Agencies’ pivotal role in the services marketplace means they too will feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, says Jay Pattisall.
Marketing in the COVID-19 crisis
This article is part of a special WARC Snapshot focused on enabling brand marketers to re-strategise amid the unprecedented disruption caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
SXSW has canceled its annual film, music, and digital media festival that’s become an annual pilgrimage for marketers and agencies alike. Advertising Week Europe postponed its festival until the fall, while The One Show and ANDY advertising awards moved to online/remote judging. Combined with deferred travel and an increase in online meetings among agency staff and marketing clients, the coronavirus has effectively (if only temporarily) changed the way agencies work.
The move to remote work will test agencies’ agility
Agencies seem like ideal candidates for remote work. But agencies currently work in dynamic teams and, increasingly, in agile pods as part of multi-week sprints that often depend on face-to-face interaction. We continue to hear of canceled travel and online/remote meetings involving our agency clients. Dentsu closed its Tokyo headquarters and Omnicom closed its London office temporarily, asking employees to work from home. It’s time to see if agility extends to this aspect of agency process.
Learning to work remotely is a good move whether it’s easy or not
In the longer term, remote work could help better prepare agencies and staffers for increased use of technology as a “member” of the human + machine creative team. Our research shows that AI will transform 80% of jobs by 2030. Agency staffers will become more adept at creating with AI and tech tools. The coronavirus work experience will help condition a new way to work that should persist after the crisis subsides.
Remote work sets the stage for a better agency employee experience
Perhaps it’s time for agencies to clean up their work practices. A dramatic change in workplace conditions required by this crisis may also create an opportunity to change workplace behavior. Agencies have reputations for less-than-ideal working conditions, including long hours and less job stability. Perhaps a silver lining in the uncertainty of the coronavirus epidemic will be that the agency industry breaks its sweatshop mentality for a healthier, more engaging employee experience.
Everybody’s eye is on the economic ball
Agency executives are mulling the prospect of a more protracted downturn in financial markets and the cascading impact it will have on budgets beyond Q4 2020. Marketers and their agencies will have to wrestle with short-term cuts, staff reductions, and the longer-term impediment that those actions will have on anyone’s ability to grow in 2021. To recover well, an agency will need employees who feel supported through the challenging days, a fact that is true for any employer post-coronavirus.