Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:


Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

Listen In: Gary Goodman Talks COVID-19 Creative

The a.network has launched a new weekly series called Listen In, hosted by Ayzenberg principal and ECD Matt Bretz.

Each week, Bretz and a rotating cast of hosts from Ayzenberg will interview experts in the field of marketing and advertising to explore uncharted territory together. The goal is to provide the a.network audience with actionable insights, enabling them to excel in their field.

In our first episode of Listen In, Bretz and Ayzenberg chief creative officer Gary Goodman discuss how to craft resonant video content during COVID-19.

Editor’s note: AList is published by a.network.

Consumer Fatigue Over COVID-19 Ads Sets In

On average, 41 percent of people are ready to hear from brands about topics unrelated to the pandemic, according to a worldwide survey conducted by Mitto, from April 15-29.

Mitto’s findings suggest that consumers appreciated hearing more often from brands at the outset of the pandemic, but that COVID fatigue has set in. Seventy-seven percent said the messages brands sent during COVID have made them feel like they care about their well-being. Similarly, 30 percent said brands made them feel less anxious about the virus.

The data shows that brands have doubled down on communication, as 53 percent of respondents said they were hearing from brands more often in the last few weeks; 73 percent agreed that this increase in communication was appropriate. Most (58 percent) welcome messaging about business changes that could affect them. While just 11 percent said they were not interested in brands communicating with them about COVID.

Though consumers welcome increased communication from brands, preferences over who they hear from and the type of messaging vary. For example, most countries surveyed ranked essential services like doctors or banks higher than delivery services for the industries they’re most interested in hearing from now. Additionally, six of the seven regions surveyed said they were more tolerant of slow communication from small businesses than large ones; China said it’s equally tolerant of slow communication from small and large brands.

Despite widespread layoffs, consumers have displayed an appetite to spend. When asked what types of messages they want to hear from brands during the pandemic, all countries surveyed ranked special offers and coupons highest, over availability of services, product updates and satisfaction surveys.

Mitto’s findings echo those from a GlobalWebIndex study, fielded between March 31-April 2, which revealed that 50 percent of people are okay with brands running “normal” ad campaigns not linked to the pandemic.

In April, Mitto surveyed 7,000 respondents across the US, China, Spain, the UAE, Australia, Brazil and Nigeria.

Financial Implications Of COVID-19 For Agencies And Partnerships

Though advertisers’ plans during coronavirus are continually evolving, two things remain constant: budgets are being readjusted and partnerships are being tested. 

While some are equipped to conquer the financial hurdles posed by COVID-19, others have paused ad spend indefinitely. We spoke with Ayzenberg chief financial officer Edgar Davtyan to understand how agencies and brands should navigate the financial landscape from now until the end of the year, how companies are adjusting budgets and what the current partnership climate looks like.

What does the current climate for partnerships look like?

I see partnerships as expanded pools of resources that you tap into all at once. With teleworking and a practically unlimited amount of people around the globe, the climate for partnerships becomes more fertile simply because partnerships now make more sense than ever. The challenges posed by novel coronavirus will be much better overcome with not one set of expertise, but a coalition of expertise together—this is what partnerships are all about.

Businesses need to figure out how to fuse pre-COVID-19 content that’s still relevant with something that’s a bit more reflective of the time via the social- and digital-driven muscles they’ve been flexing. In other words, work that has pre-COVID-19 content value but with the content distribution we’re seeing now. I expect there will be an uptick in partnerships after coronavirus because they will provide a higher output for the distribution of said content.

To me, partnerships don’t only mean two companies coming together. We also need to recognize the added need for agencies to better partner with three of their most important prongs—our own employees, our own clients and our own markets.

What partnerships do we need to forge in order to be better employers? Then what do you do to attract a better workforce? For our clients, that means better talent, better work and better results. And lastly, what does it mean for the market? As long as you remain agile, it means you are a better agency for your people and your clients. And that makes you a market innovator.

How do you think the pandemic is affecting brand and client partnerships?

 The a.network has always focused on brands, consumers and employees who understand the value of a good idea. Before the current crisis, we were also fortunate to have already pursued technology and security systems that would strengthen working from home. Teleworking and the gig economy have been the silver lining for advertising professionals. When it’s all said and done, we’ll have plenty of solid data that will make it so that remote collaboration and the necessary tools are embraced much faster.

One of the advantages that agencies have is the knowledge and experience of the market. Our media business, for example, is really strong in user acquisition campaigns. When you’re an agency with a very specific remit, you understand the market. This allows us to provide valuable insight and leadership to a lot of the brands who are navigating the crisis purely from their vernacular, which is usually a very narrow vernacular.

People come to us with problems and we solve those problems. When you have that kind of relationship with a brand, you’re the ‘first call,’ no matter what. The role of any client-agency partnership is a bit more elevated during crises because we’re willing to venture into and navigate this unknown world together. If we were a level-two in terms of trust before the pandemic, where we have to be now is level-ten.

How are budgets being adjusted?

When faced with adversity and the unknown, typically the first thing that gets cut is advertising budget. However, I wouldn’t describe the budgets as “being cut,” but more as “being shifted” to different mediums.

A lot of live-action video content in our industry is being revisited and right now we are solving how to produce video in a socially-distanced environment. While we don’t know exactly what new form that production process will become, we do see that business coming back in Q4. The technology to achieve great cinematic results will be the same but with the added opportunity for our creators and producers to reinvent the process.

In response to increased viewership, we need to shift how we are going to set the budgets—not cut them. Even though that’s what it may seem like at first. Budget is not going away, it just needs to be molded into something else. For example, all of a sudden content is being produced via a combination of user-generated content (UGC) and creators, which is really relevant.

Music festivals and major events are being postponed or canceled. But are they really being canceled or are they being reformatted to a different medium? I think the latter is more true than being canceled. I believe that savvy marketers and agencies are going to quickly translate what may seem like budget cuts to budget shifts to produce content that’s more relevant in a post-COVID-19 state. That produces another big financial challenge for our business—how to price these offerings so that money is not devalued, but to get a better return for your dollar.

Some brands are sending products to influencers for them to shoot at home. Do you think marketers will continue to utilize these cost-effective processes after coronavirus?

We’re still experimenting but we know that ‘bite-size’ content is easy to consume. There will still be room, as there has always been, for high-end finished, marquee-style video content. For example, a launch trailer for an amazing game. I don’t think television or big video content is going away. But what is being questioned right now is, where does this content live and what will be the most effective measurement tool for it.

I believe that a lot of the real-time content that is being produced remotely will allow marketers to analyze their methods in a new way. They can look back on their spend and sales during this heightened crisis and go, well, what is really working? Today’s specifically-coronavirus content serves a different purpose, but we’ll need a little bit more time to determine whether or not this new purpose is more effective.

Per-unit price on the content being produced now is lower than a highly produced video piece; for that marquee content price, you can produce 10 pieces of content that incorporate UGC or influencers. As a result, the lift you’re going to get as a brand, as measured by your sales and your KPIs, is perhaps going to exceed the lift that you had with one high-production piece. That’s certainly my hope.

What are your thoughts on brands who just simply can’t pay agencies right now or must pause their account?

The biggest misconception here is that budgets will be thrown out the window. Don’t get me wrong, there are brands cutting spending, and that is the unfortunate reality of where any business is. But oftentimes the savvier marketers are the ones that are going to ask themselves the question of how to shift the dollars versus cut the dollars.

In between now and the end of the pandemic, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The worst thing anyone can do is be stagnant, especially when the whole world is changing. So if I had one piece of advice to those who are being impacted by the financial implications of COVID-19, as we all are, it’s to be flexible and more open to what’s out there. When you’re flexible, you’re going to find that things are not being dried up… they’re just taking a different shape.

So it’s not doom and gloom. I’m an optimist. I believe that in about two or three months’ time, we will see some signs of our new normalcy. From there, it’s really a long recovery period to where we think the new norm is going to be awesome.

For brands/agencies, what will be the most challenging part about navigating the financial landscape from now until the end of the year?

The biggest challenge that I see is, how do you go from recruiting a lot of really talented people remotely to doing really kick-ass work while being remote? What this means for agencies of our size is that we can be even more agile, more nimble and more strategic in talent recruitment because all of sudden the entire globe just became our talent pool.

By no means does this imply that staffers are going away or will become irrelevant. At Ayzenberg, our full-time staff form the core of our operation. That won’t change post-COVID.

What I anticipate evolving is the way in which we expand these flex models and how we exercise some of the same principles that we used to recruit this talent, with our existing staff.

For example, how do you navigate existing staff to make them flexible in the way they work, interact and create? We’re following the state’s steps to transfer people back to campus, and this becomes a finance discussion because these kinds of arrangements have different financial implications.

With freelancers, you pay them differently and you’re able to attract them differently, allowing you to diversify certain talent effectively because you don’t have to keep them on these accounts 24/7 like you’d need to on a retainer account.

I believe that the agencies who actually figure out how to adjust to this flex pool model for the betterment of the work for their brands are going to be the ones with a bit of an edge. And I’m certainly committed to figuring out what that looks like at Ayzenberg.

What has surprised you most about your team’s response to COVID-19?

I’ve been with the a.network throughout several economic slowdowns, all of which taught us valuable lessons and allowed us to go from a small creative boutique to a communication supergroup. During the pandemic, our leadership team has positioned itself for deconstruction and rebuilding to come out of this smarter and stronger.

I was also very inspired by everyone’s ability and willingness to respond quickly, from our interns to our staff; everyone came together, and after seven weeks, we’ve acclimated to our new normal. The pandemic has taught us that we’re a closer-knit organization than we thought we were. It’s a good feeling to know that the organization you’re driving can swivel on a moment’s notice.

The analogy that I usually use is a super sports team where every unit needs to fire off at its optimal time for the whole thing to work; if one thing doesn’t work, you won’t have optimum performance. But when everything clicks at the same time and that engine revs, it’s all systems go. That’s what happened in our situation. I want to use that analogy to rally agencies and brands to look for that in their current and future partnerships. Because ultimately, partnerships are defined by these moments of crisis.

(Editor’s note: AList is published by a.network.)

What We’re Reading–Week Of May 4th

We’re searching for the most pressing marketing insights this week. Updated daily.

Facebook Will Reopen Offices In July, But Says It Will Let Employees Continue To Work Remotely For The Rest Of The Year

Business Insider

A spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider that Facebook will reopen its offices on July 6, allowing employees who want to continue teleworking to do so until the end of 2020. Facebook is also canceling all in-person events of over 50 people until June 2021.

Why it matters: Facebook’s digital infrastructure has allowed it to smoothly continue functioning during the crisis.

Will Big Brands Be Punished For Taking Small Business Aid?


Thanks to the $2 trillion rescue package, scores of very large companies were able to obtain federal assistance as “small” businesses. Shake Shack returned the $10 million it received.

Why it matters: News of the small-business aid money going to big brands was so widespread that some believe short-term backlash is unavoidable. President and chief strategist of Retail Voodoo David Lemley believes brands won’t experience reputation damage for lockdown has afforded brands a “grace period,” that, when the nation reopens, will make it so people are “so enamored by the possibility of going out and enjoying a meal somewhere that we will flock to the [restaurants we like]—not because they were good citizens, but because they deliver on the promise of a dining experience.”

Travel Brands Look To Local And Regional Destinations With A Glimmer Of Hope


In response to COVID’s impact on travel, brands like Wyndham, Hilton and Disney Resorts are retooling their approach to focus more on regional and local travel experiences. For example, Wyndham expects drive-to travel to account for 90 percent of its hotel occupancy for the rest of the year, up from 70 percent pre-pandemic. Disney expects drive-to-business to also ramp up first at its park in Anaheim, California.

Why it matters: The hotel business won’t fully rebound until people are comfortable flying again.

Sotheby’s Teams With Google For Virtual Experience Charity Auction


Sotheby’s and Google are hosting a virtual charity auction on Google Meets from now until May 8. Winning bidders can experience a virtual coffee date with Hillary Clinton, a private office tour and tips with Sir Paul Smith, a song recording session with Sting, a personalized makeup consultation with Charlotte Tilbury or an acting lesson with Sir Patrick Stewart. Winning bidders can also share their experience with front-line workers and others who have been impacted by the pandemic. All proceeds will benefit the International Rescue Committee’s efforts against COVID-19.

Why it matters: As per Javier Soltero, G Suite vice president and general manager for Google: “With COVID-19 impacting the way we live, work, learn and socialize, the need for secure video meetings to foster human connection has never been greater.”

What Does The Marketing Funnel Look Like Post-Pandemic?

Marketing Dive

People are consuming more content, cutting their spending, looking for brands to take public stances and said they retract their brand loyalty faster than they did three years ago.

Why it matters: Brands looking to survive post-pandemic must implement marketing strategies that span every relevant channel, as well as double down on showcasing their true value proposition and how they help their communities.

Why H&R Block Is Thinking And Acting Like A News Outlet


H&R Block CMO Vinoo Vijay says that in response to COVID, his team built new webpages geared toward keeping consumers and small businesses informed about how the pandemic might alter how they file taxes. They also launched an online calculator that gives estimates of how much people could expect to get from stimulus paychecks.

Why it matters: At a time when people are turning to the web for news and entertainment, brands are making an effort to act more like publishers to reach more people.

Wendy’s Defied The Odds And Successfully Launched Breakfast During The Coronavirus Pandemic, Creating A Massive New Problem For Fast-Food Rivals Like McDonald’s And Taco Bell

Business Insider

Though Wendy’s launched breakfast in the first week of March, its breakfast sales now account for eight percent of its business. 

Why it matters: According to executives at Taco Bell, Tim Hortons and McDonald’s, breakfast sales have been hit hard by the pandemic. As they rebuild their breakfast business, they’ll have to compete with Wendy’s, whose breakfast helped boost same-store sales to 16 percent the week it launched.

How Marketing Can Be More Effective With A Fulfilling Customer Experience

Ad Age

F5’s Mika Yamamoto explains that a Customer Effort Score, the amount of effort a customer exerts to fulfill a request, for example, is a point-in-time score that’s an easy way to get more engagement and feedback.

Why it matters: Using a Customer Effort Score allows you to get a quick understanding of how your customers feel during moments that matter.

Adweek Together: Continuing Creative Operations


LA-based creative agency Imaginary Forces has continued operations amid coronavirus 100 percent with graphic and animated expressions.

Why it matters: Agencies are having to refocus how they work.

KFC Hosts Virtual Mother’s Day Dinners On Facebook Messenger

Mobile Marketer

KFC created a virtual Mother’s Day experience for Facebook Messenger that lets users send loved ones a personalized invitation to virtually share a meal together. Users can decorate their video calls with digital stickers and effects. Up to eight people can join the call. KFC is also offering free delivery on orders of more than $20 through its website and Grubhub.

Why it matters: Brands are utilizing several mobile and digital features to help families connect online as social distancing orders remain in effect.

Pizza And The Power Of Influence: Papa Murphy’s CMO Talks Brand Purpose And Community Support


Papa Murphy’s is donating a dollar from each Mini Murph pizza-making kit purchased to No Kid Hungry to help kids affected by COVID-19 school closures. Papa Murphy’s owners are also donating pizzas directly to the frontline workers at hospitals and the Boys Club and the Girls Club.

Why it matters: As per Papa Murphy’s CMO Kim McBee, “There’s never a better time to show folks what a brand is all about than in a time of crisis, and we have the ability in terms of all of our efforts and all of our locations can really galvanize to help people at a national level when these kinds of things happen.”

Opinion: What Happens To The Human Experience When Live Events Disappear

Ad Age

Social distancing has altered essential parts of people’s lives and virtual comfort isn’t the same as what’s offered in person.

Why it matters: “For each day that passes without face-to-face engagement, the value of the live experience rises—humanity demands that events come back strong.”

SoundCloud On Twitch To Debut May 6


On May 6, SoundCloud will debut a weekly one-hour music show on Twitch hosted by Soulection founder Joe Kay. Kay and special guests will explore undiscovered tracks on SoundCloud. Additional series will be introduced in the coming weeks.

Why it matters: In late March, SoundCloud announced it was partnering with Twitch to help struggling musicians earn money via an affiliate program on their Twitch streams.