June 24, 2023

Advertising in 2020

Rupert Mason

2020 wasn’t the year people were expecting. The whole world has had to adapt and change. So what does this mean for our future and the advertising industry we work in? What changes do companies need to make to adapt to a world where we have to work remotely; Changes where we’ve gone from having meetings hovering around the coffee machine or in large board rooms to the comfort of our own home, lying on the sofa with with our feet up on a Zoom call, muting the sound of loud neighbours and children running around, and depending on how we’re feeling, camera turned off and replaced with a profile pic of a 10 years younger version of ourselves. Well that was very specific, so perhaps I’m referring to myself here, who knows.

I’m fortunate, as for several years I’ve had the flexibility, at large, to move around and work where I like, never straying too far from home. It’s a lifestyle that I’ve managed to adjust to quite happily. But I’m a small business managing a handful of contractors at a time. So what happens to those businesses with 500 employees plus? How do they keep their previously well oiled machine turning and functioning when everyone’s evacuated these social spaces and had their daily mechanical lives turned upside down.

I’ve seen posts on Linkedin from agencies at both ends of the spectrum. Some saying that they miss being in a full and bustling office “can’t wait to get back to a full office” they said, missing all the face-to-face time. Others have embraced the isolation and found positives in saving time on the commute and say that they feel more energised.

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Even with the looming threat of Covid a lot of us feel more relaxed. This just goes to show that how we were living before wasn’t right either. At least not for our mental health. I can’t see why a little more flexibility for all employees isn’t good all round.

Adapting to new habits

One of the biggest changes for the advertising industry is adapting their media buying to reach their customers, who are spending less time gawping at ads across Tube platforms and more time slumped in front of the telly. Outdoor media is in less demand.

Miami ad school did a fantastic campaign at the beginning of the Covid outbreak, whereby anyone found not to be isolating was subject to Netflix film spoilers all over town – absolute genius! However, sadly that’s probably one of the last great campaigns for a while. So as outdoor changes, agencies need to adapt and put their focus on other channels like TV and digital. This is tough for the more traditional media agencies who depend more on the outdoor spots, however times will recover, the streets will once again be filled, we just don’t know when.

Were we doing it right before?

Before we had to shy away from the outside world, in 2020 our life styles were probably as fast paced as they have ever been. Men, women, mums and dads are working later nights than ever, with thousands of new startups popping each day. Many live the city life, going home to their families exhausted after a long day’s work. We now get to spend time with our loved ones, isn’t that great? Even now, many companies are allowing people back to work in drips and drabs on staggered time slots, allowing for much more flexibility in the work space. I think this is a good thing and good for the industry.

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Not only is it good for our mental state but this is fantastic for the environment and our beautiful planet. The less people commuting, means the less we spend on transport and burning fossil fuels. Less time wasted stuck in traffic and being sneezed on by strangers. Overall leading to more free time, happier workers and a better work/ life balance.

Is this a sign or proof of concept?

It may be the difference between the introvert and the extrovert, but I always liked the office when it was half full, it meant I could focus. A full office often means a lot of distractions. It’s usually a lot easier to throw ideas around face-to-face. However it’s not such a bad thing to be able to do this with a screen in front of us, at least it’s workable. For most tasks we should be trusted to work in a place where we get the most solace and can focus. After all, we all have different ways of working and individual environments which are most conducive to our success These are the places where we should be able to work.

So should productivity dwindle because of this? Well if your teams don’t have a good report with each other then they’ll likely use quarantine as an excuse to avoid interactions, other than when forced. So I think it’s very important that your agency culture is strong and that colleagues are working with others who they can get along with and who they can respect. If you have that simple mutual bond then I can’t see why companies will suffer and the advertising industry as whole.

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But what about all those giant mac computers? Office equipment…. doh! Design and production departments seem to be managing, but many have done so by shipping all their kit to their work-from-home employees, which is a bit of a hassle, but certainly worth the effort.

With that said, employees working at home should try to find some destination between their home office space and their home. If not then your home becomes a place where you can’t truly relax.

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