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Ad of the Day: ClickUp & Chad Lindberg highlight the awkwardness of going back to work

Workplace productivity platform ClickUp has debuted a comedic six-part video series about the awkwardness and absurdity we’re all bound to encounter upon our return to the office. After reaching a $1bn valuation in December on the heels of a Series B funding round, the startup software company hopes this brand marketing effort will help establish greater awareness among target audiences as they return to IRL work.

ClickUp, the workplace platform for project management, messaging and more – which bills itself as ‘one app to replace them all’ – has today debuted three new films, shared exclusively with The Drum, in its ongoing ‘Returning to Work’ campaign.

The series, developed and produced by ClickUp’s in-house creative team, shines a spotlight on the many uncomfortable, hilarious and downright disturbing moments bound to befall employees returning to the office after a year and a half of remote work. From an HR-led meeting about appropriate work attire and behavior to the anxiety-inducing decision of whether to hug, high-five, shake hands with or ‘chest-bump’ an old colleague. And then there’s the unwelcome prospect of eating ‘finger foods’ at a company-catered lunch (featuring The Fast and the Furious actor Chad Lindberg as a slightly unhinged but well-meaning executive).

“We’re in an uncharted shift where traditionally-staffed companies are forced to explore how their own culture survives in a hybrid model. They weren’t suspecting this, they weren’t built for it, and they need to adapt fast,” ClickUp’s chief creative officer Melissa Rosenthal tells The Drum. Rosenthal, who helms the company’s in-house agency, previously served as a vice-president of creative at BuzzFeed and chief revenue officer at Cheddar. “We know heading back to the office is going to be downright strange sometimes, so our new ‘Returning to Work’ series explores some of the most awkward, funny, embarrassing and messy interactions companies might hypothetically face as they get reacclimated.”

Getting ready for a fall back in the office

The brand marketing initiative is certainly well-timed: research from staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network found that, as of July 2021, 74% of businesses report they are planning to be back in the office by autumn, up from 49% who said the same thing in May.

With the new series, which is rolling out primarily across digital and social channels – but may yet find a broadcast television placement, per a company spokesperson – ClickUp aims to build brand awareness and strengthen its positioning in the marketplace as the shift back to in-person work begins. The ultimate objective is “to position ClickUp as the productivity company that understands the challenges companies face when realigning teams in and out of the office and to help ease that transition,” says Rosenthal.

The campaign could help the fledgling tech company – founded in the fall of 2017 – not only build brand awareness but also maintain the momentum it’s been gaining over the course of the pandemic. With remote work as a new standard, more companies than ever adopted digital-first project management and productivity tools like ClickUp. And the impact of this influx was clear: in December 2020, the company closed a Series B funding round and officially reached a $1bn valuation – a number nearly five times higher than a previous valuation just months earlier, as was first reported by Bloomberg.

Keeping brand marketing ‘innately human’

The ‘Returning to Work’ campaign is a patently comedic take on real-world scenarios surrounding public health and genuinely sensitive subjects. Rosenthal says that navigating this terrain with tact was of the utmost importance to ClickUp’s in-house creatives when bringing the project to life.

“Humor can be a powerful tool when done right, but can also come off in the wrong way if not managed delicately, especially around a sensitive topic like a global pandemic and finding the right way and time to safely return to the office,” she says. “We based our humor around real moments and real human interactions and are proud of how it all turned out. Hopefully we can bring some laughter to such a stressful time for so many people.”

And this human-centric approach is nothing new to the brand: Rosenthal says that the new brand marketing efforts reflect the company’s identity. “As a workplace productivity company, aligning teams across physical and digital spaces is part of ClickUp’s ethos. We like to think that our software feels innately human, so naturally our advertising should convey the same,” she says. “Since we built our internal agency, we’ve always tried to take a unique approach to advertising through a human-first lens.”

By focusing on human interactions and the real-life stresses of returning to the office, ClickUp aims to ease the tension and make the transition easier for all those involved. This objective is reflected in the campaign’s tagline: ‘Returning to work? You manage the awkwardness. We’ll handle the rest.’

In the meantime, ClickUp is currently developing a number of product updates expected to be released later this year.

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