Shenda Loughnane, group managing director of Dentsu Aegis Network and President of IAPI writes about life in lockdown, the new normal and what ‘ business as usual’ means for the group and its clients.
We’re in week six of working from home and this really does now feel like the new normal. As an industry, we’ve all embraced video conferencing with gusto, we’ve found new and innovative ways to service and support our clients and we’ve very much gotten on with things as best we can, under the circumstances.
And while some aspects of working from home have certainly proven challenging, there has been one huge and surprising advantage – we’ve gotten to know each other and our clients a whole lot better. We check in regularly with each other to see how we’re all doing. We’ve seen each other’s kitchens and living rooms and noted each other’s taste in art and interiors. We’ve said hello to children and partners. We now know who’s messy and who’s tidy, who the good gardeners are, the best bakers and cooks. And from a business perspective, we’ve developed a strong understanding of each client’s unique, immediate and longer-term challenges and how we can best support.
Most of all, we’ve really understood how this crisis is impacting every single one of us at both a personal and professional level. I think it’s fair to say, we’ve all become more human as a result.
And this has also manifested itself in some of the changes we’ve made to internal communications at this time. At Dentsu, our monthly townhall has now moved to a weekly session with the focus on providing regular updates on how the business is performing and how that’s changing week to week. And we send out a weekly survey to gather any questions or ongoing concerns people might have and address these questions weekly in the town hall as well.
At an industry level too, we’ve discovered some new and superior ways to support, upskill and educate. The IAPI lunchtime insight series is a prime example. These thirty-minute sessions typically attract between 70 and 100 attendees and the remote webinar format has allowed us to secure a diverse range of wonderful speakers, from Jonnie Cahill CMO of Heineken USA to Mark Pollard of Mighty Jungle and Kay McCarthy of MCCP. It’s something we should definitely continue when we’re back in our offices
LOOKING AFTER OUR MENTAL HEALTH
Of course, looking after our mental health has taken on renewed importance in recent weeks. At Dentsu, a hugely popular bi-weekly newsletter from our mental health champions has provided much needed tips and advice and we’ve also started running weekly meditation sessions on Tuesday mornings which are a great way to start the day positively and with a clear head.
In addition, the IAPI SMASH programme has proven to be invaluable for people at this time, offering a whole host of initiatives to help the industry maintain well-being. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a fabulous resource for members and well worth a look!
FOR THE MOST PART, ITS STILL BUSINESS AS USUAL
Although advertising revenue at Dentsu and across the industry overall is down, there are a number of clients who remain incredibly busy, especially those in the grocery retail, telecom and finance sectors. Also, many of our EMEA and global focused clients are continuing to invest, particularly in digital performance channels such as paid or organic search. But most importantly, almost all clients are looking for support and advice in helping to scenario plan the best approach to media investment in the coming months.
As a result, we’ve put more focus than normal on understanding our resource capacity. We’re regularly assessing who’s over stretched and who might temporarily have availability to assist. This has allowed us to maximise resources right across all our agency brands and importantly, help each other out as needed, spreading the workload to meet changing client demand. But it has an added benefit in that it is also allowing our people to experience work in another Dentsu agency brand or team for a limited period of time and to learn some new skills or ways of working.
But in many respects, both at Dentsu and within the industry as a whole, business continues to move on and be done, albeit differently to how it might have been done just a few short weeks ago. A recent IAPI member survey identified that over 60% of agencies have won new business remotely in the past month and over 90% are currently engaged in new business pitches. And we’re seeing lots of creative ways of working coming to the fore in both media and creative. JWT folk, for example used footage from directors, shot in their homes to produce the latest Vodafone commercial and Carat worked with Audio Xi and Media Central to produce an Irish media first, a dynamic audio campaign for Cadbury snack.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
In some sense, we’re very much in a holding pattern at present, waiting for the economy to reopen and get started again. The real work really begins when we return to the office and while it’s almost impossible to say how Q3 will perform, let alone the full year 2020, we’ve already made some estimates as to where our own business is likely to end up and adjusted costs accordingly. For now, however, we’re mostly looking forward to a return to our offices on Haddington Road, meeting up with colleagues, partners and clients again, all hopefully in the not too distant future.