VMLY&R Italy’s CEO Simona Maggini tells LBB's Alex Reeves how remote working reinvigorated the “fighting spirit” of the agency’s new business efforts
The reality of Covid-19 ramped up quickly for many around the world, as step-by-step we awakened to the situation, but in Italy - the first epicentre for the virus in the western world - the change came as a slap around the face without much warning.
Simona Maggini, VMLY&R Italy’s CEO, suddenly found herself considering the soon-to-be-declared pandemic’s impact at around the end of February. Aware that the agency’s business would be threatened, she was soon worrying about new business - her team had been invited on pitches that they’d have to approach in new ways. “Agency life, especially on a pitch, is all about the team, the sharing and the collaboration,” she says. “Therefore I was quite concerned the physical distance was going to affect that in a negative way. What’s more, the focus and concentration we usually have when pitching or when developing a new project has been put at serious risk given the overwhelming conditions.”
Italy’s inevitable lockdown came on March 9th, but clients didn’t pause for long. And VMLY&R had a pitch to go ahead with only a few days later. “Companies in the market are very pragmatic, business must go on,” says Simona. She and her team worked to guarantee their clients continuity reorganising the agency for remote work as so many around the world now have. Overall, she was soon reassured by how the company was responding. “I am very proud and even surprised by VMLY&R Italy’s reaction. Everybody is committed, passionate and serious about all this situation and never giving in! We have since created, produced and aired new campaigns for several brands, always working remotely.”
Her new business team knew what priorities needed to be protected more than ever right now. “We have been able to set up a way of working which never compromised on the key assets for us: teamwork and team members' contributions,” says Simona. “We really felt like being together and there was never a drop in communication or concentration. And while part of this is related to efficient processes and speed, the rest is all thanks to the agency’s people and this fighting spirit we share and nurture every day.”
Now she’s gotten used to the new normal of pitching, Simona’s noticed a combination of different needs and expectations from clients towards creative agencies. “The situation is complex and cannot be nailed down to a simplified picture,” she says, but she’s noticed threads running through what brands are looking for: “Business continuity, consulting, monitoring, creative sensitivity, guidance. An agency today, more than ever, must have skin in the game, understanding and speed of action.”
Meeting these expectations under the new circumstances was the sort of work that gave Simona and her agency (as well as prospective clients) a laser-sharp purpose, she found. “Surprisingly enough, we re-discovered the special magic of a pitch: that moment when as an agency you are expected to express a relevant point of view and outstanding ideas and as a client you are open and ready to challenge the obvious. Even more so in current times, we are facing every pitch with a very solid but straight approach, trying to offer clients our best talented thinkers and creatives and our honest opinion as professionals."
It’s paid off for the newly remote-pitching VMLY&R - they’ve won new clients already. Simona explains what she believes made it all work for these brands: “It goes back to the conviction and focus we showed and proved through rock-solid strategy set up and unexpected big ideas. Needless to say the passion and the quality of the pitching teams has always been and will always be instrumental for any achievement or win. Even more when working remotely.”