“We anticipate that how we work will be forever changed from this point forward.”
Jill Nykoliation is the CEO of Juniper Park\TBWA in Toronto. Like millions of others around the world, working from home is the new norm for her and her agency.
In a bid to make Juniper Park employees feel more comfortable with their working environments, the agency created a customisable template and asked everybody on the team to create their own personalised desktops, which, according to Jill, “enabled us to instantly wrap our arms around one another, even though we are apart”.
Jill tells me that the Juniper Park team “has embraced WFH extremely well”. The agency is leaning all of the digital tools that many of us spend much of days on at the moment - Workplace from Facebook, WebEx, Hangouts, etc. But this newfound reliance on digital tools isn’t merely a BandAid to keep things ticking until they go back to normal - Jill believes people should be “embracing and mastering” these tools in a bid to make ourselves better once this crisis passes. “There will likely be an element of remote working that will stay - people won’t always be in the room,” she says. “And that’s okay because we have the necessary tools and skills to navigate this now. And the speed and agility at which we are working during this pivot will also permeate all aspects of what we do.”
That isn’t to say that in-person communication will become any less essential in the future due to the highly visual way in which ad agencies create work for their clients. “We pin things on boards, we create visual theatre to surround ourselves and our clients. We bathe in the ideas.” The agency is now working out ways to replicate such actions with digital means.
What’s more, agencies can no longer speak face-to-face with their clients. A huge part of what an agency does is the selling of big, brave, bold - and often expensive - ideas. And they’re now having to make full impact without the presence of their physical selves. “Video tools are helpful,” says Jill. “But they aren’t the same as in person. You need to be even ‘bigger’. For example, when I used to teach spinning, I found I had to exude far more energy when leading a small class to get people going vs. a large class.”
With regards to conversations with clients, Jill is frank in her thoughts. “Be useful,” she says. “Communicating through a crisis is pivotal.” The agency’s focus is helping clients swiftly map out how to respond to the crisis in a sincere way. “This isn’t a time for selling,” she adds. “It’s a time for helping.” An example of one of their clients exercising this train of thought is the website building platform GoDaddy, which has been helping small businesses pivot to online.
Once the strategic challenge of helping clients pivot through this initial period of human and economic shock, it’s then about simultaneously mapping the next pivot: “When people do embrace this ‘new normal’”, says Jill. “A third pivot will come as we begin to understand the true impact of this crisis on our economy and culture. Clients are looking at immediate contingency and recovery plans. In turn, we know consumer insight and culture, so our unique contribution is leveraging this insight to help them navigate the new reality both strategically and creatively.”
But for now, Jill is grateful for the technology that we have at our fingertips that allows us to see each other on a daily basis. On top of the reassuring nature of Juniper Park’s personalised desktop initiative, the agency has its own ‘Pirate Huddle’ (all-staff) every other day where they share personal milestones, client successes and overall wins in a bid to instil a sense of calm amidst the negativity that’s prevalent right now. They also share ways to practice self-care and emphasise its importance as our working lives have swiftly bled into our home lives.
“I can’t imagine trying to lead people through this without seeing them,” Jill says. “As everything around us is shifting – literally everything – we should resist the temptation to look back to what was. Don’t lead through a rear view mirror. Yesterday is behind us. Let reality be reality.
“This is a time to move forward and ask ourselves how we want to shape our minds, behaviours, and businesses for the new unwritten future.”