‘A buoyant glimpse of what the future may hold’: agency leaders’ post-pandemic hopes

This content is produced by a member of The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

No one would claim that the pandemic is something to celebrate. But in the long road out of its darkest days, there are glimmers of hope for a post-pandemic world. In the spirit of capturing a sense of optimism while it lasts, we asked members of The Drum Network about what’s given them hope over the last two years, and what makes them optimistic for the future.

Robbie Reddy, content director, Adapt Worldwide

From the disruption and detachment of lockdowns one undeniably bright shoot arose. People all over the world have picked up brushes to paint for the first time in years; instruments they have always meant to learn; pens to write poems they never knew resided within them. Empty time has allowed for creativity as an outlet for frustration and fear. A partial return to the childhood joy of making, playing and imagining. Given the chance, that is where a mind will naturally wander.

But what of agency life? With teams torn from the day-to-day hustle and buzz of face-to-face interaction, would creativity survive?

For us, and for many others, it has bloomed. Much has already been said about the limitations of traditional meeting-room brainstorms: ideas uprooted or hijacked before they are given a chance to seed.

The new dynamics of team interaction have lent themselves to a hotbed of creativity. Ideas, given more time and space, have been allowed to evolve, mature and refine within their host in a manner that even the most forward-thinking of collaborative processes before curtailed. Individuals, across the hierarchy, have grown in confidence; in the confidence in their ideas.

The space, physical and temporal, that pandemic life enforced has brought with it an upswell in personal creativity, a reimagination of the collaborative process and an intriguing, buoyant glimpse of what the future may hold.

Kate Umfreville, managing partner, The Producers

The pandemic’s been appalling for the events industry. However, it’s forced agencies to instigate long-lasting change for the better, increasing ROI and reducing waste. It’s a great time for brands to invest in events (and even better for those who’ve never done it before).

Working around Covid-19 restrictions has accelerated the adoption of hybrid events, which deliver greater ROI thanks to increased digital reach.

Restrictions also drove an adaptation to micro-events designed for smaller target audiences, providing great reach for a smaller financial investment.

The likes of Darkfield Radio re-defined what an event looks like, immersing audiences in strange and curious worlds. Content once again became king, to be enjoyed whenever the audience chooses.

The pandemic reduced physical giveaways and inspired more sustainable production to inform and entertain audiences. And who doesn’t like the heightened customer experience, which is now more personal than ever thanks to table service and the demise of the shared buffet?

The future of experiences looks cheaper, greener and more enjoyable than ever.

Julie Cohen, chief executive officer, Across the Pond

Working from home, blending work and home life, gave us all a greater sense of autonomy. I’ve never been one to care what hours someone works, but I think as humans we fall into patterns and limitations out of habit. I love how that doesn’t even come into play anymore – the idea that someone is trying to look busy until the clock strikes ‘appropriate leaving time.’ The trust that this relies on clears the clutter and sees people working ‘for themselves’ in a way.

We’ve all had to listen to the sound of our own footsteps to the kitchen, the sometimes eerie silence as we typed away between virtual connections. It’s put us more in touch with our sense of purpose. The idea of a great resignation is tough, but ultimately it’s important. It’s raising the bar on what’s acceptable to be contributing to the world and what a ‘good company culture’ looks like.

Dan Pink’s great book Drive suggests the three things that motivate us as humans are mastery, autonomy and purpose. This feels much more relevant than ever, and makes for a more enlightened post-Covid world.

Julia Arenson, head of creative operations, The Agency

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s flexibility, compassion and patience. Pre-pandemic office-based 9-5 was the norm and guided the way we live and work.

We’re coming out of this period with options that now look to suit individuals. More of us can now tailor our work to our lives instead of tailoring our lives to our work. That is a huge win for all.

Dan Keam-George, founder and director, KGA

As an events company, 2020 put a temporary but sudden halt to our business. This gave us a lot of time to think beyond the normal priorities of delivering great work.

Taking our company carbon neutral was something I’d been thinking about for a while, so we used the opportunity to take some action. The effort required to go carbon neutral is mainly front-loaded, so we took the rare gift of time to make the change, and I’ve seen more organizations put in the considerable work that it takes to become B Corp certified.

The pandemic also encouraged a re-evaluation of working practices. We’re witnessing a gentle and successful shift toward a work-from-home culture. Employees’ work-life balance is healthier, and company workforces are expanding to include talented employees wherever they happen to live.