We should never confuse short-term and long-term change. Throughout the pandemic, there’s been much commentary on the ‘transformations’ we are experiencing – from daytime TV viewing hitting a peak to supermarkets running out of delivery slots. But in many cases, these are short-term reactions that will eventually fall back towards pre-COVID levels. Instead, we should think long-term. We should ask: what exactly will corona’s legacy be?

COVID-19 has knocked us onto a parallel timeline – an alternative 2023 – where existing technologies have been accelerated, magnified, intensified and matured. It is that domino effect that will have a more profound impact on our society in the years to come. Whilst the world sleeps, businesses and brands should be preparing for great change. We can wait for it. Or we can meet it.

New Horizons: Media And Communications In A Post-Covid World is a thought-leadership piece by Omnicom Media Group UK about that great change. What will the future, post-COVID world look like a few years from now?

First, there will be shifts in Big Government’s use of technology. COVID has seen a new mandate for governments to take more top-down control of their societies via contact tracing apps, facial recognition, smart city war-rooms. In time, we predict this could lead to a ‘privacy fightback’, where citizens, acutely aware how measured and monitored they are, take to using ‘data anonymisers’ and VPNs to cover their tracks. For brands, this may make it difficult to target consumers, nudging them towards alternative media strategies.

Second, pre-COVID, some commentators were predicting an ‘innovation war’ between superpowers fueled by low interest rates, trillions in VC cash, and a desire to showcase national tech prowess. This is still true: we predict we will see a trend for companies using the COVID aftermath to float radical ideas. It may no longer be enough to plan quarter to quarter, or even year to year. To compete, brands or businesses should be roadmapping long-term innovation plans.

Third, the pandemic has seen billions of people learn to organise their lives from sofas and kitchen tables. We think some of those adjustments will stick. Working from home will become a preference for those who are able to do so. The rise in gaming, streaming, and home education demonstrates businesses will need to find a way to natively advertise within these internalised worlds.

Fourth, the high street is about to change forever. We hope to see a renaissance and a renewal with physical retail becoming tech-augmented to compete with e-commerce. Not least because we are about to see established platforms like Amazon and Alibaba also move into high street retail.

Finally, health. Once the virus has departed, we will be left with a heightened health sensitivity and will favour tracking our wellbeing with technology – particularly mental health. In this scenario, brands will have to learn how to showcase how products and services deliver demonstrable improvements to health or wellbeing.

We might not truly understand the transformative power of the pandemic for years to come, but we do know that it is only once the peak has flattened, that the real change will begin.

New Horizons: Media And Communications In A Post-Covid World from Omnicom Media Group UK is available for download and presentation.

By Phil Rowley, Futures Director, Omnicom Media Group UK

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