The amazing thing is that we all watched it on TV but, still, nobody saw it coming.
Miami, Feb. 20 is the date and place of my last shoot. Twenty days later, we were all confined to France. I took the subject quite lightly at the beginning, making lots of jokes about all these masked people and colleagues who worried. I finally became aware of the danger the day a nurse friend of mine told me about what it was like working in the hospital with the lack of means and the limited number of beds and respirators. We had to contain the number of contaminated people to facilitate the care of those who were going to be contaminated, to show empathy rather than selfishness.
We switched to working from home the day after the French president’s announcement. This isn’t new to us. We have creative people who live in London and French cities like Marseille, Montpellier so we are rather used to this system. But it’s not the same thing when we’re talking about an entire agency.
The most important thing for us, beyond the work, has been to keep in touch with people. Not just the creative people, but all the people who are part of the agency. Every Monday we have breakfast with the whole agency to take stock of what’s going on, and we decided to keep it going—online. The agency also offers yoga classes, content to keep young children occupied, and after-work drinks, all offered online. We’ve also adjusted our schedules according to employees’ availability. An apartment that’s too small, poor internet connection, young children to care for: all these constraints help us figure out what to allocate, when and to whom. But the most important thing is to allow everyone to stay active; everyone wants to work, whatever the conditions.
Our clients are juggling lots of priorities and are understandably concerned, re-evaluating the timing of different projects. How can an outdoor brand continue to communicate when people can no longer go out and play sports? How can a duty-free fragrance campaign be created when no one is in the airport anymore? How can a fast-food chain survive without anyone in its restaurants? Our only client that hasn’t suffered from the crisis at home is a condom brand.
Now that we’ve had a bit of time to adapt and some support, everyone’s become aware of the importance of implementing a certain type of communication and especially preparing for the aftermath. We’re currently launching a campaign in Asia for a major Swiss brand that was initially planned for Europe, for instance. The Chinese market is doing better now, which should be reassuring for all of us. Creative people have to work with a few constraints, but we continue to shoot (in the studio), edit and retouch remotely. It’s a bit less fluid, but it’s doable.
I have the impression I’ve never worked so hard before. Being tied to your computer and making phone calls all day is tiring, it turns out. The simple things that we used to say to each other in person on a daily basis aren’t so simple anymore. I miss the restaurants and lively discussions between colleagues.
I’m going to have to spend more time at home. I have two grown daughters, two teenagers, who were beginning to disappear a little. It’s a unique time to spend time with them, and I’m going to try to make the most of it. Enjoy yours, and take care of yourselves.