What It’s Like Working at a French Agency During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Here in France, we’re managing the beginning of a crisis. It’s only been less than a week so far, and we’ve already been through a lot of hard work in order to be ultra agile and organize ourselves operationally. Every agency is changing their habits in their own manner, and employees are rearranging lives. For the moment, we have a third of our workforce in technical unemployment so that they get paid and their jobs are protected while the rest pushing forward from home.

So far, every day has been different as we make new arrangements in response to our clients’ varying concerns and the level of impact they are susceptible to face. Some are less affected and ask us to move forward as if nothing was happening in order to continue operations as smoothly as possible and be prepared for when we start to recover. Others are more confident, telling us to stop production and prepare to pick up next month right where we left off. Others have asked us to put everything on hold, uncertain about the lockdown’s duration.

It is precisely this—the uncertainty—that we’ve found is most anxiety-inducing for our clients. There is no overarching strategy that we can simply apply to everyone. We must adapt to each client and each organization to make sure everyone is getting the reassurance they need.

It is precisely this—the uncertainty—that we’ve found is most anxiety-inducing for our clients.

As far as our employees are concerned, every day we try to call them, to be in touch, to joke even, in order to keep morale up. One of our managers has to leave his apartment to hold phone meetings from his car because the children are restless. His attempts at turning his house into an office, when the whole family is together, show the limits of working from home.

Brands are adapting, too. We recently did a huge pitch through Visio with all participants, our agency and their marketing team joining in from home. It may not have been the most ideal, but everyone’s coming together to make the most of it and, after all, no one in this industry is unfamiliar with conference calls.

This era may bring about new ways to tell stories or bring back old ones. It’s an era that will undoubtedly change our culture, every generation, every target audience and their relationships with brands.

As the lockdown presses on, no one can see forward. We don’t know what’s coming and when, but what we do know is that we must keep looking. There are rumors now that the lockdown in France will continue through April to the beginning of May. Given the pace of change we’ve seen up till now, we must be ready to persist, ready to react, adapt, advise, for each and every client.

This is new territory for everyone, a whole new manner of working, and not simply because we’re all online. Relationships between consumers, brands and agencies are transforming as we speak. Agility is our best tool, not only now as we address our clients’ concerns, but as we all brace ourselves for the consequences sure to come.

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