*This post first appeared on the Media Temple blog on Dec. 9, 2020.
At the end of 2020, we’re looking back with the agency community to see what we can discover about the path forward. What lessons have been learned? What questions remain to be answered?
This year proved almost from its onset to be an unusual one, overturning expectations suddenly and dramatically. Times like these often create remarkable innovation. And even after immediate challenges are overcome, those kinds of innovation hold. So, it’s worth taking the time to reflect.
Here’s what we’ve heard so far.
Remote work – In it for the long run
Agencies around the world faced the abrupt switch to full-time remote work in 2020. With globally distributed clients as well as regional offices already common, agencies largely had the tools ready and in place – even if they hadn’t pulled the trigger on flipping to a remote model.
Because of this inadvertent readiness, we’ve heard that the transition has been largely smooth from a logistics standpoint.
VOLTAGE embodies the shift, thanks to having remote-working tools like Slack already in place for years. According to Laura Steele, “Though we highly value in-person time with our team, we were able to quickly and efficiently pivot.” Beyond the tools themselves, clear organization has also been instrumental in facilitating distant collaboration, “I give a lot of credit to our Project Managers, who take time before standups to keep our daily tasks finely tuned and organized.”
Across the board, there’s a sense that the general success of this trial-by-fire will accelerate the long-term shift to remote work. We might never switch back.
Mike Swartz from Upstatement sums it up neatly, “Remote teams are here to stay. There’s a long way to go in terms of making this lifestyle work for everyone, and there’s lots of interesting ways to improve.”
The work-life challenge – Many needs in one place
While the actual work of remote work has been a relatively smooth transition, the blend of life into the workday has often felt like a chaotic collision.
For parents – and women in particular – the challenges hit immediately. A typical mother has to balance being a professional, a caretaker, a school aide, and herself all in the same overlapping time and space.
Our agency partners and client-side friends consistently express the need for empathy in ensuring the growth of their associates and their businesses. Ali Kane – formerly at Facebook and now dedicating her time to family – advises leaders to “make sure everyone’s okay and that we aren’t losing talent to burnout and imposter syndrome.”
Reframing perspectives on what accomplishment looks like consistently shows up as an essential step for one’s own mental health, as well as the wider organization.
Amy Small from Team One provides some essential perspective on reframing the difficult balance of remote work and home life, “The amount of things we’re juggling is not a weakness. It’s a super power.”
Something absolutely certain, though: Solutions to the difficult day-to-day practicalities in work-life management are in high demand.
(Kane and Small both participated in our most popular panel of the year, Empowering Women in a Time of COVID-19. Check out the recording and recap.)
New opportunities – Rooted in change
By their nature, agencies adapt. They fill gaps that their clients don’t have the experience or expertise to cover themselves.
So in a time of great change, agencies have unique positioning to act on opportunities. And they’ve done so in ways that represent the many facets and perspectives of the agency landscape.
When it comes to these opportunities, three main things rise to the top of what we’re hearing:
1. Moving clients forward
While it comes with challenges, agencies have leaned on their comfort with remote work and digital experiences in order to help clients reinvent themselves in the pandemic era. As an example, Jim Head cites Reason’s discovery and build of a wholesale retail platform for Levi’s. “They were reliant on an in-person process and physical showrooms when the pandemic hit. It’s quite hard to put a value on what we’ve achieved for them. It’s indescribable.”
2. Crafting new from the old
Without being able to generate original creative at the previous scale, agencies have gotten creative in presentation. Bobbie Boucher highlights the work RAPP did for Toyota’s truck lines and the new Supra launch, “We utilized existing creative assets while bringing the digital experience to life in new ways.” By building new forms of immersive experiences, agencies have given consumers creative new views of things they’ve already seen.
3. Building deeper relationships
“Investing in relationships that you already have is worth so much more than new relationships,” says Dave Benton of Metajive, who we had an in-depth discussion with about change in 2020. As already trusted partners, agencies are finding that being in conversation with existing clients opens unexpected opportunities. Josh Crick of Hearty told us about his experience, “Consulting clients while production was shutdown has led to deeper relationships and broader opportunities beyond advertising.”
Your perspective – Share what you’ve learned
You’ve no doubt learned some important lessons over the course of this year. And we’re still gathering up perspectives to share with the Media Temple community. Head to this questionnaire if you’d like to contribute your own experiences.
Supporting agencies through times of change
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Thanks to SoDA: The Digital Society for its contribution to this series.