Covid-19 is having a huge impact on people and businesses globally. The use of the word unprecedented feels inadequate to describe the pace of change. To move beyond opinion we made the decision to commission the first of our surveys to take the pulse of the marketing and advertising sector only a week ago, but even that feels like another time – one just before the latest round of enforced shut-downs and increased social distancing.
This survey and the results focused on the impact on agency search and selection, or pitching, from both a marketer and an agency perspective. The results, presented here, provided some really interesting findings around how we’re trying to adapt as an industry, the differences between marketers and agencies, and how far we’ve already travelled.
The first question – asked of marketers – was this:
43% said they would try and postpone, which reflects the general – and expected – sudden change in priorities across marketers as business conditions were rapidly and brutally transformed.
We’ve certainly been seeing just this kind of shift with several of our clients at TrinityP3 – where many have been focused on the move to remote working and the immediate communication tasks that need to be addressed in the changed market.
What is interesting though, is that 57% of marketers said they would still either proceed as normal (even more difficult to do now) or proceed with some changes to the pitching process.
This is encouraging to see at such an early stage. Our view is that putting everything going on hold across the industry for however long the pandemic measures last is neither realistic nor necessary. We did expect – and we still hear every day – some reluctance and nervousness around embracing remote working for the pitch process, but it already seems to be giving way to a ‘let’s-get-on-with-it’ attitude, even before the crash course that so many marketers have taken in Zoom in the last week.
When agencies were asked the equivalent question, their attitude was far more gung-ho, with 96% saying that they were ready to dive in to remote-working pitches right away. Predictable perhaps, but lots of the evidence we’ve been seeing in pitches and presentations from agencies in the last week alone shows that agencies are off and running here – and that this is just another challenge to which creativity and innovation can be applied.
The second question, which was about access to premises and the possibility of face-to-face meetings, feels like it’s been rather overtaken by events. This week governments have been clear that anyone who can work from home should be, and our experience is that all but the most critical functions of most marketing organisations have already moved to working either remotely or in weekly shifts. You can see this happening already in the answers from marketers with only a few holding out at first for the continuation of face-to-face.
Agencies stayed a little more hopeful for a little longer, but we suspect if we ran this same survey this week the responses would be much more marked.
So, there you have it – working from home it is! (And quite right too, obviously.)
It’s the third and final question that starts to show what the potential is for the industry to embrace a whole new way of working.
This is what we asked marketers:
This was the key test. Did marketers feel confident that they could assess the suitability and capabilities of an agency properly through remote working? If they didn’t then it almost doesn’t matter how much we at TrinityP3 talk about how successfully we’ve embraced remote working for regional pitches for years – we wouldn’t be ethical to manage a pitch until the marketing team has the confidence to make the ultimate decision. It would be a huge waste of everyone’s time and effort.
The answer was striking – 61% of marketers are already there, saying that remote working either wouldn’t make a lot of difference or would actually be an interesting test of the candidate agencies.
As for the agencies – they were more than confident, with 87% looking forward to the challenge of a new way of pitching.
Except, in so very many ways, it’s not that new. Plenty of global and regional pitches are already managed in this way at various critical stages, and whilst at some point in the process some people do get onto a plane to meet each other, it’s probably more because they can and they think they kind of should, rather than it actually being necessary.
What we’ve been managing and seeing this week – as previous pitch processes roll into the WFH environment, and other new pitch processes kick off entirely remotely – is an immediate step change in how agencies and marketers are approaching a new communications channel. The level of comfort from those who have dived into the new world is a far cry from where many started last week.
Properly managed, we know a Zoom pitch process can yield just the same kind of sustainable, long-lasting and suitable marketer-agency relationships as a standard, face-to-face process can. It takes a bit longer. It requires both flexibility and discipline in equal measure from both parties to ensure every important conversation is had along the way. And it is easier with a decent NBN connection.
It won’t ever be right for some marketers, of course. And we must all respect that.
At TrinityP3 we keep re-designing and refining our process for remote pitching as we work throughout this period, reflecting the requirements, skill sets and enthusiasm of marketers and agencies which will no doubt also continue to develop at pace.
This way we can all work out, as an industry, not only how to keep business as usual running, but also what business as ‘usual’ might actually look like when we eventually get to the other side.