People and Patience: A Recipe for Global Communications Amid Covid-19

Creating real solutions, not just ads

Although this is a global pandemic, the consequences are very different at local levels. Therefore, the biggest challenge will be how we make decisions and implement practices globally, while keeping track of everyone and addressing their specific needs.

First and foremost, people. That has always been our top priority as agency leaders, but now it is more than ever because people do the work, which brings clients, which brings the possibility of doing business. We're seeing agencies get creative with virtual bingo and happy hours to connect with teams at personal levels. We are also seeing extended community connections, as companies find unique ways to support the local businesses, like Merch Aid, which creates merchandise for small companies in need. If people are happy, they will create good work. If the work is good, more clients will come knocking at your doors. That's how you build a business and get through tough times.

But one of the things we should all have, no matter what the office or the market may be, is patience. This situation is so unusual and shocking that no one has the right answer to anything. What sounded like a good idea yesterday may not sound like a good idea today. And that's OK. This is a defining moment for brands and agencies. We both need to demonstrate maturity, serenity and the ability to do, adapt, learn and keep doing. There is no room to be shallow, gimmicky or unresourceful.

Also, the definition of "work" is extremely important. As an industry, we shouldn't just be talking about advertising. We sell ideas. We are in the business of creativity, not in the business of advertising. That's why, more than ever, we should stop asking for briefs and start asking for problems. Most of the time, advertising briefs come with the solution that the client thinks is right for the business problem they have. A 30-second ad or a series of OOH ads leaves no room for real business solutions that can do the job and save our partners (not just clients) a lot of money. Anheuser-Busch InBev has redirected $5 million of its sports and entertainment marketing spend to the American Red Cross to support the fight against the pandemic. This is one example of creative partnerships working as a response to the needs of this new scenario. 

With everyone's experiences being so different, we should rethink what real wealth in the world is and which values always prevail, even in such critical situations as the ones we are experiencing. The impact of event cancellation and shifting consumption habits will undoubtedly be a huge challenge ahead for all of us as communicators. We need to think together with our brand partners to identify each brand's true role and value within the communities they serve. It's no longer enough to just say what purpose you serve. People, and society in general, expect facts. The transparency, empathy and solidarity of brands will be fundamental in delivering messages that translate the relevance of their purpose. Communicating with extreme sensitivity and responsibility to ensure that the economy of a country does not stop.

Production crews and creatives alike are creating new solutions to execute complex ideas in simple and easier ways. Sharing our experiences and challenges with others is something we should do especially now that we are all going through the same thing. How we communicate and work together in the coming months, both locally and globally, will be important in helping us help each other again the way we used to.

Now more than ever, multinational agencies need to be one team. One team internally in each office and one team with our clients, to share their problems and propose solutions on the go. One team as a global organization, so everything we do translates into a consistent way of thinking and working. 

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Rico Honegger
Rico Honegger is managing director of David Miami.

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