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2020: The Weird Year That Shaped Our Agency

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Chris Jefford at Truant London reflects on the weirdness of 2020 and what that's meant to his agency

2020: The Weird Year That Shaped Our Agency

Truant London's Chris Jefford takes a look back at the weirdness of 2020 and what this has meant for his agency.


Of the nine years that we’ve been running our agency, this one has to be the weirdest. 

Weirder than the year when, for some reason, all birthday cakes were substituted for Viennettas. 

Weirder than the year of the ‘brand poisoning workshop’.

And incredibly, weirder than the one where we won a creative pitch only for the client to realise at our first meeting thereafter that what they really meant to appoint was a media agency.

Those years took some beating, but congratulations 2020, nailed it.

This (never-ending) pandemic has put every business on high-alert and ours is no different. The economic shock has meant that tough commercials decisions have had to be made on an almost daily basis, on our side and on those of our clients. The shifting sands of uncertainty have made long-term planning a thing of the past and short-term hustling a must as we, like many others, have had to flex to the changing needs of clients and try and keep our team together.

The limitations of social distancing have meant that we’ve had to work harder than ever to produce work in evermore inventive ways, and we’ve had to become more focused on the way we keep our own team cohesive and together.

Working from home has proved brilliant for some and mentally straining for others, and we’ve had to provide the right support where we can and ensure that everyone is as happy as they can be given the changes that we’ve seen. And at a senior level, the pressures of trying to find answers at a time where they are in very short supply, has been at times unbearably hard.

And, as a bunch of people, we like a cuddle. The absence of which, has hit us all hard.

Yet, this year has been the year when our business has in many ways, really found its feet, and here are a few highlights. 

We reclaimed our independence. Whilst we will forever be indebted to those who invested in us at a time when we were looking to launch a new agency yet had no cash to do it, the opportunity arose this year for us to buy back our independence which we took. Our agency felt different from the moment the ink was dry and we realised that full independence is the only way that a brand like Truant can prosper, so that was a big moment.

Our home has been reimagined. When we launched the new Truant brand in 2018, we wanted a business that could roam. One that wasn’t hemmed in my traditional office culture, that could fit into client businesses easily, and that could setup camp wherever was most appropriate. Covid-19 prompted a move to a home & roam model, allowing staff to work from home or utilise places and spaces as and when they need them.

We know why we exist. This period has forced us to evaluate everything about our business, and in particular why we do what we do. We exist purely to create a place that people will want to work at forever, and to achieve that we need a business that is responsible, rewarding, respected, and importantly rebellious  - we didn’t start this business to be like everybody else – and these pillars are now embedded amongst our people. 

Our people have come first. With remote working has come a commitment to radical transparency, and this has been fundamental is keeping the people in our business feeling secure and happy. We’ve rewritten our playbooks when it comes to things like holiday time and parental leave and have given all employees a financial stake in the business, reflecting a real step-change in the way we’re looking to involve and reward all of our staff for the long-term.

And that is all translating into being incredibly busy. We’ve picked up a range of business this year, with clients that are helping us grow into the agency we’ve always wanted to work for. Our work for Pepsi Max has seen us demonstrate how seamlessly we can weave music strategy into advertising to great effect. Belazu have leaned on us to help them navigate a world where they are more reliant than ever on B2C to drive topline revenues and is a great example of our advertising and media strategists working hand-in-hand. We’ve been lucky enough to work with the Army Benevolent Fund on resetting the brand and revamping this brilliantly important charity, and we have been working hard in the UAE with Miral on a range of branding and advertising challenges across their portfolio.

There have been near-misses, and ones that got away, that’s the game we play. But the Truant team, with a newly discovered sense of self, have never put in a bad shift. 

We know that this period is far from over, but there is a sense that things are nearing the beginning of the end. This phase will see further evolution I’m sure, but we can take heart from knowing that we’ve made the best of what has been a truly challenging year.

So yeah, a weird one, but one that we will chalk off as having played an enormous role in shaping the business that we go onto be.

2021 to be weirder? I wouldn’t bet against it.

But we’re ready for you.

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Truant London, Wed, 02 Dec 2020 09:25:12 GMT