Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Reasons to be Cheerful: Lindsay Pattison, Chief Client Officer, WPP

As the coronavirus pandemic has quickly become the new normal, NDA wants to celebrate the positives of our current situation, to discover what people in the digital industry have to be cheerful about.

What, if any, positive long-term impact on the digital industry will coronavirus have?

At a macro level, I was recently reminded of something I read by the World Economic Forum, “Future business success will be achieved by utilising technological innovations to increase productivity while simultaneously complementing important traits of human nature – creativity, empathy, innovation, and imagination.”

This seems more relevant than ever, given workforces have been dispersed while simultaneously needing to react more quickly and more creatively than ever before.

When it comes to the digital industry in particular, we know digital media consumption has increased. Mindshare’s data tells us globally 53% of people are going online now more than before the outbreak. When we go by channel, 43% are using more social media and 42% are watching online videos / streaming TV (Mindshare, 1 April).

Combine those heightened behaviours with the opportunities presented by ecommerce and customer experience and it makes for a really exciting landscape.

 What positive impacts on long term consumer behaviour shifts will it have?

Appreciation for live events! 

Then there are the obvious ones – more people will be ‘creating’ at home (Nielsen found that sales of yeast were up nearly 650% for the week ended March 21). People will heightened expectation for corporate transparency and purpose that goes beyond financial gain (take a look at this site demonstrating just that). People will reward strong, salient brands more than ever (highlighting the importance of balancing innovation and technological progress with long term brand-building to our industry).

But I think most interesting for me is how this will affect Gen Z. Will the crisis dial up or dial down stereotypical generational characteristics? I think it will heighten Gen Z’s desire for purpose-led work, but possibly dial down their desire for volatility and change. It will be really interesting to see how that plays out in the workplace, especially for the digital and marketing industry where the average age is young.

What positive impacts have you seen on how your business operates?

It’s a very challenging time, but I see positivity in how WPP has risen to the challenge – and there three proof points for us internally. The first is client-centric – we’ve reacted to client needs and proactively created new work and made changes, super quickly and we’re seeing amazing client work across the company which is always great.

The second is the rapid adoption of internal tech collaboration platforms – we’ve seen more than a 6000% increase in Microsoft Teams usage for example!

The third is the crisis has actually accelerated WPP’s own evolution – we’re less of a holding group and more of a company than ever before, acting as one, and our company culture of open, optimistic and extraordinary is being demonstrated daily in tangible ways.

What have you been most heartened about in how your staff, partners, customers or clients have reacted to the new normal?

The volume of great work created by our colleagues and our clients. We’ve used creativity to amplify PSA advice with work like P&G and Grey’s TikTok dance challenge with Gen Z star Charli D’Amelio.

We’ve used creativity to uplift and remind us of the good in the world, like IBM & Eightbar’s poignant film ‘Look for Hope’ or Budweiser and David’s film ‘One Team’. We’ve created work that simply helps people get through this, I think of Nike & AKQA’s Living Room Cup, inviting everyone to ‘Play Inside’ and go head to head with a sports star, testing their fitness and skills (first up, Cristiano Ronaldo).

And then of course, our not for profit work has brought many WPP groups together – from the WHO’s #SafeHands communications to SubVRsive’s work for FlytVu and the Vanderbilt Hospital on (a site that pays tribute to the bravery of healthcare workers through music, social media and donations). 

What technologies have you been most impressed with during this new situation and do you think coronavirus will hasted their uptake or development?

It’s an obvious one, but the power of video to connect emotionally and communicate with clarity can’t be underestimated. It’s exhausting being on VCs all the time but we couldn’t survive this business-wise if we were only on the phone.

And then I’ve been really impressed with the workshop tool Miro. It mimics all the interactivity of a live workshop with a mix of locked presenter views, freedom for participants to move into side rooms for breakouts, post-it notes for ideas, voting options on ideas and ‘pin boards’ of stimulus.