The teasingly brief period of returning to almost normal working life has been constrained once again by a rise in COVID-19 cases in Singapore. So, with a brief taste of the old agency life still lingering, what were some of the highlights that we won’t be taking for granted next time we’re all back together?
1. People, not process, make a great agency
The big surprise for many, through any degree of working restrictions, was that we can continue to work, deliver campaigns, and keep client and staff relationships going. Technology, new work processes and the highly adaptive nature of the people in our industry has helped us go on.
However, none of this holds a candle to physically being with colleagues, clients and partners to discuss, debate and ideate together. As social creatures, we need physical interactions to inspire each other and produce better work. While technology and process can help facilitate work, real world human contact can produce great work.
There is no substitute for meaningful staff reviews and career planning than in person.
2. Your work environment really does matter
The curiosities of colleagues’ and clients’ home working environments kept us entertained in the early days of restrictions. The baby on the lap, the dog scratching at the door, the washing up stacked behind us, the family member emerging from the shower, showed the human side of us all, and the challenges we were facing. And we worked around it.
But returning to a communal workplace, particularly one that all staff had a hand in creating, showed us there are far more conducive environments for creativity and pride. Returning to a winning locker room that’s set up for connectivity, creativity and success trumps a make-shift space every day. Colleagues’ laughter instead of solitary silence, the chats around actual water-coolers, having a quick conversation instead of booking a meeting grew in significance every time we experienced them.
3. Clients and agency are equal partners
The indiscriminate nature of COVID-19 has been far from the “great leveller” that some predicted in the early days of the pandemic. Where you live, who runs your country, how old you are, and what you need to do to put food on the table, are now clearly discriminating factors.
However, one of the perverse outcomes has been that agency and clients are on more equal footing perhaps than when Mad Men was set. Shared business and personal challenges, shared risks and rewards of what we do or don’t do together, and a shared commitment to making urgent change have strongly united us. And the heightened reliance on agencies to plan and execute for now and the future has brought our value back into the spotlight.
4. Solving problems is what we do
When times were good, we probably all had experiences where the agency was simply delivering communications against a planned marketing calendar. Grow faster than the market, grow faster than competitors has often been replaced with the question “How do we get back to 2019 levels?”
More and more, we’re co-creating product and service solutions with clients to answer new challenges everyday.
And that’s what a creative industry is meant to do. Yes, we still need to communicate them to motivate adoption, but good agencies are far closer to the business and business solutions than pre-COVID-19. And that’s where we need to stay.
5. Time is more valuable than ever
When the words “time” and “value” are used in a sentence in our industry, it usually refers to chargeability. While that’s always important to keep a business moving, the precious nature of time has taken a new meaning today.
Clarity of briefs to minimise the demoralisation of multiple revisions and the watering down of good ideas saves time, keeps motivation and makes clients and agencies successful. Unnecessary, unfulfilled or uninformed pitches waste everyone’s time – including clients’.
Ultimately, spending quality time with your teams and clients to connect, plan for the future and inspire each other helps the bottom line now more than ever.
The writer is Craig Mapleston (pictured), CEO, VCCP Singapore.