2020 has been an education for all of us. So as we approach the end of a year like no other, we're asking media and marketing luminaries to share with us their biggest work lessons of the last 12 months. Today, Tim Bleakley, chief executive of Ocean Outdoor, gives a frank account of balancing business survival with support for staff in one of the hardest hit media environments.
Ocean has always had a challenger mindset. So the need to act quickly right from the off to protect the business, manage the cash and fast-track different ways of doing business during the pandemic wasn’t lost on us.
After months of immense pressure and financial strain on businesses everywhere, what this year has taught us is the importance of tight cost control, collaborative support from our partners and our people and a strong balance sheet.
Managing our people at a time when they were being bombarded by a brutal onslaught of messages over which we had no control was a challenge.
But a stitch in time still saves nine. What we learnt was the importance of balancing the survival of the business with the needs of people and the necessity for early, honest and transparent communication when asking for voluntary pay reductions and shorter working weeks.
Not everyone agreed with our approach, perhaps a reflection of the wider challenges facing UK plc, but we had to represent the evolving needs of seven countries each experiencing Covid-19 differently. We did our best to stem the losses and safeguard people’s jobs and I believe that we are going into 2021 in the best possible shape for the big fight back.
When governments pulled the plug on our audiences we pulled the necessary levers. In reality, we have been in some sort of lockdown ever since March and, after cinema, our channel has probably been the hardest hit.
It would have been all too easy to have shut up shop and stayed home, but we didn’t. We dug in, we became audacious and what we discovered during this most difficult of times is the resilience of our media platform.
Despite the odds, our channel has remained relevant throughout. There’s no denying the centre stage role of out of home as a global reference point during 2020.
The imaginative use of digital billboards by charities, the arts, businesses and governments to communicate supportive messages and important public information to help carry UK plc through the pandemic caught the attention of just about every single front page and online news site, generating wide global attention and comment.
This decision to focus on our purpose, our civic duty, by leveraging our Digital Cities for Digital Citizens philosophy has grown the value of DOOH in the eyes of our customers, our partners and audiences.
We learnt the importance of never stop innovating. We introduced Covid-19 safe technologies like mid-air haptics with our partner UltraLeap and Mobile AR on the Piccadilly Lights with Landsec and Darabase. The relevance of this new technology isn’t lost on our global brand partners who have pivoted quickly to leverage the new experiences these technologies will provide in the post Covid universe.
The Wow factor of premium DOOH has gone up another notch.
So too has the realisation that your ad spend is never at risk with digital out of home. The digital dynamism of DOOH, its ability to respond to and draw in live data and the chance to pause, pivot copy and reactivate campaigns at the flick of a switch means not a penny is wasted.
All of this, underpinned with a resolute determination, will allow out of home to bounce back the fastest in 2021. We are ready.