Predictions 2022 – Agencies, COVID, age diversity

predictions 2022 - Agencies, COVID, Age Diversity

In the last of our look into what the year ahead may have in store for us, we’ve been asking you what’s in store for agencies? What the ongoing pandemic will mean for us? And how age diversity should be addressed?

Flexibility has been a watchword for agencies over the past 20 or so months, as we’ve all been adapting to a new order on the work front.

Moreover, the current omicron variant of the coronavirus could extend our need for flexibility indefinitely.

And, as the world moves towards a new paradigm of inclusion and diversity, we look at possibly the last acceptable ‘ism’ in the media, marketing and creative sectors – ageism.

We feel there’s huge value in retaining and engaging more experienced, mature and seasoned workers, especially among younger companies and tech players… 

Agencies

Rainer_UsselmannRainer Usselmann, Group Head of Commercial, Happy Finish

The new post-pandemic ‘normal’ will not be normal. 

Aside from the pandemic, there are a number of other macro-factors that will continue to fundamentally shape our future in the near to medium term, and with it the way we communicate with one another, the priorities brands, agencies and consumers set, and the expectations we have.

Political and economic volatility can be expected to remain high, not least due to the worsening gap between rich and poor, exacerbated by the economic upheaval of the pandemic, increasing tensions between East and West, extreme weather

events, wars, high inflation, the realignment of global supply-chains and so forth. 

All the while, we can expect further persistent polarisation and entrenchment of political discourse.

At the same time, global brands face an intensifying scramble to stand up and be counted, to meet climate change, sustainability and diversity targets, where greenwashing will carry a serious reputational risk, and actions speak louder than words.

Also, technological change will further hasten the disruption of the old order, and put an increasing disadvantage on those organisations that are not digitally native.

Against this backdrop, agencies must remain relevant, must produce work that resonates culturally, that speaks to people and brands, and they must attract the right talent that is up to the task. 

There is a real opportunity for the creative tech agency community to help brands elevate how they address their evolving core constituencies, how they deploy brand content and experiences that connect with audiences in new ways that are authentic, meaningful and uplifting; in store, online and in the new virtual territories.

Ben Scoggins CEO organicBen Scoggins, CEO of Organic 

“A once in a generation shift has occurred in our ways of working, and some form of remote working is clearly here to stay. 

“We’ll now see a period of calibration as agencies try to work out how to balance the flexibility demanded by employees with the need of managers to coach, collaborate and build culture within teams. 

“This will undoubtedly shape the next few years in agencies as leaders work out how to build the most effective teams.

Richard Barrett, MD InitialsRichard Barrett, MD of Initials

“How agency life is set to change – tech, client relationships, pandemic, climate change, diversity/equality?

“The last two years has seen, in my opinion, a seizmic shift in what has been until the pandemic a pretty expected agency dynamic.

“The value of the client relationship in the past has now moved towards the value in ‘speed of turn around’ from the agency, as face to face meetings and co-working has taken a back seat and we have all become comfortable with a more transactional, virtual relationship.

“Technology has had a lot to do with this, and whilst this should be embraced, it has also removed a vital degree of human connection that agency life was all about.

“After all, this is a service industry and as such, simply can’t (or at least shouldn’t) become mechanised.

“But with that being said, there is no denying that the reduction in time and the environmental (and mental) impact of reduced commuting has got to be celebrated.

“The thought of returning to my own three hours a day commute is simply laughable.

“We know that in agency life there is always 10 gallons of work to get done in an 8-gallon day and the fact that we can now (on a more regular basis) add capacity to people’s day again must be celebrated.

“From my own experience this newfound flexibility has fundamentally changed the cultural make-up of the agency, we now have people working with us who live in Cornwall, Bristol, Spain, Portugal and even Dubai and this has allowed us to fish in a much wider pond for the talent we need as we head towards 2022 and beyond.

Hasan Arik, Founder and CEO, Redmill SolutionsHasan Arik, Founder and CEO, Redmill Solutions 

“The pandemic brought to the surface the need for control and flexibility between agencies and clients, driven by a “rolling over” of some deals during the uncertainty of 2020 and 2021, and previously scheduled reviews being delayed, which means 2022 could be an open season for agencies. 

“Over the next year it’s likely that this tension will prompt media pitch activity from global brands, to continue on the journey for data ownership and full transparency.

“Board-level leaders have been paying closer attention to their advertising investments and ROI; they now recognise the need for increased agility in media investment decisions, based on flexible deal arrangements. 

“Brands will want better deals and there’s likely to be a lot of pitch activity as they try to secure these.”

COVID

Richard Barrett, MD InitialsRichard Barrett, MD of Initials

With the pandemic in mind what predictions for homeworking, hybrids, return to office?

I firmly believe that those businesses who are forcing staff back into the office are going to come off badly, this is often driven by ego or at least a deep-seated desire to be in total control. 

If you look back over the last two years and can’t see any fundamental operational issues, then why not embrace it. 

The response I often hear to this is “but what about the culture” – the answer is simple; IT’S GOING TO CHANGE! 

When I started in the industry, we didn’t have computers on every desk, we had a team secretary that would type communication that was then sent by post to the client, that in itself created a culture that is very different to what we see today. 

Culture must change, it has to change to remain relevant in the world we work in. 

There will always be a role for face-to-face collaboration and people meeting each other in real time in a real place, but, in the same way that a total virtual world will never be 100% appropriate we have to embrace that a 100% physical, present one is not relevant either. (I am very interested to watch the fledgeling development of brands interacting with consumers in the Metaverse that would suggest I am very wrong – but hey they thought Google Glass was the next big thing six years ago!)

Ben Scoggins CEO organicBen Scoggins, CEO Organic

“With hybrid working now part and parcel of the ‘new normal’, expect to see most agencies tweaking, tinkering and experimenting with ways of working that best suit their organisation.

“We’ll see less dogmatic statements like ‘we’re 100% office-based’ or ‘we’re never returning to the office’ in favour of fine-tuning the ‘3:2’ working week.

“The main challenge to overcome is how to balance the needs of the individual employees with the wider cultural and collaborative needs of the agency teams.

“The winners will be those who listen to their people who will attract and retain more of the top talent.

Caroline Hugonenc, VP Global Research & Insights TeadsCaroline Hugonenc, VP Global Research & Insights, Teads

“As the new COVID variant hits the news cycle, brands must look to advertise responsibly.

“Instead of shying away from advertising in the name of brand safety with overzealous keyword blocklists, they should look to fund reliable news sources as consumers turn to trusted media for reassurance and guidance.

“Equally, the champions of the open web need to continually build the case for responsible advertising by demonstrating its effectiveness in order for brands to embrace it.

“Overall, 2022 will see the dawn of a better and safer internet for those who are willing to create it.”

Rainer_UsselmannRainer Usselmann, Group Head of Commercial, Happy Finish

The death of the city is not going to happen. Hybrid working practices: yes, but creatives need creative serendipity that just doesn’t happen on a Zoom call. 

Until our mini-me avatars all happily congregate in the metaverse to ideate, create and consume, we will – and especially then – crave real human interaction in shared physical spaces. At least some of the time.

AGE DIVERSITY IN AGENCIES

Richard Barrett, MD InitialsRichard Barrett, MD Initials

I firmly believe in a model that can best be described as ‘Seasoned brains coupled with youthful vigour’. 

Experience is of course important as long as it is not to the detriment of disruption, development and fresh thinking. 

Sadly, I have seen instances where more experienced people have answered a problem with historic knowledge – I refer again to the hybrid working world where some see presenteeism and old school commuting as the answer – because of the belief that it was good enough for them back in the day. 

But, I am also lucky enough to work with experienced people who are so motivated to learn and embrace modern thinking, new levels of education and collaboration that their very mindset brings a cultural shot in the arm. 

It’s important to know as your career develops that your skills and value move to different spheres, whist it might be great fun to be involved in a client project it may not be the most relevant or valuable use of your time and experience. 

The real value of that experience is when you use it to put a team together and then leave them alone to get on with it. 

My late father once told me that I should “employ great people and then leave them the hell alone” and I think about this a lot. 

Of course, the only alteration to this I make in my working life is to ensure you are available and supportive, but above all, approachable to those teams.

If any employers are reading this and are questioning the value of older more experienced people then just remember that career development should last your full career not just the early days, engage with coaches and business schools to ensure that this generation are re-motivated and perhaps adding a new type of value to your business.

Ben Scoggins CEO organicBen Scoggins, CEO Organic

We’re inevitably going to see diversity and inclusion improvements across the board. Age discrimination is no different. 

We’re already seeing older employees in agencies valued for the additional life experience and emotional intelligence that they can bring. 

We remain a people-driven business and these core skills are increasingly recognised and valued amongst an older cohort.

Age diversity will be further enhanced by agencies looking to form smaller and more nimble multi-disciplinary teams, with older people more easily able to show and apply varied experience that helps clients to solve problems more efficiently.

Rainer_UsselmannRainer Usselmann, Group Head of Commercial, Happy Finish

With the talent market being tight in the creative-tech space, there is a great opportunity for the ‘older talented generation’ to find new ways to stay in the game; provided they can do so at eye-level, and with the tech-savvy that comes as an absolute prerequisite.

See our other predictions:

Predictions 2022: Brands and the metaverse