Written by Matt Carroll
There’s a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the creative industry right now – which is unsurprising, given the unprecedented challenges the pandemic has thrown up. But while headline-makers focus almost entirely on the negative, it’s important to realise there is another side to this story. Here are five reasons to feel good about our industry – and the opportunities that are emerging out of this crazy time.
We’ve all felt the benefit of technology. Suddenly cut off from each other at the start of spring, we had no choice but to lean into platforms like Zoom and Teams if we had any chance of keeping our businesses going. But what started off as force majeure, quickly became an opportunity to be more productive.
To re-calibrate a work-life balance that had been badly out of whack for decades. Those of us with families became more present in each other’s lives; those of us with ‘other interests’ (yep, some of us do have them) now had space to do more than just work and commute.
While eventually I think many of us will return to The Office, the days of almost militant presenteeism will become a pre-pandemic relic – replaced by a more sensible (and flexible) approach to productivity and getting sh*t done. Personally I’ve always favoured a ‘varied diet’, blending WFH with time in the office, when you really need it.
Just as we’ve realised we don’t need to be in the same room with everyone else in order to deliver for clients, there’s now a growing sense, too, that we don’t necessarily need an office at all. Our contract expired back in April, leaving us ‘location independent’ for much of this year, which happened to coincide with being rampantly busy. Suddenly, we were in a situation that had previously been just a ‘radical’ theory.
Everyone working from home, with no physical base whatsoever. And guess what? It worked. Full disclosure, we do now have an office again, but never will we go down the road of having hundreds of people stuffed inside a building that our clients are being forced to subsidise. Traditional agencies are now realising that no one is really interested in that flashy office. Sorry guys.
And speaking of ‘Big Agencies’: with marketing budgets now being slashed – and clients more knowledgeable about creative and how things are made – there are increasing opportunities for smaller, nimbler, specialist shops to shine. Right now we’re delivering premium quality campaigns on budgets that were unthinkable just a few years back. The impossible just got possible.
There’s nothing like a recession for reining in budgets. For years, big agencies have been charging a fortune for delivering brand assets that were often outsourced and marked-up – over-speccing shoots, over-egging creative time and charging through the nose for servicing that just slowed things down. What we’re seeing right now is a long-overdue correction in the way things are ‘done’; smarter processes, greater transparency and a democratisation of the agency landscape. Martin Sorrell sat on yachts down in Cannes for years talking about this. Now the change is happening. For clients, it means budgets can go further than they ever thought possible without compromising on quality. For hard-working, entrepreneurial agency types, the pandemic has created opportunities – and an appetite – for something new. Seize it.
It’s been a long time coming and is definitely still work in progress. But finally it seems the creative industry is waking up to what ‘diversity and inclusion’ actually means. It’s not enough to just go with the usual suspects that land in your inbox; we have to get off our backsides and make an effort to look for creative talent everywhere. It’s not about tick-box pledges on your homepage or big, showy headlines in Campaign. It’s about opening our eyes and really seeing what’s out there. This can only be a good thing – for everyone in our industry.
While this is often seen as being at odds with cost-efficiency, I beg to differ. Some of the most creative projects I’ve worked on have been those with the tightest budgets. Advances in technology, particularly in video and stills production, mean you can now create world class content on budgets that were unimaginable just a few years ago. For anyone who cares about quality creative, whether you’re an agency owner, a maker or client, this can only be a good thing.