Why 2020 produced a creative breakthrough for agencies

By Michael Feeley | journalist

December 15, 2020 | 6 min read

Watch the 'Creative breakthrough: 2020 and beyond' panel on demand.

Watch 'Creative breakthrough: 2020 and beyond' on demand

Watch 'Creative breakthrough: 2020 and beyond' panel on demand

While no one expected 2020 to unfold as it has, the creative community has responded with flexibility and innovation to keep agencies and clients moving forward. The Drum, in association with digital asset management platform Nuxeo, recently invited a crop of industry heavyweights to take part in a panel to discuss how creatives are effecting positive change in a time of crisis and to share the key learnings they’ll retain from this incredible year.

The Drum’s US editor, Kenneth Hein, moderated the discussion in which he was joined by Thas Naseemuddeen, chief executive officer, Omelet; Matt MacDonald, chief creative officer, Omnicom for AT&T, BBDO; Renato Fernandez, chief creative officer, TBWA\Chiat\Day LA; and Alan Porter, director of product marketing at Nuxeo.

Fernandez opened the discussion with genuine positivity about the impacts of Covid-19. He said: “Although it’s been a terrible year to live through, I’m super optimistic about what the future entails. The whole transformation that happened, particularly the increase in working from home, has been a demonstration to us all that it’s possible to change – and that change isn’t as bad as we thought.”

Porter agreed that the crisis has accelerated change and the uptake of platforms like Nuxeo: “The marketing community is finally getting creative about the process of creativity itself. We’ve seen more senior executives start to realize the value of things like digital asset management and having remote access to the media assets they have across the organization. Rich media assets and content have become a key interface with the customer, so more brands than ever are looking closely at how they are delivering content online and how to get more business value from the assets they already have at their disposal.”

Naseemuddeen also noted the efficiencies that the pandemic has opened up for creatives. She said: “All of us who've been in the industry for a while know that there was almost a badge of honor for the person who could stay the latest in the office. That's now a joke in my mind – it seems funny now that we ever thought that was ‘a thing’. The reality is you can be perfectly efficient at home and we know that now. Likewise, things like flying across the country for a meeting that lasts an hour, which I used to do all the time, seem pretty ridiculous now.”

MacDonald pointed out how the pandemic has fundamentally altered the working ‘experience’ within the industry, including a heightened awareness of ‘well-being’ among agency leaders and their teams: “By now, we've figured out our shorthand on how to collaborate and to have honest conversations about the work, but I still think there is that sort of serendipity that's still missing. Zoom calls can be very structured, so you need to work harder to get some of the best insights. I think we're still working on that.

“One big thing to come from the lockdown is that we are all way more clued into the mental and physical health of our teams than before. Something we have to figure out is what's the work experience like for someone who's new to the business, or for people that don't have a house with spare bedrooms where they can camp out for nine months? It's going to be different for different people based on the life stage you're at, so I think we're going to have to know a lot more about the well-being of our people and we’re all going to have to be more forthcoming about where we are mentally and physically.”

Fernandez believes that the “number one reason” for creative agencies to, in some capacity, get back to the office, is the need to create the new generation: “For me, it’s hard to imagine they're going to be fully prepared to take over this industry, by just learning everything from home. Just having a coffee with somebody more senior and getting the chance to pick their brain, show a piece of work and ask for their opinion. That stuff is important.

“My hope is that we are using this time to bring a new, more diverse generation to the industry. No one of my generation is going to change the industry now, but we are going to hire the people that will change this industry. I think we need to hire wisely.”

Naseemuddeen added: “As a woman of color, I can tell you first-hand, this industry was not built for me to be successful. I see it as my job now to make sure that we are creating environments that are set up for people from diverse backgrounds to succeed.”

You can watch the full panel discussion here.


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Nuxeo, maker of the leading, cloud-native content services platform, is reinventing enterprise content and digital asset management. Nuxeo is fundamentally changing how people work with both data and content to realize new value from digital information. Its cloud-native, hyper-scalable content services platform has been deployed by large enterprises, mid-sized businesses and government agencies worldwide.

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