While we understand that these are difficult times and there seems to be no end to the lockdown; digital agencies continue to provide their expertise to brands in order to guide their brand communication strategies with responsible messaging at the heart of it.
In our endeavor to bring views that matter and completely different, Medianews4u spoke to Preetham Venkky, President – 22feet Tribal Worldwide a part of the mighty DDB Mudra Group to understand the nuances of agency life during the lockdown and the introduction of work from home along with the many new normal posts the lockdown.
Tell us about how the business for the agency been shaping up? What are some recent achievements that you would want to highlight?
With existing clients, our conversations revolve around assessing and planning to move their businesses to the right side of the digital marketing maturity. Common themes include Digital Strategy (relevant to COVID-19), Digital Transformation, and Integrated Experiences.
Quite recently, we’ve won the digital mandate for TTK Prestige and are super excited to set up, launch, and sustain their presence on social channels. We also won the Digital and Social Media mandate for GITAM University.
While COVID-19 has struck all of us very hard… brands are still being a part of the conversation by responsible messaging… tell us about some of the campaigns that are credited to the agency?
#StayAtHome is an extremely important directive and message that shouldn’t be understated. While most brands have created content around #StayAtHome, we took a very interesting approach for one of the clients: Kingfisher. Our team created assets that showed the Kingfisher bird perched on a branch instead of it with fluttering wings. The message was both simple yet clear.
For Reebok, we developed a Work OUT from Home campaign. The #WorkOUTfromHome videos on Instagram are a series of virtual workouts by Reebok India brand ambassadors – Katrina Kaif and Malaika Arora – and Reebok India’s certified trainers. These workout videos are a mix of core strengthening, HIIT, pilates, yoga, and stretching.
How have brands changed or modified their communication strategy? And what has been your advice to all your clients?
Most brands we work with have responded quite maturely to the new normal. Our discussions and counsel to clients have been to go beyond a communication strategy, and focus on an action strategy. We need to answer the questions: How should their brand purpose evolve during this extreme time? Based on the category of business, there’s been a mixed bag of both strategic and tactical responses.
At its core, any response from a brand has to be focussed on the well-being of the customer. I like to call it the new – ‘COVID-19s Hierarchy of Needs’. This can be achieved either through their adjacent products (retrofitting to produce sanitizers, face-masks, etc.), their services (deliveries, essential services, etc.) or content that informs and educates.
During these hard times how are you keeping up the morale of your teams that are working remotely? How are you making sure about the mental health of employees so that the lockdown doesn’t drive people crazy?
From the start, we’ve encouraged all conference calls to be video calls. As visual beings, it’s important to ensure that interactions with others are with the subtle nuances of facial expressions and body language – video calls are the next best medium. Video calls ensure virtual proximity; which gives you the best resolution of interacting with a fellow colleague as opposed to talking into a visual void.
I personally make sure to have a daily video conference with my leadership team to discuss people-related topics. On Fridays, appropriately titled Zeers(Cheers on Zoom – and then MS Teams), we have an office-wide catch up in the evening with everyone on the video conference. There’s just one rule, no one is allowed to discuss work.
Our LLC team has been doing a fantastic job of ensuring that they reach out to every team member proactively at least once a week. As a group, we’ve tied up with a partner to ensure that anyone from the team can reach out to them anonymously to openly express their challenges with stress, anxiety and any other aspect of their mental well-being. We’ve seen a few team members use their services as well.
What is your experience of working from home?
It has been unparalleled, to say the least. Not having the ability to meet your team face to face does have its challenges. After the first week though, my habits and rhythm have adapted to the new normal. As a group, we started working from home at least two weeks before the call by the government. This allowed us to learn and adapt on the fly.
Face to face meetings has been replaced by Team calls. In the real world, I always had my cabin door open. To simulate this online, my calendar remains open and team members can ping me on MS Teams based on my status. We’ve also begun using work management tools more effectively to ensure that agility is not lost despite the friction that remote working presents.
As far as possible, I’ve tried to ensure that start, lunch, and dinner timings are exactly what they were before we started work from home.
Being a digital agency how are you making sure that you’re ahead of the curve in these times of uncertainty and crisis?
We suspect there’ll be two fundamental shifts in the way we need to change during and post the crisis: Our Skills and Our Service Offerings. The marketing requirements from clients are bound to evolve as we progress through the rest for the year. We’ll see a tremendous acceleration in transforming our client’s business digitally whilst building truly offline-online integrated experiences.
Keeping the changing requirement in view, we’ll face the need to scale some of our offerings more rapidly than others. The best way to achieve this would be through up-skilling and by adding skills. As an organization, we have a renewed focus on training our existing teams. We currently have weekly training sessions through Masterclasses and Spotlight from subject matter experts.
What has been the impact of COVID-19 on your business and the ability to generate new business?
It’s no secret that the agency business has been impacted because of COVID-19. We have by no means been immune to it either. Despite the challenging times, we’ve maintained our commitment to our clients and have a robust business continuity plan in place. Since we have clients across a diverse set of categories, we’ve had some clients who’ve continued to ensure their presence in their customer’s minds; while a few have reduced their scope because of a direct business impact attributed to the lockdown. An honest effort continued support, and pro-activeness from the teams has ensured that we haven’t lost any clients due to COVID-19.
For new business – brainstorming on Teams, collaboration using workflow management tools, and pitches on video conference has become the new normal. On average, we are still pitching at least once a week. Even during these times, we’ve gone onto win clients (Prestige, GITAM University) and have begun delivering work as well.
How will businesses shape up post the lockdown?
Leading indicators suggest a V / W / Square-root shaped recovery. While some demand has been lost, most demand would be deferred. Deferred demand usually leads to rapid recovery.
In a few categories, one must treat the current situation as The Great Reset. The SARS pandemic provided an undue advantage to Alibaba. Demonetisation helped PAYTM and likes. COVID-19 will surely create new businesses or new business models.
Post the lockdown, we see three forces shape businesses: Technology, Data, and Automation. Businesses will have to use the above forces rapidly (at an unprecedented speed) to re-strategize their business and ensure their consumer’s physical, mental, and social well-being. Online deliveries, contactless services, and community-linked effort will allow businesses to become the new category leaders.