How have agency teams continued to work as a well-oiled machines, even when they're not bumping into each other in the kitchen?
It has certainly been a memorable 12 months. If we learnt anything from 2020, it was the importance of collaboration. In a recent post, we discussed how quickly agencies had to adapt. As people everywhere started working from home, agencies suddenly found themselves with a hundred separate offices which all needed to be connected.
Keeping Collaboration Alive
Collaboration is a huge part of every agency. From internal agency collaboration to working with sister agencies, right down to the all-important agency and client collaboration. For agencies that work internationally and already communicate across distances, systems like Teams, Hangouts, Zoom and Slack were already in place. But what about other agencies who are used to having their team onsite, everyday?
In a recent article in Forbes, Toby Eckhart, CEO of Focused Image talks about how his organisation has kept their creative juices flowing when staff are working from home. For them, virtual Bounce Sessions have replaced the casual walk down the hallway to explore a creative idea with another staff member. These now happen via phone or video call. Writers, designers and creative personnel are invited to bounce ideas off a senior team member for up to 30 minutes.
Australian agency The Hallway, understand the need to keep agency collaboration alive. CEO Jules Hall writes candidly about the challenges. He says that the key to protecting culture and therefore creativity, lies in small moments of humanity. Keeping your team feeling like a team.
For The Hallway casual conversation was the thing people most missed when working from home. Two all-staff hangouts were set each day to share important news. These quickly morphed into fancy dress town halls. While on Friday afternoons, the whole agency met for virtual drinks.
Amy Cook, Director Technology Transformation and Innovation at Dentsu, also shared the creative ways that helped replace the usual ‘water cooler’ type conversations. “For our Technology function, we launched ‘Virtual Pub’ where we’d come together each week to enjoy an online game – geoguesser was a favourite. Carat, our media agency, took it one step further to launch ‘Couchella’ – an all-day virtual festival for staff, clients and partners in the industry. Events like these helped us to connect with more colleagues outside of work, even though we may have been divided by states or oceans.”
Agency-client relationships have also been hugely affected by COVID-19. Clients want more. More creative, more strategy, and more for their investment. To create effective campaigns, agencies need to be in constant collaboration with clients. But how do agencies create great content when teams are distant and when a physical presence on set is difficult or non-existent?
Creating Socially Distanced Content
In an article for ad exchanger, Alex Collmer, CEO of creative automation platform VidMob said agencies and their clients are looking for “a cost-effective solution that gets them high quality ads.” So, agencies and brands are turning to formats like animation to get around COVID restrictions.
Repurposing old content is just another way agencies are achieving this. In the same article, Mary Keane-Dawson, CEO of influencer agency Takumi says, brands have started looking back through their archives to explore past creative assets that have just been “gathering dust on the digital shelf.” Takumi themselves repurposed one brand’s famous jingle from the 1970s for a younger audience using influencers and TikTok.
Shooting During COVID
In instances where agencies are still filming in real life, there have been some benefits to filming remotely. Take TBWA\Dublin’s Christmas spot for their client SuperValu. All of the pre-production to approve the storyboard, shots and camera angles with their client happened via Zoom. On the day of the shoot, two creatives were on set (separated from the rest of the cast and crew), while the rest of the agency team and the client, watched all the action from home via Zoom.
Whilst this sounds a little tricky, Yvonne Caplice, TBWA/Dublin’s Business Director notes that it makes you much more disciplined, “decisions had to be made swiftly by the client for us to stay on track.”
Similarly, the Christmas spot for Australian department store Myer was also filmed during lockdown. With director Nick Kelly quarantining for two weeks before the shoot. While the ad was a huge success, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne’s ECDs Jim Curtis and Ryan Fitzgerald don’t believe live streaming will replace face-to-face interaction.
“Advertising, in general, is a team sport, right?” says Fitzgerald in a recent Mumbrella interview. “You get so much from that face-to-face interaction and we’re finding with our teams now that it’s those little personal touches and quirks of conversation that you have that are so important to the creative process.
It definitely makes things achievable that weren’t before, which I suppose is a great asset to have. Maybe it opens up doors for interesting international directors that might not have been there before. But I think you’re never going to beat that face-to-face contact.”
With so much communication happening remotely, it is important to get the tone right. When it comes to etiquette, Dentsu’s Amy Cook shares some tips: “Ensuring a strong communications framework is in place is important when considering incorporating any new communication tool into your operations. Many of our agencies use multiple systems – Teams, Slack, JIRA, etc. – as such, it’s important to ensure that each person using these tools is clear on its role in the grand scheme to avoid confusion.
We also encourage teams to keep their cameras on during video conferences to help improve engagement. So much of our communication is non-verbal, so having your camera on can help show that you’re committed to the conversation while allowing others to pick up on signals you may be sending.”
Agencies and clients need to collaborate to focus on core goals, shift messaging and shift platforms to concentrate on what is working in our new world.
Will office working ever be the same again?
A fall in COVID-19 cases in some countries has meant a return to the office. But does that mean going back to the way things were?
The Hallway’s Jules Hall shared his thoughts on this in a recent mi-3 article. “Our offices will never be the same as they were pre-COVID. They will be better. WFH taught us that work is a thing you do, not a place you go to. But every tribe needs a base. So we’re re-thinking our offices as ‘clubhouses’ – inspiring places for meaningful collaboration. Somewhere we choose to go. We’re reimagining how we use our different spaces. It’s leading to better creativity. When you need to get your head down, you choose where that happens. Because who enjoys sitting at a row of desks doing ‘work’?”
Prior to the latest lockdown in the UK, Ogilvy UK had reopened their offices but only for 20% of their staff. The 3:2 model was put in place to encourage staff who were comfortable to come into the office two days a week. On arrival, temperature checks were done before entering the building and masks provided to wear in communal areas. Red badges were also available for staff members who wanted a little bit more distance.
What does the future look like?
For many agencies and clients, the pandemic has provided a long overdue shake-up. Once we dusted off the shock of the change, put new communication systems in place and continued to foster agency culture virtually, it has given us space to explore new avenues of creativity. At its core, flexibility and adaptability are key to maintaining both collaboration and creativity.