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Adland Embraces Home Sweet Home

With most of adland currently working from home for the foreseeable future, Deirdre Waldron, CEO of TBWA\Dublin describes the challenges faced by the agency’s workforce, its new-found sense of solidarity and the ongoing need to service its clients.

“Changed overnight” was a term thrown about with reckless abandon, until last Thursday when “things” did actually change overnight.  Most companies, and indeed, industries didn’t consider working-from-home (WFH)  a real long-term option, yet all of us were re-located to box rooms and kitchen tables overnight.

I’ve had clients, family and friends ask – how does an agency manage remote working?

Truthfully, we’ve never had to fully embraced it– until now.

Thankfully we had tested WFH technologies (secure VPN, secure server access, video tech, etc) and were ready to transfer things to the relative safety of our homes last Thursday.

Since then, we’ve been very busy, with quick turnaround COVID-19 campaigns for HSE, Healthy Ireland, SuperValu and Centra – everything from TV (animation), radio, press, OOH, digital, social content and extended community management hours – all created and managed remotely – with client engagement and sign-offs also done remotely. We’re also looking at running photo shoots remotely – so pretty much instantly we’ve been able to provide most of our creative services –while WFH. I have to say I am both surprised and immensely proud of how quickly our agency has adapted to the current situation. Talk about real-life Disruption!

It’s also worth noting that “home” isn’t just made up of locations around Ireland, but many other home countries too, with South Africa, France and Canada among the places dialing into daily video calls. It was paramount that our people got home and felt safe and comfortable before committing to our new ways of working.

I think it’s also fair to say, we’re experiencing a new-found sense of agency solidarity, a real sense of the collective, a common understanding that we will get through this and succeed together. Despite the major upheaval all around us, we’ve seen our staff and clients band together to create significant comms that we will remember for years to come.

But it hasn’t all happened (overnight) and it hasn’t been without its challenges – although we have setup multiple messaging groups and video calls to keep communication open, these channels can sometimes have the opposite effect and become overwhelming.

We have to be mindful of people working by themselves – so we’ve setup some virtual lunch meetings and non-work video calls – our social committee are running a virtual TBWA Wheel of Fortune gameshow on Friday afternoons for all staff. Also, we have to be very mindful of people with young kids – they can’t be as available as they would be when working in the office. I personally feel like I’ve suddenly got two jobs – the busy agency role and now a stay home mum role to go with it. Adapting to response times and availability was something we had to flag both internally and externally.

We all have found that a routine is crucial to WFH, but as our days are becoming less and less routine, finding the time to connect as an agency will become even more important during the coming weeks.

When I asked the agency how they were finding WFH and what they had learnt in the short week at home  – here are a selection of the comments:

  • “That my 3 children are vectors & keep slagging each other of the same” – Head of Account Management, Paula Kelly
  • “To bake banana bread with all the bananas you panic bought last week.” – Account Director, Karen Muckian
  • “Be extra kind to your housemates who are also WFH” – Producer, Sarah Collins
  • “That I’ve a new appreciation of getting up and going to work and all my colleagues who I really miss 😘” – Account Director, Yvonne Caplice
  • “There’s less of a queue for the jacks. 👌”, Sr Copywriter, Al Byrne

So where to next? As we’re part of a global network, we’ve be in close contact with our colleagues in Greater China. They’ve been WFH from anywhere between 4 and 8 weeks, depending on the city, and talking to them regularly has shown us there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We’re hyper aware that we will be enacting recovery planning for our clients based on the extreme impact this crisis is having on their business.

So, in this new “changed overnight” world, all we know for sure is that home is not only where the heart is, it may also need to be where the agency is for some time to come.

The show must go on: Deirdre Waldron, CEO, TBWA\Dublin working at home with a special guest appearance by her daughter.