Krikor Khatchikian: 'The Pandemic Has Expedited Digitization in Qatar'
Posted on 2020 Jul,07

Krikor Khatchikian, Managing Director of Grey Doha elaborates on the impacts the Covid-19 pandemic had on the ad business in Qatar, as he identifies what he believes are the shifts to come.

Overall Mood
It has definitely been an interesting turn of events. The COVID-19 outbreak in Qatar has impacted companies in the sectors which are largely dependent on social gatherings and consumer spending such as the hospitality and airlines sectors. Meanwhile, other sectors, for instance in the food industry, have experienced an increase in operations during this exceptional time. Since we deal with a host of different clients, we have experienced both these shifts first-hand. While we wait for some of our clients to resume their normal operations, on the other hand, we are helping our other clients more than ever to navigate these unprecedented circumstances--whether it is crisis management during this time, devising new digital strategies, or even simply helping them shift to the digital world. The situation has presented new challenges, but we are dealing with it the best way possible, redistributing our resources and standing by our clients with new strategies to help them persist. I seize this occasion to thank our creative minds who are making everyday’s challenges an opportunity for success, they were always on top of every ask and dealt with each with all patience, creativity and innovation. At Grey Doha, we are adopting a realistic, yet hopeful, approach in the next months to come.

The Shifts to Come
The most obvious and quick shift has been businesses leaning towards digital and online solutions. There is an increased dependency on social media and online services by both clients and consumers who spend copious amounts of time online. People are consuming more internet nowadays with it being the primary source for reading, entertainment, and e-commerce.
The pandemic has expedited digitization in Qatar. Many companies who were looking into digital solutions in the past have had to implement these practices sooner than they expected. We have helped many clients move online by utilizing our digital resources to find solutions for them such as building websites, creating e-commerce platforms, exploring e-gaming for engagement, diving into the webinar industry, boost social media marketing, and expanding online presence to increase visibility to consumers.
However, we are also seeing rapid changes in consumer behaviour. The end of the pandemic might see the emergence of a new type of consumer displaying behaviours different to what we knew. The challenge here is to rapidly adapt to the new consumer and keep our clients relevant and visible. With the contraction in the economy coming from a global decrease in spending, we also have to adapt to the new preferences consumers show based on revised income scales. In Qatar, a portion of consumers have moved to online channels to continue their spending, while a considerable number has become more watchful of their spending habits. This makes it vital for marketeers to find new ways to keep products relevant, boost brand relations with customers, and build promotions based on the expected consumer behaviour.

Impact on Business
The most immediate impact on our business has been restructuring our work from on-ground strategy to digital strategy. We have a hands-on extensive creative, social and digital marketing team which have become more vital to our business. Their expertise and capabilities have come to the forefront as we shift activations, events, and products online.
In the future, we can expect our clients to recover from the economic downturn of this pandemic especially in a market we trust such as Qatar. However, we are confident that Digital Communication will remain key following the uplift of the lockdown, as people will need some time to be reassured about their safety. The shifts toward digital media, changes in consumer spending, and variations in income brackets appear are long-term trends that we will account for moving forward. For both, the new kind of demand and the criteria for spending, we will have a lot to do. We are investing further in the digital offerings that we believe will act as the biggest selling point for big agencies like Grey soon.

Working with Clients
We have migrated our operations to online channels to stay connected to our clients during this time. Meetings continue as usual through Zoom or Teams, where we can take hold discussions or take in briefs and feedback. So far, this has been effective in maintaining our work as usual and our clients remain satisfied. Internally, more than 80% of our staff is working from home, with the opportunity to work at the office if the need arises. However, in interest of their safety, we are coordinating our work online. And so far, that is also running very smoothly.
Future of the industry
The ad industry will emerge from this crisis but carrying new insights and advice. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been unexpected, it has also forced us to put on our thinking caps and figure out ways we can tackle the situation. We have had to push ourselves to think out of the box, to be creative and to find new solutions to new problems. All the solutions that we have come up with at Grey Doha, and the ad industry worldwide, will serve as major learning experiences that we will take into the future. If anything, now we are ready more than ever to take on a digital transformation for our industry.