Marketing Briefing: Marketers rethink CES as in-person activities continue ‘to be a gamble’ with the Omicron variant

The header shows a person in a mask sitting on a couch.

With the Omicron variant continuing its surge in the U.S., it’s hard to imagine choosing whether to travel to attend an in-person conference. But the industry faces a big test this week as the Consumer Electronics Show returns in person in Las Vegas (and virtually) after taking an in-person hiatus last year.

The disruption of yet another in-person event amid another wave of Covid-19 has some marketers and agency execs resigned to the long-term shift of hybrid events and hybrid work models. Rather than pushing to get back to normal despite the continued pandemic, the latest wave has some in the industry recognizing that push may be too risky even with required vaccinations.

“Until the WHO officially declares an end to this pandemic, planning for a return to in-person anything (industry events, offices, etc.) will continue to be a gamble,” said Lucas Piazza, CMO of video production shop Quickframe. “For the time being, the safest approach remains hybrid experiences and smaller industry gatherings in more isolated venues where attendee lists are limited and vaccination and testing requirements are more easily enforced.”

Piazza continued: “Unfortunately, we cannot change our current reality, so companies must continue to plan accordingly and not let the pandemic hinder the industry’s progress and growth.”

Ahead of this week’s CES, major marketers like Microsoft, Google, Meta, T-Mobile, AT&T, Twitter, Amazon, TikTok, Pinterest and GM have reportedly backed out of attending the conference in person. All which complicate the annual event’s path to normalcy — even as it looked pre-Omicron. Attendees of CES will have to wear masks and be vaccinated; there will also be rapid test kits available. As a safety measure, CES will end a day early due to Omicron.

“The most interesting dynamic that all of us are watching is how governments, cities, and event organizers will react to this in the coming months,” said Jon Dupuis, CEO of dentsu Creative, Americas when asked about the future of in-person events. “We’re seeing this dynamic unfold currently with CES, as major companies decide not to attend in person due to the surge in Omicron cases, yet plans for an in-person event are proceeding following local guidelines.”

Dupuis added: “The more varied the decisions and behaviors, the more difficult it is to find some version of a newer, new normal.”

The new normal — a term that seemed to be overused in 2020 but already has life in 2022 — is still undefined as marketers and agency execs continue to adapt with the pandemic. Some believe that a return to the normal prior to the pandemic may not be coming.

“Either in the case of our industry returning to events or in that of ‘return to office’, I don’t think we’re going back to the way things were entirely,” said Deutsch LA’S CEO, Kim Getty. “If we want to be successful, we need to meet clients, talent, and partners where they are. This will mean having a flexible approach that bridges physical and remote experiences. What was once considered a successful experience will need to be redefined.”

3 Questions With Brooks Running CMO Melanie Allen

How has Brooks’ approach to DE&I changed both internally and through marketing efforts?

Brooks had been steadily increasing our focus on [diversity, equity and inclusion] over the last few years, but in 2020 we spoke out publicly against racism and in support of a world where we all run on equal ground for the first time. This was a galvanizing moment for us. We put a laser focus on how our marketing across the board, from images and stories to our ambassadors to our partners, has the power to make running more inclusive for everyone.

Most recently, as part of our larger mission to make running more inclusive, we partnered with Camp4 Collective and directors Tim Kemple and Faith Briggs to launch “Who Is A Runner,” a video series that explores and amplifies the stories of a diverse array of groups and individuals who use running as an outlet to educate others and build community. The goal is that the series will spark a discussion and become a tool for lasting change in the running world, as we look to make the sport more inclusive so that everyone can run on equal ground. We believe one of the first steps to real change is to engage with people who run and understand their stories.

Why does it matter?

We believe running is a source of positivity that can change people’s lives — and even create social change. So when we use our brand voice and our channels to create a more welcoming, diverse running community, we can help more people tap into that positivity.

As we look ahead this year, how should brands be thinking about DE&I?

At Brooks as we look ahead to 2022 and beyond, DE&I will continue to be an ongoing commitment and we will keep pursuing our long-term goals for the diversity of our team, our partners and the running community. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Plans to return to the office have waxed and waned throughout the pandemic. As Omicron cases surge, those plans are once again in flux as many companies backtrack to curb Covid-19 transmission. According to a new poll from Ipsos-World Economic Forum, a market research and consulting firm, most workers support vaccine and mask mandates. Although a return to the pre-pandemic workplace is unlikely, poll respondents report protections would make for an easier transition. Find more key points below:

  • 78% of employed adults agree they and people in their workplace should be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
  • 74% of respondents polled in favor of staff undergoing frequent testing if they are not vaccinated.
  • Meanwhile, 81% of those surveyed agreed with requirements to wear a mask in common areas when in proximity with other people. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“We could easily sell products, and that’s something we are testing. You can imagine that, further down the line, we will have formats that are more like experiences, and the ability to sell products that could even be NFTs within the game.”

— Samuel Huber, CEO, Admix, an in-game advertising infrastructure company that serves publishers and advertisers, told gaming reporter Alexander Lee for a piece on the history of in-game advertising.

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