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Onam Khatri: On Digital Fluency & The Future of Advertising

With a solid digital foundation and international experience to boot, Onam Khatri is an excellent role model for women in media. Hailing from India, she relocated to Australia in 2014 to study a postgraduate degree in marketing, before growing her career with iProspect, Tabcorp Holdings and Resolution Digital. She is now a Digital Marketing Director at OMD, where she is responsible for the overall direction, development, and performance of clients like the Victorian State Government.

Mavens corresponded with the B&T 30 Under 30 Award winner to learn more about her career journey and vision for the future of digital marketing.

What attracted you to marketing, and ultimately digital marketing?

Growing up in India, I knew I wouldn’t fit the engineer and doctor mould most Indians are shaped into. I knew I wanted to follow my passion for technology and incorporate it in my career.

During my Undergrad, I realised that I loved how brands used their ads for storytelling and how they connected with consumers. In 2014, following my passion (and in search of a challenge), I moved to Australia as an academic immigrant for a postgraduate degree in marketing. After my degree and a couple of internships, I recognised that marketing isn’t just about creativity but also about analytics, data and technology. Hence my passion for digital marketing emerged.

I started as a Digital Planner on multiple global clients, consistently delivering significant results for my clients in my first two years in the industry. Soon after, I won an educational trip to Google HQ Mountain View, where I met experts at the pinnacle of digital marketing. Not only were they staying current on new technology, but they were developing it too! That helped digital marketing win the day for me.

Four years later, I’m working as Digital Director on the Victoria State Government account at OMD Australia, leading the development of digital media strategies to ensure that the campaigns we deliver are strategically aligned. And that they can be measured back to business outcomes that also contribute to a better society.

Collaboration is a huge part of your role at OMD. How do you foresee digital media teams' work structures changing over the next decade?

Work styles have undergone an enormous shift. ‘Collaboration’ has evolved from a buzzword into a core business strategy.

Post-pandemic, the enterprise collaboration market has seen a rapid growth as companies start to bring hybrid models into workplaces. This space has now started to diversify and this evolving set of technologies, alongside changing consumer wants, are introducing a new era that is more immersive, authentic, and potentially more effective.

In the Web 2.0 era, existing tools like Workplace, Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom have helped create an online space for collaboration and personalised communication, however, Web 3.0 will bring the next era of teamwork – it has the potential to offer seamless interactions between people all over the world. The futuristic vision of workplaces will be dictated by augmented and virtual realities, and hese technologies will make their way into corporate meeting rooms. In the metaverse, employees and teams can be anywhere – digitally or physically in the same office, meeting room or conference.

Technology has influenced and enhanced our collaboration experience and will continue to revolutionise it in the future. This pace of change is only set to accelerate in the next decade and corporations should act now to ensure their work structures can sustain changing employees’ expectations and demands. The outcome will be increased productivity and an improvement to the overall workplace experience.

Why is digital fluency so important to the future of advertising?

The act of looking back to move ahead seems contrary, but if the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that those learnings from the past can help us navigate a future of uncertainty.

A lot of what happened in digital marketing departments during the pandemic was reactive – the things you do to survive. But as the world reopened, businesses are now focused on a broader set of challenges, going beyond the short-term changes dictated by COVID-19.

Consumers’ accelerating shift towards online has encouraged a heightened opportunity and proven digital fluency to be a crucial skill for brands and marketers.

Building and continuously evolving digital skills is now crucial. As these skills evolve, it’s important for marketers to grow and become life-long learners. Every day new technologies and platforms are emerging that transform the way we live. This growth is only set to continue in the future, with experts predicting that the digital economy will be worth $23 trillion by 2025.

With such a huge growth opportunity, businesses and brands need to ensure they are prepared, which means staying up to date with the latest trends and developments and being proactive in their marketing approach. By focusing their efforts on data-driven consumer insights, solving for transparency and tying every dollar to an outcome, marketers can stay ahead of the competition and capitalise on the numerous opportunities that the digital world has to offer.

How can digital marketing be a force for good?

Since the pandemic, our consumption of the internet has increased many folds. The internet is open 24/7, delivering us information with just a few taps. The recent political and social changes in the world, paired with accessibility of information, has changed our collective consciousness and the way we interact with each other. It proves that the digital marketing industry will never be the same. And that’s a very good thing!

We will still continue to measure business objectives for the campaigns and experiences we create. But another set of metrics is just as important: humanity!

In addition to how a campaign performed, we now need to start questioning ‘how did it add value for people?’ Brands need to change how they tackle social issues and shift their strategies to be more proactive, rather than a temporary reaction to the latest news cycle.

We know companies have used corporate social responsibility (CSR) to buff their images. However, having a division in an organisation tasked with social-oriented giving and messaging isn’t enough. Brands need to find synergy between their CSR efforts and their core values. During the pandemic, strong leaders transformed their businesses to address real world issues and support people all over the world.

Consumers demand personalised human responses from brands. This is where business metrics will intersect with humanity. However, it does make it trickier to measure success for these human metrics. That doesn’t mean businesses shouldn’t still consider inclusivity, customer experience and authenticity.

There will always be new headlines however, as digital marketers, we need to start holding ourselves accountable while ensuring humanity remains as relevant as business objectives themselves.

Photo taken at B&T 30 Under 30 Awards 2022, presented by Vevo.


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