Coronavirus vs new business – winning remotely

Lucy Crowther, senior new business manager, Havas UK

We all understand that we are living in unprecedented times. The stark reality is that all that uncertainty will have a profound impact on all of our businesses.

At the beginning of last week, when the realisation kicked in that we would be working from home indefinitely, my first question was ‘how on earth does a new business team do that?!’

When has a new business role ever consisted of permanently working from home, week-in-week-out? Yes, at Havas, we have flexible working and team members regularly work from home – but can an entire new business department work from home effectively? Surely there will be a massive impact on our ability to get stuff done? What about the basics – how on earth, do we keep doing them brilliantly?

Last week, a recent poll showed half of the respondents believed advertising markets will decline by at least 20% in the next six months. We’re not naive, we agree marketing budgets are going to be disrupted. It is how this disruption is handled that will define our industry.

In another survey, they quizzed 11 intermediaries who agreed that they have experienced a disruption to the reviews they are handling. But, the survey also showed that “agencies should avoid talking themselves into a panic”. There is already “a reformatting of the traditional meeting model and a shift towards video-conferencing”.

A decline in new business requests impacts revenues for both the client and the agency. So, we need to work together, openly and transparently, share as much intelligence and insight as we can. Our global CEO talks a lot about the need to over-communicate – especially during a time of such monumental change.

It’s a universal truth that change presents opportunity. We’re seeing digital continue to accelerate, and now more than ever, it will be vital for us to understand the role of all our media as we are forced to stay at home. The team at Havas Media Group created a fascinating report into the viewing habits of the nation post the Covid-19 outbreak and outlined just how important media is right now as ‘the core tenet of our social bonds’.

Back to my questions.

It turns out, it can be done. The past week has proved it.

In New York, the team created a new global showreel. Despite not being able to sit in the edit suite alongside the editor, the virtual team were able to accomplish it.

In London, we had a client chemistry meeting, successfully held over a video call. In fact, the feedback was that it was a first-class experience.

We also completed a substantial RFP, with just a week and all that disruption to turn it around. Our ability to work together across numerous departments, virtually, was seriously tested – feedback to the designer had to be given manually over the phone, with several stakeholders offering amends. Despite the challenges, the work was completed ahead of time and to our exacting standards.

All this proves it can be done – and it will. The show must go on after all.

Lucy Crowther, senior new business manager, Havas UK

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