Marketing podcast: How an independent agency is coping with COVID-19

Over the past 10 years, Goodstuph has built a name for itself as an agency to be reckoned with. Its roster of clients include the Singapore Economic Development Board, Changi Airport Singapore, UOB, Unilever and Singtel. While most know Goodstuph to have punched above its weight, not many know the reason why Pat Law founded the agency. In Marketing's Connected podcast series, Law shares how her parents inspired her to start up Goodstuph, what it feels like to compete with the big boys, how COVID-19 will reshape the industry, as well as the creative team bonding activities that her team engages in as they work from home. Listen to the full episode here.

Marketing: How has business been like for you during this period?

Law: We do have some really great clients, but we also have very, very good people. We are only as good as our people. You're right, we have ups and downs and a lot of it is relative to the point of culture in the agency. I like that we, as an agency, we acknowledge that.

We are going through puberty, and with that comes the need to make mistakes, the need to learn and grow from it, and refusing to stay status quo.

That has always been the spirit of our culture. In terms of COVID-19, we have been very, very lucky, in that most of our clients are not directly impacted by it. But admittedly, these are surreal times that we're going through. We're going through a global health and economic pandemic. It's inevitable, and at some point, our clients will be indirectly affected. But so far, so good, we've been extremely busy and a good kind of busy. We can't complain.

Marketing: In general, there's a lot of anxiety and fear in this industry right now. People are worried about their jobs, their livelihoods, and freelancers, for example, have particularly been impacted. Many agencies are also freezing headcount, holding back on promotions or in cost cutting mode. Is Goodstuph taking any of these measures?

Law: If you look back at history and how companies responded during recessions, there's a lot that we can learn. It's quite inevitable that cost cutting measures are on the minds of a lot of leaders. But personally, I think it's about optimised cost cutting. The keyword being "optimise".

Yes, indeed, we have to be prudent about cost, but we shouldn't be cutting costs for the sake of it.

When you think about it, for the first time ever, this pandemic affects everyone, whether you're a big agency or a small one. It also means that the playing field has been levelled. We are all suffering at this point. And therefore, if you think about it from that point of view, it is quite possibly the best time to level up ahead of your competition. If you are really smart about it.

Marketing: As the owner of one of the most successful independent shops in Singapore, did you ever feel that you were not in the same league as the big boys when you were pitching for clients?

Law: I have never really thought about whether Goodstuph is in the same league as a big agency or not, because we have gone up against them in different kinds of pitches before.

I think we recognise that we are the David to the Goliath. And in a way, you need the Goliath in the world to bring out the David in you.

This question is actually a bit hard to answer because I recognise all the advantages of being the smaller agency in this economic crisis. It doesn't mean that we are better than them, neither does it mean they're better than us. It's just that depending on what you're working with, what kind of agency you're working with, your strategy and the way you deploy any cost cutting measures, for that matter, it's highly dependent on that, the infrastructure of your agency.

Marketing: This pandemic has united everyone in this industry and brought us closer together. This is mainly because many of us are feeling the same pressures. Do you see that happening to the independents in Singapore, in terms of them rallying closer together during this period?

Law: What I can say is when the resilience budget was announced, several agencies, the independent, some of us been talking to each other and trying to figure out which are the benefits that we can enjoy and sharing information that way. We have seen a lot of COVID-19 related initiatives. I think it's obvious that we are supporting each other's creativity.

Tune in to our latest podcast channel on Spotify titled "Marketing Connected" for fresh content every week!

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Introducing Marketing's new podcast channel titled 'Connected'