Buyers reflected on what about the business has changed permanently as a result of the pandemic.
Photo Illustration: Trent Joaquin

As part of Adweek’s Year in Review coverage, we asked many of the industry’s top executives to look back on 2020 and reflect on the biggest things they’ve learned since the pandemic, what about the business has changed permanently because of Covid-19 and how their approach to their job has changed as a result of this year’s events.

Earlier this week, we shared insights on those topics from the television execs who oversee broadcast, cable and streaming outlets, as well as TV ad sales chiefs. Today, we asked buyers to talk about how Covid-19 has changed the business. (Next, we’ll also hear from analysts about the same topic.) Here’s what they had to say:

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since the pandemic?

Dani Benowitz, U.S. president, Magna: The turbulence caused by the pandemic definitely yielded a lot of learnings, and I can think of two key ones. One is that you have to get used to the idea that nothing is certain anymore and you can’t count on previous plans to carry out as you thought they would. We were already in a fast-paced world, and now the world can change on a dime even quicker, and it did; we saw it happen. Another big learning is we’ve experienced what true partnership really means. We saw partners across all media channels stand up and offer help to our clients, even in extreme uncertainty. And we saw some that did not respond with the same level of flexibility. The cream really rises to the top. It’s nice when collaboration and standing up for one another shines through uncertain times.

Geoffrey Calabrese, chief investment officer, Omnicom Media Group: It’s hard to narrow it down to just one, so let me share the two that stand out as equally significant:

It pays to act as if tomorrow is today—the pandemic has shown that the future was much closer than we thought. It triggered shifts in consumption habits that ordinarily would have taken years and transformed many of our clients’ business models, making it clear that agencies have to build their offer around the assumption that tomorrow is today. Taking that approach is the reason OMG was able to pivot so quickly and effectively when the crisis hit.

Crisis is the ultimate test of a partnership—the word partnership is used daily in our industry, and prior to the pandemic I probably used that word too loosely. I say this because the pandemic revealed the difference between partners and vendors. When the country shut down, we all had to deal with the ramifications of the pandemic and the impact it was having on our clients’ business. We learned that partners were the ones willing to work with us hand in hand to help our clients, while vendors dismissed the reality we were all facing and dug in their heels. The work with our partners was uplifting, and I can wholeheartedly say that it won’t be forgotten.

Dave Campanelli, co-chief investment officer, Horizon Media: The biggest thing I’ve learned, from a work/career perspective, is that I am extremely lucky to be working for the agency I am, with the people I am and with the clients I work for.  Everyone I’ve come into contact with has handled this situation in such an empathic and professional way. We’ve been able to move mountains for our clients, but at the same time we have taken care of each other personally. It’s been really impressive.

As the outbreak upends timelines and traditions, could this also prove to be a turning point?