MediaMonks London’s managing director Martin Verdult on how the agency and its clients are responding to the unprecedented disruption coronavirus is bringing
If we thought our lives were digital before this pandemic hit, we’ve reached another level now that so many of us are living in Covid-19-induced isolation. Much of our screen time has become unavoidable. Brands have had to adjust their marketing accordingly and it seems obvious that digital advertising is more relevant than ever in this new epoch of isolation.
As a digital agency, MediaMonks seems like a company well placed to respond to this situation on behalf of its clients. LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with MediaMonks London managing director Martin Verdult to find out how his team is weathering this storm.
LBB> Generally speaking, how is MediaMonks weathering this storm?
Martin> We’re taking care of our Monks and primarily ensured everyone was comfortable working remotely. In terms of business, I think we've approached this situation with honesty and pragmatism and never lost sight of what is innate to the MediaMonks DNA. We've rolled up our sleeves and are focusing on our clients to see where we can help them. The quick turnaround in the way of working, bold thinking and proactivity in finding fresh and exciting creative solutions that help clients in these challenging times, has been phenomenal. I can see that our investments in culture and agility are paying off.
LBB> Would you say it's fair to say that the more digitally-focused parts of the ad industry have less re-adjusting to do than other parts? If so, why?
Martin> For sure, the digitally focused sectors of the industry have seen a huge surge in demand. It was already well placed for communicating with customers, which is underlined while we’re all in isolation. To be honest, I think it's not just about being digital-focused but also about the mentality of the agency, plus the way agencies are set-up. The agencies with an adaptable structure and flexible teams will make it through.
LBB> How have you found the switch to the new normal? What have been the key changes?
Martin> At first it was clearly disconcerting, not just for clients who are struggling for clarity as to what it means for their business, but also for our Monks. But we do what we can do and to a certain degree I think a survival mechanism kicked in pretty quickly.The London office is loving their virtual drinks, pub quizzes and we even made a Spotify playlist. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/36SvtrtTOnipcJDG6XRFQS We also implement a buddy system for all people working at home, and with our ‘Come Dine With Me’ sessions, one of our colleagues cooks at home and the others judge - a true ‘Monks MasterChef’ series. We design and embrace new modes of collaboration, and imagine and reimagine new experiences at pace.
It’s time to start thinking about the full power of digital when it comes to content production - especially in these times, when traditional production is under immense pressure to keep up with the pace and scale of technological change. We make more with less and come up with new ways of repurposing huge libraries of assets.
But with this change comes opportunity to reimagine new modes of production that enhance the impact of our creative capability. As a response to film production sets being put on hold by the rules of safety, we reimagined the way it's done, including solutions in studios, but even more so by looking to animation, VFX and CGI to realise high quality content.
A strong maker culture makes our Monks come out of bed every day and approach their work with the same energy and craftsmanship as before. I think we have already learned a lot about ourselves, our ability to innovate and create. But also I think the combination of collaborating in isolation has reinforced just how much we actually love working with each other. A recent project we have done for Nike is a great example of this collaboration. Across the team at W+K, and a number of our global offices in LATAM, Europe and the US we have helped to set up a professional live streaming studio for Nike's trainer. And that all in 48 hours!
LBB> How have your clients' needs changed since the coronavirus outbreak began?
Martin> I think more than ever, they need help navigating digital and finding the right answers to their customers' questions. The rapid shift in messaging to consumers’ needs creative production muscle. Strategically they need support with the preparation for different stages of their campaigns and to be ready to respond well to what insights and data give them.
Clients are looking to us to solve their live action challenges and want help on their Covid responses. Briefs have a short-term objective as much as a long-term one. We see that clients are cutting budgets but they are shifting to digital, animations or reusing assets. Their target groups are at home talking to each other via digital technology, and use home-delivery like never before. We saw clients briefly put big ecommerce projects on ice, but they were deemed mission critical, so they have already come back. Everyone is jumping on the digital transformation bandwagon now running at high speed.
Without key calendar moments that traditionally give brands opportunities for storytelling, they have to find new purpose but also not lose sight of the importance to find small opportunities to celebrate with consumers.
Finally, and as uncomfortable as it may be when sitting in a metaphorical bunker, our clients still need the understanding of what now matters to consumers, help navigating the new online communities and channels that are emerging.
LBB> In the name of keeping things helpful and positive - what can other parts of the industry learn from the way you've done things?
Martin> Well, I think the answer is in your question. Make sure you remain helpful at any time. Not everyone is working within the same conditions as you. It's challenging for clients and your staff and together we need to get out of this. Also you're not alone, we're collectively out of our comfort zone, but we know that's where, as an industry, we do some of our best work. I'm convinced we will emerge more flexible and therefore, stronger.