EXCLUSIVE | Prerna Mehrotra, dentsu APAC: People before profit [Year-Ender 2020]

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Prerna Mehrotra, CEO, Media, dentsu APAC, is a media veteran with more than two decades of experience. In this exclusive piece, she writes about how 2020 has helped in reimagining new ways to suit the new norm, and accelerated digital adoption.

Looking at the effects of the ‘year of darkness and chaos’, she says, ‘this too shall pass’.


People before profit

2020 was a year of driving human connections. It also jumpstarted a brave new way for us to go about our business. The year of darkness and chaos reminded us about the importance of putting people over profit.

“We see you, hear you, want to help you, and are in this together”. With lockdowns, border closures, and curfews in place, people felt neglected and starved for a sense of connectedness.

This created an opportunity for us to tap into their humanness and made people more compassionate and all-encompassing. As we move into 2021, companies will need to continue to prioritise people over profit and engage with them in purposeful ways.

We will also be tasked as solid partners to our clients in reframing the potential for their brands and encouraging them to embrace a new marketing canvas to delight, connect, inspire, and empower their customers, both on and offline: Prerna Mehrotra

As we were locked down, we were forced to open up to new possibilities. As our physical worlds became anxious and constrained, virtual experiences were charged with emotions. Forced to touch LESS, we found ways to feel MORE. Perhaps more than anything, we learned that it is difficult to predict what the future holds.

We have been re-imagining new ways (to suit the new norm) for growing businesses in the years to come, and will continue to do so.

We will also be tasked as solid partners to our clients in reframing the potential for their brands and encouraging them to embrace a new marketing canvas to delight, connect, inspire, and empower their customers, both on and offline.

Technology as an enabler

The pandemic created the perfect storm for us to tap into humanity. It made us realize that we all have the same, basic human needs: to be connected, loved, and cared for.

Accelerated by the pandemic and enabled by 5G, technologies that were once thought to be tough to embrace became our key enablers: AI, collaboration tools and social-commerce adoption usage surged.

We will continue to see a dramatic increase in virtual products and experiences. Unrestrained by the physical space, we will have to reimagine what a concert, conference, class, or even a product can be.

As contactless technologies make stores less human, online commerce will become more social and more personal, powered by next-generation live streaming platforms. Get ready to reimagine stores as studios and staff as entertainers.

Amidst the global health crisis brought on by the pandemic, personal health data became public property. In the future where Alexa can diagnose a cold, cars can identify distracted drivers, and our bank accounts can track our carbon footprint, mark my words that we can expect an ongoing tension between privacy, personal wellbeing, and public interest.

Confined indoors, we were encouraged to travel virtual worlds or explore real landscapes from the comfort and safety of our homes.

From a manufacturing perspective, businesses such as Ford and BMW used Virtual and Augmented Reality to transform production processes: from training to quality checks, as well as enabling virtual design collaboration during the Covid-19 crisis.

The hyper-digital world is now a reality, and the sophistication of technology usage will only accelerate: Prerna Mehrotra

The crisis also accelerated the adoption of Digital Financial Services (DFS), as consumers and SMEs became more receptive to online transactions. Last year’s seismic consumer and ecosystem shifts have advanced the internet sector in unimaginable ways, putting it in a stronger position than ever.

The hyper-digital world is now a reality and the sophistication of technology usage will only accelerate.

Keep calm and carry on

People want to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible but they also want things to be better than they were before.

Confidence is influenced by the reaction of others around us. Therefore business leaders and companies will need to play a role to instill confidence.

2021 is a time to re-assess the work-life balance given the blurring of lines between work and personal lives. We might not have gotten the equation correct as yet, but I bet you it’s positively different from this time last year.

In conclusion, let’s constantly remind one another that this too, shall pass.

Your thoughts, please