BIMA Scotland Digital Leaders Roundtable: an overview

By Rachel Arthur
17 Apr 2020

It was a packed Zoom room – with attendees ranging from some of Scotland’s largest agencies, some of the new challengers, and beyond – for our first virtual BIMA Scotland Digital Leaders Roundtable hosted by Mark Probert, Managing Partner at Cactus and Agencynomics. Here are his notes:

Challenges were varied, from: uncertainty of how to approach new business, how to market when not much budget now, ensuring client quality doesn’t suffer from not being able to physically meet with them, does working from home really work?

The main two themes, though, were clear: 

What will the agency working model be in the future in terms of physical presence/location?

How to best market when brands in the main aren’t spending and reducing budgets?

In terms of marketing, general consensus was to:

Keep focusing on existing clients, servicing them well, offering strategic direction to them, but not discounting fees. Stay close to all relationships you currently have, and reconnect with past pitch losses/quieter opportunities that perhaps may need you again.

Not chase new new business, invest time in the solid relationships you have currently, new new can come in the next few weeks once each agency has stabilised itself, it’s team resource and it’s client relationships.

Be true to your current market and offer help, pay forward.

In terms of the way of future working, some people were missing the ability to work collaboratively in an office environment with others, and felt their creative juices can’t be met over virtual conferencing. One attendee had visited Ideo‘s offices in America last year and was inspired by the way creativity was fostered by physical spaces dedicated to teams to inspire each other, and felt that should not be lost in the future…it is a necessity.

Others felt that, with office leases about to expire and teams efficient in working remotely, a co-working space will suit their agency in the future. Somewhere where people can congregate but a space that not everyone would utilise day-to-day and thus would save rent / rates overheads for the agency, albeit this wouldn’t be the sole driver in future decisions.

Another agency had recently invested in a large new office, with c. 2000 sq ft purely for entertaining and collaborative creative spaces. It was felt that this would still be of benefit to the wider creative community as a hub as well as being a positive energy environment for the team.

B-Corp certification was also briefly discussed, to see if any agencies had been exploring this and whether the recent events and impact on society (carbon footprint, sustainability, social impact etc) had resulted in any changes of thought or desire to apply for this. Discussions were held on Patagonia being the main standard bearing on the B-Corp route.

Mental health was also mentioned as something which is high on the agenda. 

Yes, most are offering team drinks, yoga, fun virtual get togethers, quizzes etc, but this generally wasn’t felt to be supportive enough to each individual in their own right. 

The overriding theme was each agency did have a responsibility to treat all team members as individuals and offer whatever support and help they can, especially in these very uncertain times and with lockdown causing its own issues in various individuals circumstances. NABS was mentioned as a great resource for Scottish agencies to tap into.

The debate also covered whether Furloughed employees could continue to operate in any way for the agency. A resounding no was agreed, and that proper HR advice should be followed, albeit learning could be encouraged but not mandated. 

Discussion was also held on the point that agencies should operate in the right ethical way, and ensure they are fully compliant with the laws around all the HR aspects. Caution was noted that those that don’t are possibly liable to future HR grievances from any employees who may ultimately be made redundant, as well as possible investigations by HMRC once they have repurposed their team into investigating unscrupulous Furlough claims.

Also, an interesting Podcast series, Business Wars, was mentioned by one owner as a podcast which is quite informative and fun.

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