Accelerating agencies into the future
What felt like a set-back in March has turned into an accelerator pedal. We have implemented more progressive ways of operating as a business in the last six months than in the previous six years. We are leaner, more agile, more productive, self-managed, remote-yet-connected, without geographical boundaries and with trust and autonomy built into our actions. While we miss each other’s company, we are hungrier than ever before to do our best work.
We have doubled down on what we do best and know how to sell, and levelled up on productising our consultancy and innovating new offerings. The rapid growth of e-commerce due to Covid-enforced changes in consumer habits has given us a real platform to add value and help brands to grow online. This has helped us to grow our own revenues.
At the same time, we have been able to reduce our costs. Having no office in use for several months and deciding to re-open in the form of a co-working hub on a single floor (instead of three) represents a cost saving for the future. When you combine this with less travel time to clients and lower running costs, we have been able to strengthen our business model.
It has also given us an opportunity to invest in our team. Supporting home working with contributions for equipment and bills and taking action on climate change to decarbonise beyond our business footprint. Internally, we have facilitated the death of presenteeism. Work where you do your best work is our new mantra. This comes with a need for trust and accountability; I believe high performing teams flourish operating this way.
The nail went in the coffin of internal emails and shared server filing too. More instant and open communication platforms combined with collaborative cloud platforms is more productive and agile.
From a client delivery perspective, while we value face to face meetings and discussion, the discipline and timesaving of video calls outweighs the value of in-person meetings for many more functional conversations.
Flexibility and belief
The most successful agencies in the 2020’s will be the ones that can adapt quickly to change. Agency specialisms will continue to move with consumer behaviour - which has seen the biggest shift to digital engagement in 2020 since smartphone/connected device penetration exploded in the 2010’s. Brands will also feel the value of having trusted experts to support their inhouse capability. We may see an increase in shorter term engagements as brands look to find the best solutions to solve specific needs and are less willing to sign off on long-term retainers with a single agency.
In-housing is going to be big. Brands will look to agencies to support them in different ways, what we’ve dubbed internally as ‘the third way’ – helping brands to build out their own capability with teams performing at an equal level to an agency. We’ve worked in this way with clients in the past with great success and, through recent wins and client conversations we are seeing this need start to grow. It definitely needs agencies to change their approach and work with clients in new ‘consultative’ roles.
For larger organisations, it will take time for them to transition to a fully distributed workforce. The prestige of being at the centre of a vibrant, commercial and creative hub will remain. I think there is a bigger opportunity for smaller agencies to work effectively in networked teams in multiple locations. With the acceptance of video conferencing permeating all strands of businesses, office location is definitely less important than it ever has been.
Looking at what we’ve achieved over this time, some of the decisions would likely never have been taken in the old world, and others would have been a year or more away.