Introducing Ad Age's Office Hours newsletter, tracking the transforming workplace
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The way we work is rapidly evolving. In a matter of months, the pandemic has forever changed how we communicate, where we conduct business, the technology we use and how we juggle home and work life. There’s also been a much-needed spotlight thrown on the makeup of the workforce and the efforts being done to make the ad world a more-inclusive place. Every Thursday, Ad Age will tackle a different issue regarding the way these changes are impacting our professional lives—from mental health and wellness to creating new jobs, re-imaging the leadership ranks and what the new office space will look like.
Are outdoor spaces the new grand lobbies?
For our first edition, I chatted with David DeMuth, CEO of Detroit-based agency Doner, about the future of agency business practices. Doner is in an interesting position as it thinks about re-opening its doors to employees. The lease on its 110,000 square-foot building in Michigan is up at the end of the year, giving DeMuth the opportunity to consider how agencies will work in a post-pandemic world.
“If you walk into our building today, you walk into an enormous lobby with a giant staircase to the second floor,” he says. “It is impressive, and big, and a statement.” While DeMuth thinks employees will want to work in a cool space that is comfortable and modern, he doesn’t think you will see the big-statement lobby in the future. “It will feel a little frivolous,” he says. For a new office space, DeMuth is considering those that have outdoor spaces and feel more like a campus.
Doner currently plans to have employees begin returning to the office in stages after Labor Day, but DeMuth says that will be contingent on several factors, including schools opening.
“I’m not going to ask anyone to do something they are uncomfortable doing,” he says. “There’s going to come a day soon when clients are going to want to meet in person. There are people who are going to be comfortable doing that and those that aren’t, and we aren’t going to judge either way.”
DeMuth says he is still a big believer of connecting in person and he points to younger employees who might live in smaller apartments who miss the office the most. “I like to walk around the office; I like to poke my head in on people and look at the work. I miss that a lot and sometimes I feel a little disconnected because of that.”
At the same time, DeMuth says working from home has allowed people to structure their work day around their personal life, which in many cases include their kids’ schedules. This is something he expects will continue even after people return to the office.
DeMuth is currently thinking about how to train new employees and entry-level employees remotely. “It will be really important to make them feel part of the organization.” And as people work more from home, he says, “What is the new professionalism?”
Doner has tapped a series of software tools to help with onboarding new clients and facilitate strategic work sessions in a way that feels like you are sitting around a table in person. “In the pursuit of new business I think those things will be differentiators to clients.”
The argument for in-person
OMD USA CEO John Osborn doesn’t expect his agency’s employees to start returning to the office for another few weeks, and even then, it will be optional. In an interview during Ad Age’s Remotely, Osborn said re-opening will require the cooperation of every employee. “The only way we will be successful is if we keep safety first, we are responsible to all, and last but not least we do it together … if one person falls off that bicycle it can have an effect that could really damage the successful reopening of every single individual.”
While there have been plenty of people both inside and outside the ad industry that have questioned the need to return to a traditional workplace at all, once the pandemic subsides, Osborn said there is still a role for a physical office in the ad world. “The idea of media planning, soup to nuts, through the entire funnel, there is an element of collaboration when you are sitting around that communal circle table that actually does help facilitate that process.” It isn’t a “have to have,” Osborn said, but it works well in that way. (Watch his full take on returning to the office, starting at 18:08.)
NBCUniversal’s diversity pledge
NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde is committing to having a 50 percent-diverse workforce, the Los Angeles Times reported. Conde did not specify a timeframe. Currently, 27 percent of the workforce across NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC are people of color.
Elsewhere, a group of more than 100 Black filmmakers, including Park Pictures’ Savanah Leaf and Prettybird’s Calmatic, has teamed up to launch Change the Lens, a new initiative calling for 15 percent Black representation at all levels of production, Ad Age's Alexandra Jardine writes.
The advertising and marketing industries are experiencing some of the highest levels of workplace burnout due to working from home amid the pandemic, according to a Fishbowl survey released last week. The ad industry is only second to the tech industry, with 73 percent of industry professionals saying they are experiencing burnout. And Madison Avenue had the highest percentage of employees saying the burnout has caused them to look for another job (44 percent).
Jobs, jobs, jobs
But there is some good news for the ad industry. Ad Age’s Datacenter broke down last week’s Bureau of Labor Statistics job report and found that U.S. advertising, public relations and related services employment rose by 5,000 jobs in June, marking the first increase since employment began falling in March amid the pandemic. The industry lost 36,700 jobs since the pandemic started and ad agencies cut 1,800 jobs in May. Datacenter’s Bradley Johnson predicts ad agency staffing in June will increase for the first time since February. Latest figures here.
Ahead of Ad Age's Small Agency Conference & Awards, which kick off on Aug. 3, David Krupp, CEO, Americas at Billups, writes for Ad Age that independent advertising and media shops should have the equivalent of American Express' Small Business Saturday. Krupp writes that the industry should celebrate small agencies on the third Monday of each September to provide opportunities for small agencies to get an audience with brands who could benefit from their services.