The Impact of Video Marketing on Medium-to-Large Corporations

Subject: Case Studies
Pages: 12
Words: 5080
Reading time:
19 min
Study level: Master

Background Information

Topic or Issues for Investigation

The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted not only lives and livelihoods globally but also customer experiences and business models. It was the worst global recession since World War II, with the world economy contracting by 3.5% in 2020 (International Monetary Fund, 2021). Available economic data illustrate that the severe restrictions introduced to contain the virus caused massive shocks in most economic sectors. In Saudi Arabia, the GDP shrunk by between -4.8 to -9.8% from the baseline despite targeted fiscal countermeasures (Havrlant et al., 2020). Businesses were hurt by strict responses, such as border closures, domestic movement restrictions, and supply chain disruptions.

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For companies, resilience during these turbulent times demands building capabilities suited to a different context. This applies to all companies, not just corporations. Brand marketers have to decide whether to invest in in-house teams or external agencies, considering a consumer shift to e-commerce and pandemic-related cutbacks. The World Federation of Advertisers [WFA] (2020) report found that 57% of brands have in-house advertising agencies that help generate digital content and implement creative media. Marketers have increasingly adopted in-house teams over ad agencies in pandemic times for obvious reasons, including cost savings, better integration, and brand familiarity.

Brands have to be more agile to overcome the pandemic challenges and exploit new opportunities. New business models have been adopted that may outlive the immediate crisis. A notable global trend is a significant shift to e-commerce as consumers embrace online shopping. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest online populations globally, with online shoppers projected to reach 19.3 million by 2022 (Statista, 2020). Thus, the country has moved to being almost completely digital, providing opportunities for internal marketing operations to cut costs and gain more flexibility and agility that are necessary to survive the pandemic effects. Globally, 74% of in-house agencies have been created since 2015, with companies such as Nestlé joining this trend in 2020 (WFA, 2020). The airline industry is headed towards turbulent times and will most likely try to save costs by adopting in-house marketing rather than contracting external advertising agencies. Thus, this paper will investigate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the acceleration of a shift towards corporate digital marketing and communication in Saudi Arabia, focusing on the Saudi Airlines Catering Company. Consumer research brands on different online media channels and marketers target these touch points to promote their products. At this level, corporate digital marketing is the delivery of ads or relevant content to customers through platforms such as brand websites, social media, email, and Internet-based applications (Kingsnorth, 2019). The specific issues to be addressed and justifications are discussed below.

In-house Operations vs. Ad Agencies in COVID-19 Period

One aspect of corporate digital marketing and communication in Saudi Arabia that will be examined through this study is the extent to which Saudi enterprises have embraced a digital strategy in marketing and communication to survive the pandemic. While statistics suggest a decline in the use of ad agencies, some corporations still outsource some branding operations or rely on their input. The WFA (2020) report shows that 40% of companies with in-house operations, including Vodafone, source ideas for new branding projects externally. This blended or hybrid model suggests that in-house marketing has not completely replaced agencies. New forms of relationships and dynamics have emerged related to roles in planning, execution, ownership of commercials, and insourcing and automation of work (Deloitte, 2021a). Thus, it will be interesting to compare the type and amount of marketing services reserved for in-house talent against those outsourced before and during the pandemic to understand how COVID-19 has exacerbated this trend.

Impact of In-House Marketing and Communication

COVID-19-related effects have no doubt accelerated the shift to in-house marketing. Agile teams have been established and many advertising projects moved in-house. One effect of this trend is creating a highly creative but possibly narrowly focused marketing team that may not be ideal for future growth (Vincent & Hlongwa, 2021). An agency has cutting-edge knowledge and expertise that may be lacking in in-house departments. For this reason, in-house marketing and communications that do not involve external resources at critical points in the branding process are likely to suffer. On the other hand, corporations that have adopted in-house marketing report savings of 6-20% in marketing costs (WFA, 2020). Thus, an in-house agency may positively impact the organizational cost structure. However, it may also affect workflow and productivity when assembling the team, which may force some companies to abandon the approach. In this regard, it will be critical to study how in-house marketing and communication have impacted Saudi Airlines Catering Company.

Advantages and Disadvantages

In-house marketing is definitely a useful alternative to ad agencies, especially since the pandemic demands austerity measures for companies to survive. Focusing inward will also help build the resiliency and internal capabilities needed to realize growth targets. Thus, in-house marketing comes with some key benefits for organizations. The WFA (2020) report that surveyed 53 marketers in major corporations revealed “cost efficiencies, better integration, and brand knowledge” as the main advantages of in-house agency (p. 7). Thus, the approach is a cost-cutting strategy for business survival through the pandemic.

In addition, highly efficient in-house teams are more skilled and aligned with the brand strategy than advertising agencies are. However, such operations may be narrowly focused and thus cannot respond to market changes swiftly. Additionally, ad agencies deal with a variety of clients, are exposed to diverse marketing strategies, and constantly up-skill, which make them well-positioned to handle branding challenges (Sinclair, 2020). These advantages may not always apply to in-house teams or departments. Thus, it would be useful to investigate the benefits and challenges to the in-house agency side for Saudi Airlines Catering Company in the pre-COVID-19 versus pandemic period.

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Physical versus Virtual Meetings

COVID-19 has disrupted the traditional workplace, especially its physical aspect, accelerating the transition to remote working. Virtual work has become a new normal, helping overcome geographical disadvantages and enhancing flexibility because in pre-pandemic meetings, attendees had to appear in person (Alexander et al., 2020). Now, with the videoconferencing applications, people can engage in discussions virtually. However, organizations have deployed communication and ecommerce technologies to a variable extent, limiting their ability to exploit the new opportunities and ensure meaningful interactions (Deloitte, 2021b). It would be important to investigate the trends in physical versus virtual meetings to understand how Saudi Airlines Catering Company has leveraged communication technologies to enable staff to be heard during the pandemic.

Top-down Communication of Executive Decisions

Multimedia materials, including animated video reports, represent an innovative and engaging way of sharing ideas. In an organizational context, executive decisions that do not require a response from lower-level employees use a top-down communication approach. It ensures that recipients understand or interpret the information in order to take the expected action. Thus, it is useful for communicating corporate and business-level strategies adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive decisions can be simulated in animated videos to help elicit specific emotions in employees, ensure they understand the context for the resolutions, avoid misinterpretations, and understand the ideas in a memorable way (Dyer et al., 2020). Therefore, this study will assess the impact of executive decisions translated into animated videos on the effectiveness of downward communication in Saudi Airlines Catering Company.

C-level Executive Meetings

The COVID-19 era has seen organizations embrace a hybrid model of work. This working arrangement means that employees can work part-time in a physical office before transitioning to a virtual setup. Considerations for desirable outcomes (productivity and access to talent) and costs are critical in choosing an optimal hybrid model, as board members may be required to travel or perform their C-suite responsibilities virtually (Alexander et al., 2020). The post-pandemic outcome is unclear: which proportion of the board should be in the office and why? Comparing the characteristics of C-level meetings that require members to travel and digital conferencing will help answer this question.

Adaptations to Corporate Marketing and Communications

The post-COVID-19 period will require a redesign of the marketing and communications strategy to capture emerging consumer experiences. Online shoppers globally are projected to increase, reaching 19.3 million in Saudi Arabia by the year 2022 (Statista, 2020). Thus, consumer behavior and experiences have shifted due to the crisis. Marketing professionals will need to create a caring brand for customers, employees, and the community. Opening informal channels or digital options for connecting with people can help reach new audiences with adequate cybersecurity measures (McKinsey & Company, 2020). Thus, it would be interesting to study the adaptations made to corporate marketing and communications that are likely to continue to the post-COVID-19 period.

Internet Infrastructure

The shift to e-commerce by both customers and businesses due to the pandemic has been unprecedented. For Saudi Arabia, the number of online shoppers is projected to grow even after the COVID-19 crisis ends. Among the key drivers of this trend is that online shops and sites are key to business continuity during disruptions. It is likely that customers currently using digital services will continue doing so in the post-COVID-19 period, which means that the post-pandemic recovery will be digital (McKinsey & Company, 2020). Thus, firms delivering superior experiences online will gain market share due to increased adoption. For this reason, it would be critical to assess the capability of the internet infrastructure in Saudi Arabia to support the digital transformation after the crisis.

Research Aims/Objectives

Based on the issues identified for investigation, the study objectives include:

  • Investigate the pandemic-related marketing trends of medium-to-large enterprises in pre- and post-COVID-19 (specifically, in-house versus outsourced marketing services).
  • Investigate the cost and output of medium-to-large enterprises moving marketing and communication in-house in Saudi Arabia.
  • Evaluate the benefits and challenges of moving corporate marketing and communications in-house versus outsourcing in pre-COVID-19 period and during the crisis.
  • Investigate the trends in physical meetings versus virtual C-level executive meetings in the post-COVID-19 period.

Research Questions

  1. What pandemic-related marketing trends are occurring in medium-to-large enterprises in pre- and post-COVID-19 period regarding in-house versus outsourced marketing services?
  2. What are the cost and output of moving marketing and communication in-house by Saudi Arabia’s medium-to-large enterprises?
  3. What are the benefits and challenges of in-house marketing and communications compared to outsourcing before and during the COVID-19 crisis?
  4. How will physical meetings and virtual C-level executive meetings change in the post-COVID-19 period?

Key Information or Facts to Be Gathered

Information and data will be collected through a case study of the Saudi Airlines Catering Company. The research will also employ key strategic analysis models, including competitor analysis and SWOT. Primary data will be obtained through surveys targeting directors and executive position holders at Saudi Airlines. Company publications and independent reports will provide secondary data for the study.

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Literature Review

This chapter examines the airline industry globally and in Saudi Arabia before and during COVID-19 to understand the pandemic effects on this sector. The critical analysis of various sources and independent reports will shed light on the potential disparity in resilience and recovery and the marketing solutions adopted to survive the pandemic, including in-house departments. First, it would be crucial to introduce the status of the aviation industry and its contributions to the global economy before COVID-19 struck based on published statistics and agency reports. Then, the impact of the pandemic on flight operations globally and in the Saudi context will be evaluated through a review of primary and secondary sources.

Airline Industry before COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had serious impacts on livelihoods, public health, and economies globally since 2019 when it was first reported. It has disrupted all economic sectors and businesses due to strict containment measures implemented, including travel restrictions and lockdowns (Fan et al., 2021). Among the industries worst affected by the pandemic is air transportation as flights were suspended to curb the spread of the virus. This sector is critical to the economy, contributing 3.6% to the global GDP and employing 65.6 million people in related sub-sectors and supply chains worldwide in 2019 (International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO], 2021). Aviation supports directly diverse jobs, including aircrew, airport-based roles, check-in and maintenance staff, engineers, and navigation system controllers. The industry also provides indirect employment to staff working in oil companies and airline manufacturing (Mehta, 2020). A huge chunk of the 65.6 million jobs (about 36.7 million) is in the tourism sector (ICAO, 2021). The aviation staff and passengers also induce development of on-site enterprises by purchasing local goods and services. Growth in retail and restaurant services near airports can be attributed to their high purchasing power.

In Saudi Arabia, the air transport sector was thriving before the pandemic struck. The International Air Transport Association [IATA] (2020) report shows that the industry supported 594,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributed 5.6% to the Saudi GDP in 2018, mainly through foreign tourists arriving in the country. The contribution of air transport to trade by enabling the flow of goods (imports and exports) and labor was also significant. The majority of tourist arrivals into Saudi were from Pakistan, Kuwait, and Egypt, while the main air cargo routes for Saudi airlines were the United Arab Emirates and India (IATA, 2020). Thus, air transport contributed to the Saudi economy through enhanced connectivity to key cities and destinations worldwide.

The aviation industry has evolved through the years to meet a growing demand for greater connectivity. Generally, the expansion in international trade due to globalization coupled with favorable policies and regulation increased the need for international air travel services (ICAO, 2021). As a result, passenger traffic grew steadily between 1945 and 2020 despite shocks related to oil crises, wars, terrorist attacks, and 2007/08 financial crisis. According to Tuite et al. (2020), about 3.5 billion trips are made via commercial air transport annually, with 40% of them being foreign travels. From the statistics, the aviation industry is critical in ferrying passengers and freight across borders and thus significant to the domestic and global economies.

Promoting tourism and logistics are the basis for launching regional or state airlines. National carriers are considered important tools for promoting a country’s image internationally and spurring economic development (Tuite et al., 2020). Saudi’s current national airline, Saudia, has contributed to the country’s competitiveness as a tourist destination and logistics hub. Launched as part of a program to diversify the oil-based economy and compete with regional rivals such as Etihad Airways, the Jeddah-based carrier ferried most of the 16.5 million tourists visiting Saudi in 2019 – a 7.6% increase from 2018 (IATA, 2020). Other players operating in the budget segment include Flyadeal and Flynas. Thus, air transport has a critical role in tourism, cargo shipment, and international trade that accelerate economic growth. However, the increased connectivity achieved through air transport increases the risk of the rapid spread of pandemics such as COVID-19.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Global Airline Industry

The immediate effect of pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions was a decline in air traffic as countries closed their airspaces to foreign flights. This impact varied between regions and countries since not all carriers could comply with in-flight strict requirements to curb transmissions. Between January 2019 and December 2020, air traffic declined sharply, with the Middle East being the worst affected (a 53.4% decrease) followed by Africa (-53.6%), Europe (-52.6), and South America (-48.4%) (ICAO, 2021). The number of flights also dropped sharply during this period. The Asia-Pacific region recorded the highest decrease of 4.9 million flights from the 2019 levels followed by Europe (-4.8 million) and North America (-3.2 million) (IATA, 2020). The import of this trend is a reduction in airline operating revenues and profitability. In 2021, the estimated COVID-19 impact on air traffic entails a 35-38% drop in seats offered by carriers and a 44-47% decline in passengers, translating to $289 billion in lost revenue (ICAO, 2021). Thus, reduced flight operations, passenger number, and seat capacity will affect the financial performance of airlines.

The number of domestic and international travelers has been low since the pandemic began. The worst affected region has been Asia-Pacific, where 920 million fewer passengers traveled in 2020 compared to the 2019 levels, leading to a $120 billion loss in revenue (IATA, 2020). Some low-traffic regions remained relatively resilient, reporting relatively lower losses during this period. For example, the passenger traffic in the Middle East dropped by about 130 million, leading to $22 billion losses (IATA, 2020). These statistics illustrate the widespread impact of the pandemic on air transport, with spillover effects on tourism and international trade.

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Comparing the pandemic effects on international and domestic flights in each region will further indicate the deteriorating financial performance and recovery of airlines. The number of people traveling between different destinations declined sharply between 2019 and 2020. The most affected region was Europe, where passenger traffic reduced from 856 million in 2019 to 370 million in 2020 compared to Africa (74 to 39 million) (ICAO, 2021). The contribution of each region to the global air traffic can help explain this disparity. Europe and Asia-Pacific accounted for 70% of travelers globally in 2020; hence, they experienced a disproportionate effect from the pandemic (ICAO, 2021). Domestic passengers also reduced during the pandemic in specific routes. The lowest number of travelers reported in 2020 was in Africa and the Middle East (15 million each) while the highest was in China (398 million). This difference can be attributed to a variation in government financial support to airlines operating in the domestic airspaces.

Saudi Airline Industry

Airline transport is central to Saudi’s economic diversification and growth plans. In the Gulf Cooperation Council region, the United Arab Emirates has transformed its economy through aviation, which contributes 27% to the GDP (Castro, 2018). The industry is also prioritized as a catalyst for economic development in Saudi. New airports and infrastructure have been developed to support this strategy, bring more visitors into the Kingdom, and expand related businesses.

Airport Infrastructure

Expansion of airport facilities is considered key to improving air connectivity, tourism, and inflow of foreign investments into Saudi Arabia. Presently, the country has 27 airports, comprising six international hubs (Castro, 2018). The government has plans to expand current airports and build new ones. Among those earmarked for upgrades include airports in Arar and Jizan, while new hubs will be constructed in Al-Qunfudah and Riyadh (IATA, 2020). The goal is to position the Kingdom for growth in inbound and outbound travelers and cargo volumes.

The management of airports has been streamlined to enhance the efficiency and performance of the sector. Saudi Civil Aviation Holding Company (SAVC), a state corporation, manages all Saudi airports and hubs in the holy cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, and Medina (IATA, 2020). The agency also controls the development of industrial spaces near each airport to provide related services. Thus, the infrastructural development is geared towards promoting tourism industry, including the Hajj pilgrimage subsector.

Airlines in Saudi Arabia

Saudi’s aviation industry includes only a few players, with most of them operating in the low-cost segment. Saudia is the Kingdom’s national carrier that operates about 200 aircrafts in 88 routes in different regions (Castro, 2018). The corporation ranks third in passenger volume in the GCC region and has actively implemented a fleet expansion strategy involving purchase agreements with financial institutions. Most recently, Saudia added 73 Boeing and Airbus aircrafts into its fleet due to financing solutions offered by six Saudi banks, including Bank AlJazira (Saudia Airlines, 2020). Thus, the passenger and cargo capacity of the airline is expected to increase to meet future aviation demands.

The other players in Saudi have a far lower fleet size and routes. Flynas, a low-cost operator, operates 31 aircrafts and flies to 22 destinations within the GCC, but it is scheduled to acquire 80 new Airbus airplanes before 2026 (IATA, 2020). The Saudi aviation industry also includes recent entrants such as SaudiGulf, Nesma, and Flyadeal. These airlines operate domestic flights but have plans to expand to routes within the GCC. A new business model increasingly being adopted by operators is the leasing of aircrafts to expand their fleet size (IATA, 2020). The lease arrangements help meet demands of inbound and outbound pilgrims in Saudi.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Saudi Airline Industry

Saudi Arabia was highly affected by the pandemic, but its strong fiscal position ensured a resilient economy during this crisis. A recent report by the Oxford Business Group (2021) notes that the Kingdom had firm economic fundamentals in the 2017-2019 period due to its robust foreign exchange reserves, which has been used to improve liquidity during the pandemic. However, according to the same report, like in other economies, Saudi’s airline industry has been hurt by travel restrictions and reduced passenger capacity. In particular, border closures led to a huge proportion of airline fleets remaining grounded and airports and reporting losses (Oxford Business Group, 2021). The spillover effects to support businesses and tourism were significant.

The severe impact of COVID-19 in the Saudi aviation industry is seen in revenue drops and job cuts in 2020. IATA (2020) estimates that earnings by carriers in Saudi declined by over $7 billion in 2020 – 34.9% less than 2019 revenues. The crisis spilled over to support businesses and tourism sectors. IATA (2020) further estimates that the Saudi economy shed 287,000 jobs and lost $18 billion of its GDP due to the pandemic effects on air transport-related tourism. The airlines’ passenger capacity dropped because of border closures and social distancing requirements. According to ICAO (2021), Saudi’s international traffic fell by 31% (1,747,385 passengers) between 2019 and 2020. Even steeper declines were experienced in travel and tourism sectors due to cancelations of pilgrimage that drives airline passenger capacity.

Marketing Trends in Pre- and Post-COVID-19 Periods

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of disruptive technologies by medium-to-large companies in a bid to enhance efficiency and reduce costs. An emerging trend is moving marketing operations in-house teams comprised of staff dedicated fully to the company’s brands and goals. One advantage of this strategy is that it enhances cohesion and creative and operation focus on a brand, which may not be possible in an external agencies working with multiple brands (WFA, 2020). It also supports greater cross-functionality between projects and corporate vision.

Research indicates that in-house creating agencies have increased exponentially during the pandemic period. According to WFA (2020), 75% of in-house departments were established within the past five years, and they handled 82% of marketing projects (primarily digital content) in 2020. Thus, COVID-19 has not caused cutbacks in an in-house agency but has enhanced its adoption. Among the primary drivers of internal marketing is “cost efficiencies, better integration, and increased brand knowledge and specialization” (WFA, 2020, para. 18). The strategy also enhances agility, collaboration, and responsiveness to market needs as in-house marketers can work with other teams. However, internal staff can be occupied by their routine tasks, reducing their capacity to explore external ideas and perspectives (Sinclair, 2020). Thus, in-house units may lack a certain expertise available in outsourced teams.

Outsourced agency was a dominant strategy companies used to support their marketing operations in the pre-COVID-19 period. The team comprises of experts with exposure to diverse clients and ideas (Sinclair, 2020). Further, compared to full-time in-house teams that are used to working on-site, external agencies are experienced in remote working operations necessitated by the pandemic (WFA, 2020). However, outside agency is generally more costly than in-house teams, which may explain the increasing shift to internal marketing units to cut costs. A third trend is using an outsourced, agency-staffed team or the hybrid model. In this case, rather than establishing a dedicated in-house department, marketing operations are assigned to an outside agency or freelancers (WFA, 2020). The team will complete the project within the company, which results in optimal use of resources and lower costs.

Cost and Output of In-house Marketing and Communications

A comparison of the cost versus output of in-house marketing illustrates its contribution to the organization. The outcomes indicate enterprise marketing capability, performance, and investment and help determine the strategy that can deliver the best results for the company (in-house or agency). According to Kingsnorth (2019), establishing a marketing team or department may be more costly than contracting an agency. The extra costs relate to salaries paid to full-time staff, infrastructure, training budget, and the time lag between investment and output. In contrast, agency contracts can be negotiated and allows access to the expertise and tools (Sinclair, 2020). Although outside agencies have the marketing capability, technology, and channels to deliver and help avoid the painful process of creating internal teams, the ultimate cost may be higher.

Agencies may be slow to adapt to a strategic adjustment of a company, as they have different priorities from those of the client. As a result, external agencies may not be ideal for surviving the pandemic crisis that demands budget cuts and reduced spending (Deloitte, 2021a). Limited control over projects may impact the quality of digital content. Additionally, monitoring “the cost per channel, leads, and acquisitions”, which are key indicators of marketing performance, may be limited under the agency strategy (Kingsnorth, 2019, p. 87). On the other hand, in-house teams can track these metrics to determine the overall impact or output of marketing investment.

A comparison of the cost of agency versus in-house departments is useful when selecting a cost-effective strategy for the company’s marketing needs. Kingsnorth (2019) suggests an agency cost formula that entails a summation of the recruiting budget, time used, professional charges, media commissions, marketing technology, and project management. On the other hand, in-house costs come from the amount spent recruiting teams, office and equipment, full-time remunerations, and training (Sinclair, 2020). Comparing the cost and marketing outcomes of each strategy will inform the critical decision to use either agency or in-house teams.

Benefits and Challenges of In-house Marketing versus Outsourcing

Internal departments and outside agencies provide solutions for accessing the market and promoting brands. However, each strategy has some pros and cons that must be considered before deciding on the optimal alternative for the company based on its business model and budget. In-house marketing differs from outsourcing in many ways, including accessibility, adaptability, reliability, connectivity, and flexibility (Kingsnorth, 2019). Reaching the market is rather slow with internal teams because of the time needed to recruit and train staff. In contrast, outsourcing ensures faster access to the target market since the agency already has the expertise, channels, and tools needed (Sinclair, 2020). Thus, external agency is an ideal short-term marketing strategy, especially for companies with reduced budgets due to the pandemic effects.

Adaptability relates to the capacity to reorganize task priorities and reallocate budget to respond to market changes. It is one of the benefits of in-house marketing; teams are agile, have greater control over projects, and can implement strategic adjustment promptly (Deloitte, 2021a). In comparison, agencies can be sluggish in adopting new changes since they deal with multiple clients and thus have different priorities. Further, compared to outside agency, in-house departments are dependable in managing teams and tracking quality throughout the project’s lifecycle (Sinclair, 2020). Limited communication and coordination is another challenge with outsourcing of marketing services. The agency works with multiple clients and must reach them to access key data for projects. Communication barriers may hamper such efforts, affecting quality and output. In contrast, an in-house team has access to data, is well aligned with company strategy, and communicates effectively with departments within the company.

Greater flexibility in in-house departments compared to external agency is another benefit of this strategy. The internal marketing team can adjust its capabilities to accommodate urgent projects and can increase or decrease its operations depending on the organization’s needs and budget (Kingsnorth, 2019). On the other hand, agencies handle multiple clients; thus, urgent projects may not be completed on time without additional resource reallocation. However, working with several companies means that agencies have the expertise, diverse talent, well-developed marketing channels, and tools to deliver better results. Experienced marketers knowledgeable about all areas of digital marketing are rare in companies (Sinclair, 2020). However, in-house teams are well aligned with the brand – they are more dedicated to the product than agencies that operate within their own business objectives and profit goals.

Trends in Executive Meetings

The pandemic has disrupted the corporate world, with governments issuing a guidance on public gatherings to minimize physical contact. The directives imply that companies cannot conduct C-level meetings as they used to do before COVID-19. Consequently, there has been an unprecedented rise in virtual meetings globally during the pandemic (Alexander et al., 2020). This trend is powered by technology where renewed standards have been developed to replicate the in-person experience in a virtual form.

Emerging corporate governance practices that are likely to persist beyond COVID-19 include e-voting functionalities (attendee verification and shareholder right to ask questions), secure processing of identifying information, and applying Blockchain technologies to protect data and transactions (Deloitte, 2021b). The degree of engagement and attendance is enhanced when a hybrid model is used. According to Alexander et al. (2020), facilitating physical meetings for a few identified executives or shareholders, while allowing others to participate virtually through videoconferencing platforms is a better option for the company in the pandemic times. However, this practice may be a challenge for enterprises in countries that had no regulations guiding virtual meetings. Regulators in France, Germany, and Japan have only recently instituted temporary policies allowing e-meetings (Deloitte, 2021b). The continuation of these regulations beyond the COVID-19 pandemic is likely, as companies implement cost cuts by reducing budgets for travel and hosting physical C-level executive meetings.

The rapid shift to virtual meetings has come with new challenges. The transition usually occurs gradually over several years, beginning with hybrid models before conducting e-meetings (Alexander et al., 2020). However, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed companies to adopt virtual meetings rapidly. Consequently, the type of e-meetings is not consistent across organizations. Voice-only and live meetings are most common but some companies use pre-recorded sessions for employees (Deloitte, 2021b). Technology challenges such as unstable connection and interruptions affect the quality of the interaction, while cyber-security threats can impact the integrity of information. Non-technical issues, such as interrupting a speaker and silence during open deliberations are addressed by conveying the rules of engagement before a virtual meeting begins and using ‘hand raise’ feature (Deloitte, 2021b). Other important considerations when conducting C-level e-meetings include providing guidelines on how attendees can vote and ask questions and secure authentication of participants to ensure the quorum is met. These trends are bound to evolve, as more companies adopt videoconferencing for multi-site meetings in compliance with government directives.

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