How Colenso BBDO in New Zealand Is Managing Its Return to the Office

COO Paul Courtney explains the plan

Is your agency or company managing a reopening process? We'd like to hear from you about what your plans are.

As some countries begin to ease restrictions on at-work activities for non-essential businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, Muse is checking in with creative companies to hear about their reopening plans.

Today, we speak with Paul Courtney, COO of Colenso BBDO in New Zealand.

What's your broad plan for reopening the agency?

We were never really closed. Yes, working from home. But we have had plenty on for our clients and helping them get through all the Covid-19 comms and now onto how their brands can show up in this ever-changing world.

What specific precautions are you taking?

We are returning slowly. The WFH technology has worked, so for safety's sake, we are taking our time. Internally, the agency is sanitized, cleaned, hot desked and separated as much as possible.

Do you expect a portion of staff to keep working remotely?

For the next month we are imagining that over half the agency will still WFH. We are treating our people like the hard-working adults they are and allowing a degree of self-management and agile methodology has worked its way into how we operate. The technology is allowing us to not miss a beat.

When do you expect production to open up that will allow you to shoot again? Will it look a lot different than it used to?

We need to be safe, but we can also be clever. An example of this is a recent BMW spot we created with a director stuck at home and briefing him on something he could create at home. It proved to me that when the client, the business leads, creative and production put their heads together, you will be amazed how you can solve even the hardest challenges. So in reality we never stopped creating content; we have just found new ways.

What other limitations will the agency have to deal with that didn't exist pre-pandemic?

Our newfound dependence on the technology. We took the leap towards it and want to keep it going, to create more freedoms and the ability to work remotely, but with this our challenge is culture. It's the fact that culture before this was effortless—we just did it because you have so many great people in the same place, physically. How do you replicate this when apart? Video calls, even with filters, just misses the mark.

What have you learned from WFH that you'll retain as an agency going forward?

The trust you can have in your people to deliver. They don't need to be in the agency for hours to show they are working hard. We will continue to trust our people to manage themselves and others to deliver the best work possible.

Have any particular processes, tools, platforms or services proven useful for the agency during quarantine?

Microsoft Teams, Google Docs and Trello. Three platforms that have made this change possible. And will likely stay. Although we are currently investigating an all in one workflow and resources management tool.

Broadly speaking, what kind of work are your clients asking for right now, and how will returning to the office help you deliver it?

The same as they always have. Work that is effective, has purpose or makes a difference in their customers lives. More specifically, work that has an intersection between digital and physical. Experiences that use the digital to enhance the real-world experience is a great new front to play in.

Where do you see the industry and its creative output in 6-12 months? 

It gets better, stronger, more focused on customers, a closer link between real and digital world experiences. There are still so many huge problems that creative minds can solve.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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