Writing about the effects the pandemic is having on the advertising industry can be tiresome due to the repetitiveness of the task at hand. Yet it has been written over-and-over again, for a very good reason.

The sheer scale and far-reaching effects of this unprecedented pandemic has taken everyone off-guard. From blue-collar workers to restauranteurs to advertising executives, this ‘new normal’ phase of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has left everyone scratching their heads, unsure on how to conduct their daily businesses as everything had seemingly been turned upside down.

And it is no different from a marketing perspective.

A quick Google search would reveal that marketing is defined as ‘the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising’.

Yet how does one sell products and services in these uncertain times?

More specifically, how has this whole worldwide pandemic affect Community Marketing? A quick Google search reveals that Community Marketing is a strategy to engage an audience in an active, non-intrusive prospect and customer conversation. Whereas marketing communication strategies such as advertising, promotion, PR, and sales all focus on attaining customers, Community Marketing focuses on the perceived needs of existing customers.

So how has Community Marketing adapted to the world in the coronavirus era?

Who better to ask than Kandi Windoe, university lecturer, local culture enthusiast, as well as Community Marketing Expert and Director of Integration at Interface Indonesia?

However, beforehand, a short bio.

Boasting a total of 25 years’ experience in the communications industry, Ms. Windoe has both client & agency side experience ranging from strategic planning, business development, PR as well as general management of agency business. She started her career on brand side overseeing product innovation & marketing communications for Unilever’s Walls ice cream & Danone’s Biscuits Indonesia. She joined McCann Erickson as Strategic Planning & Consumer Insights Director in 1999 before moving to DDB Indonesia as Strategic Planning Director & General Manager in 2004. She was appointed as General Manager PR & Business Development in 2007. Today, she is an active business partner at Interface Indonesia part of NAVA+ group.

We conducted our social-distanced interview via the telephone.

"Bu Kandi, before we get into the nitty gritty, please give me a quick guide how you have been during the pandemic."
Well as with everyone else, I’be been pretty much stuck at home since the second week of March. And yes, things have been tough, unusual, nerve-wracking and certainly confusing. But all we can do is soldier on, right? Things will eventually even themselves out. This will pass.

"Your work at Interface is also very much intertwined with the Ministry for the Creative Economy. How has that work relationship been affected by the pandemic?"
As with everything else, this has also naturally changed. As our work with the ministry is very much centred around intense and frequent community activities, this has of course also been curtailed heavily due to the (much needed) social restrictions needed during the pandemic.
However, one thing has become clear.
As Marshall McLuhan put it, the medium has become the message.

"Please expand on that."
The decision maker on the client side wants to make impact that shows marketing/brand progress when they engage with an agency. Impact that is measured, shows performance and provides accountability for every rupiah spent.

Whatever industry and categories the client comes from, there is one commonality and that is that the agency is the partner that will make the above happen. No one aspect of communication discipline is better than the other ie. creative over PR, creative over media, creative over activation, creative over digital, etc. Whatever the medium, as long as there are ways to measure to show performance/impact, creative’s role is to optimise the campaign, given the context of the chosen medium.

What I discover is that communication is a science and this means understanding the medium/channel to which we activate our campaigns on. As I alluded to before, “the medium is the message" is a phrase coined by the Canadian communication thinker Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan proposes that a communication medium itself, not the messages it carries, should be the primary focus of study.

McLuhan uses the term 'message' to signify content and character. The content of the medium is a message that can be easily grasped and the character of the medium is another message which can be easily overlooked. McLuhan says "Indeed, it is only too typical that the 'content' of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium.”

For McLuhan, it was the medium itself that shaped and controlled "the scale and form of human association and action."

"Can you perhaps give the readers a concrete example of this?"
Taking the movie as an example, he argued that the way this medium played with conceptions of speed and time transformed "the world of sequence and connections into the world of creative con-figuration and structure." Therefore, the message of the movie medium is this transition from "lineal connections" to "configurations." Extending the argument for understanding the medium as the message itself, he proposed that the "content of any medium is always another medium"– thus, speech is the content of writing, writing is the content of print, etc.

In the case of the search engines, the content are key words and phrases. YouTube’s algorithm considers two factors. First, YouTube wants people to watch content on each channel. So if an in-dividual upload a 10-minute video and someone watches 7 minutes, that’s great. Second, YouTube measures time on the platform. For example, when someone send an email with a link to a YouTube video, people who click that link start sessions. When they spend 5 minutes with that video and then an hour on the platform, a portion of that hour will be credited to individual’s channel.

"And the same goes for Instagram?"
For Instagram there are 3 things that the algorithm focuses: relationship, interest & timeliness. Re-lationship: IG wants people to spend time on the app because we enjoy it in a meaningful way, not just because we can’t stop scrolling. Accordingly, the algorithm bumps up posts from accounts that a user already interacts with. For brands and creators, this means that focusing on community en-gagement is key. Exchanging DMs, tagging each other in posts, and frequently leaving comments are all actions that indicate a close relationship between accounts. As well as likes, re-shares and views.