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Communication tools and strategies that are helping the advertising industry function smoothly during the lockdown

Communication tools and strategies that are helping the advertising industry function smoothly during the lockdown

​Rana Barua, CEO, Havas Group India:

​Rana Barua, CEO, Havas Group India:

We are all trying to get into a routine of working closely in a respectful and disciplined way with all our colleagues and clients. Trying to help each other, figure best solutions, engaging on all issues, resolving challenges – it is quite an upheaval task but we are all in it together. We must be patient and not rush things – it will not happen. So best is to figure each client’s issues and needs and tailor solutions accordingly.

I think both Zoom and Teams as applications and modes of communication have magnified and multiplied by several notches. Also, one is connecting and engaging far more than ever before.

Keep all communication simple and do not pretend – it is business as usual. So engage, understand, listen and have a sense of humour as this is indeed trying and challenging times. No one can say that he/she has perfected the art of WFH – every day is a learning. We must respect the time and state of mind.

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​Aditya Kanthy, MD & CEO, DDB Mudra Group:

​Aditya Kanthy, MD & CEO, DDB Mudra Group:

COVID-19 has brought unforeseen challenges, for all of us as citizens of the world and as a community.

When the DDB Mudra Group transitioned to having a majority of our people working remotely, it was a big change and I am pleased to say that despite some challenges, it has gone smoother than anticipated. And if there’s one thing aplenty, it is the warmth and connection between colleagues, clients and partners to come out the other side stronger than ever before.

This crisis has forced us to reflect deeply as people and as companies. It’s inspiring to see how our people moved quickly to develop insights, come up with ideas and create them with our technology and production capabilities to assist our community, clients and their customers in this new environment.

I am also extremely proud of our people because given the scale of the challenges that COVID-19 is posing at home and at work, each one of us at DDB Mudra Group is proactively engaging with clients to offer them any help they need to tide over these times or working together with them to contribute to the community.

What is immensely helpful is DDB’s huge global footprint, as we are constantly in touch with one another, learning from each market and applying these lessons to our own realities. Because wherever we are in the world, we are all going through it together.

As the outbreak upends timelines and traditional work practices, our people have taken advantage of remote working tools to meet project timelines and continue the great work we are doing for our clients seamlessly.

We also have DDBFromHome, an online resource where people can find the latest communications from both DDB and Omnicom leadership, and resources about COVID-19. We also share helpful perspectives and thought leadership developed by DDB offices across the network, to help our teams and clients stay safe, connected and informed. There is a great deal of work that has happened on understanding behaviours, communities and connections in light of COVID-19.

Creative companies need something more than your average engagement plan. If creativity is intelligence and having fun, then keeping that spirit up when people are working from home takes work. Going beyond work, we have video calls celebrating recent promotions and birthdays, just so we can see each other’s smiles, wave to each other’s kids and amuse ourselves with that occasional pet jumping onto the screen.

The agency ecosystem has so many young people living away from their families and we need to make sure we all still feel connected together as the DDB Mudra Group.

Take for instance, the production team at 22feet Tribal WW who are proactively conducting a series of masterclasses to help our people learn something new. We also have Som, an amazing young planner, take charge and run fun online quizzes for our people. Rukmini from our Delhi 22feet Tribal WW office made a hilarious video of the many moods of our team’s WFH situation. Debjani and Anchal from our business teams give a surprise video call to one person in the evening just for a quick catch up. We talk often, we laugh together. Everyone is doing their bit. But it is undoubtedly a difficult time and when we need it, we can lean on experts who offer our employees free 24x7, confidential mental health counselling services.

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​Pinaki Bhattacharya, SVP & National Planning Director, Wunderman Thompson India:

​Pinaki Bhattacharya, SVP & National Planning Director, Wunderman Thompson India:

I think the one thing which is key in dealing with any challenging situation is your attitude. As a collective at Wunderman Thompson we approached the situation with a ‘we gotta do what we gotta do’ kind of attitude. In this case, it translated to not losing sight of our deliverables and commitments to our brands and clients while keeping the well-being and safety of our families paramount. Working from home is not the easiest as personal and professional boundaries get blurred and it takes some practice to set it right. I think all of us are learning new hacks, trying different routines to make things work- for our families, for our colleagues and our clients. Two weeks into the new way of working, I feel things are getting smoother and better. I have a confession though - contrary to all those social media posts one reads about how people are finding time to introspect, or revive forgotten hobbies and binge on content…; I haven’t had any such luck, or time, to be more truthful.

Technology to the rescue! I cannot imagine how we would have dealt with this situation if it had happened say, a little over a decade back. None of the tools we use today were available back then. Now, for most of our meetings we use Microsoft Teams -- it’s very easy to set up meetings, have the meetings, share files, etc.

Most of my working day is spent on it now. We meet clients, have our briefings, we have our jamming sessions or just catch-ups -- all on MS Teams. Then of course the inescapable WhatsApp! We have various task-oriented groups which get formed and disbanded after the task is over. And good old mobile phones. So it’s really a phalanx of communication tools at work.

Communication is key in these circumstances. Reaching out and checking up on each other is so important when you are distanced from your colleagues and also feeling vulnerable because of the pandemic. I make sure that I speak to most of my colleagues every day. And not about work alone- having agenda-less conversations also helps. These are all to keep the feeling of community alive- that is what keeps the morale from flagging.

Also it helps us understand that we are all dealing with the same things- all of us have to do the dishes and have to write the deck as well.

Finally, it’s important that every team member feels that the organization has their back and is fully ready to support them in these trying times.

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Amit Wadhwa, President, Dentsu Impact:

Amit Wadhwa, President, Dentsu Impact:

The lockdown came with a series of challenges that none of us were prepared for. While work from home for some might have been a reality but not with the entire office working that way and when it comes to the creative line of business, it gets even more challenging. But as we moved into day two of the WFH it started throwing some pleasant surprises. We saw efficiency levels going up, people getting a lot more structured, respect for others time and strangely people started appreciating each other a lot more. With most brands knowing the importance of staying relevant and continuing to advertise, especially in the digital medium, the workload is certainly high if not as high, but the teams have managed ways of responding to this new task pretty efficiently. I am sure this will in some way redefine the future way of working too.

Microsoft teams and Zoom are two tools that have become lifelines for us as our face to face meetings, briefings, discussions and brainstorms happen over them. The only difference is that we need to pre-decide the time in advance. But as we move into week two of WFH, people have started to manage this like a pro.

Work has been happening and sometimes at a breakneck pace. Add to that the fact that you can’t step out for a break and nor are you meeting your colleagues, whom you usually spend more time with than family. This isn’t the ideal scenario and certainly not one we are used to, which will certainly lead to a few gloomy moments/ days. While the video calls etc is a good tool but they are largely about work discussions. Just to break this gloom and monotony, we have started a ‘Lockdown challenge’ within Dentsu Impact. The challenge is simple – in this doom-gloom and I can’t move out of home scenario, there are some positives that each one of us have been picking, whether it is getting back to reading, cooking, exercising, spending time with family etc. Each and every one of us has something interesting to talk about. I started by sharing my moments of delight during the lockdown (I am pretty efficient cook by now and am getting better and better at FIFA20) and nominated two of my colleagues for the same. They in-turn share their ‘happy lockdown moment’ (many through pictures and videos) and nominate two more people. We are in our 5th day of the challenge and have come across some very interesting stories, but more importantly it feels like we are meeting each one of us on a daily basis on something that has nothing to do with work and has a positive vibe to it.

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Ranjit Raina, CEO, Geometry Encompass:

Ranjit Raina, CEO, Geometry Encompass:

In some ways Geometry Encompass got lucky because we were a little better prepared. Because WPP had seen the impact on network companies across APAC we were already prepared with remote working protocols. Our own Geometry offices in China, Korea and Japan had been sharing their experiences to help us prepare , this was a huge advantage for us. We had moved to 100% remote working from March 17 so we were well prepared to manage WFH. Across the agency we have formed smaller groups , each with well-defined tasks so we can stay focused. All the groups stay in touch with each other and we try and communicate as much as possible, so even though we are working remotely we are not isolated. Like everyone we are all learning as we go along.

Whatsapp and Outlook have now been joined by Zoom and MS Teams – I am a huge Zoom fan and recommend it to all.

We are all helping each other at Geometry Encompass. And we do that by staying in touch. Communication is the key , we try and communicate as much as possible and try and get some facetime in our daily chats. Seeing your colleagues and team mates helps break the sense of isolation and monotony. Even though we are all working from home , we are all staying focussed and maintaining a sense of urgency when it comes to reverts and plans. The sense of urgency helps keep everyone focussed. When it comes to morale our secret weapon is Roshan ! We have a digital engagement planned for the agency with Roshan anchoring it!

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Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO & Co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea:

Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO & Co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea:

It’san unfortunate time for everyone across the globe. Organisations and individuals across sectors are re-looking at their business models from a nimble lens. At TheSmallBigIdea, we had an existing work from home policy and a well structured SOP around it. All we had to do was extend it to the entire organization for a longer duration. In times like these strong SOPs with even stronger implementation comes to the rescue. Its been about two weeks running with these process and I have nothing to complain.

For daily tasks we use simple, accessible tools like google sheets which are monitored by the managers to track delivery. Special focus is given to the new joinees, because these times can be very overwhelming for them. We do a quick call in the morning and in the evening with the key people to check if there are any challenges and escalations. Additionally, to ensure everybody is well equipped, and there is seamless operation of daily activities, we have sent requisite devices to everyone’s homes. Along with devices we have sent all necessary paraphernalia to ensure a working condition. We have extended claims on any extra internet pack being purchased.

While we are ensuring work must go on seamlessly, in times like these there is a greater need for engagement and downtime among the team members. At times there is a tendency to get deeply engrossed with work that one forgets eventually these are humans who are used to interacting with many individuals and now are confined to the walls of their homes.We have planned an interesting digital activity called ‘Digital Wow Wednesdays’ for people to come together and play activities digitally. We have encouraged managers to keep speaking with the team members, especially ones staying away from the family or the ones new to the organization.

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