"In times of uncertainty, a brand's attitude becomes even more important"

2020 marked the end of a year characterized by challenges. However, Swiss agencies also seized opportunities, created new traditions and learned important lessons. In the first part, Equipe, Heimat Zürich, Hinderling Volkart Part of Dept, Jung von Matt Limmat, Ruf Lanz, Serviceplan Suisse and Wirz report on their findings.


The coronavirus has been keeping the whole world on tenterhooks for more than a year now. It will soon be twelve months since the first coronavirus infections were reported in Switzerland. As with all other industries, the virus has not left the advertising and communications sector unscathed: In addition to all the challenges posed by working from home, canceled advertising budgets and closed stores, there have also been many opportunities and lessons that Swiss agencies have learned from the crisis. Werbewoche.ch asked around in the industry. What was 2020 like for agencies? And what resolutions did they start 2021 with?


Markus Hammer, Equipe

"2020 was a challenging and labor-intensive year for Equipe. Overall, however, we are very satisfied with how we managed it internally and together with our customers. Nevertheless, the overall situation naturally continues to weigh on us. Because without wanting to sound negative: I believe that we are currently only feeling the beginning of what will be a lasting change.

The biggest challenge here is the massive change in customer behavior. The entire lockdown situation has not only massively changed purchasing behavior, but also the demands placed on brands and their benefits and services.
Until recently, many companies were hesitant when it came to digitizing their products, services and processes and facing up to the challenges of a rapidly digitizing world. This is now taking its toll and will cause major problems for many clients and agencies alike. This is because the majority of agencies are first and foremost a reflection of their clients, both in terms of their digital capabilities and their expectations of them.

Nevertheless, there are currently also an incredible number of opportunities to further develop customers in a targeted manner and to successfully shape tasks together. This is because topics such as marketing transformation, 1-2-1 marketing, but also the entire aspect of developing communication and campaigns from a consistent mobile-first approach or viewing social media as a very serious channel within the sales funnel, have finally arrived with most clients.

Two years ago, for example, there were still debates about purpose statements, but now, in a very short space of time, a new and more serious culture of discussion has spread among many brands about what brands will have to achieve in the future and what their actual raison d'être is. I think this is good for our industry in one way or another.

The coronavirus situation has not only massively accelerated digitalization, but has also brought with it many other, sometimes radical changes. Entire industries and previously viable business models will disappear or be replaced by new, digital products and services. I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of cumulative changes at the moment. The most important thing will be to critically scrutinize and purposefully challenge what has worked and still works in some cases. Because today's status quo is merely the breeding ground for what will come tomorrow.

I think that this year will be similar to last year in many respects. Because the crisis is by no means over. We still don't know how things will change in detail and how they will ultimately turn out on a large scale. However, we at Equipe are very confident that as an agency and team with digital DNA, we will successfully master this challenge together with our clients."


Nico Ammann, Home Zurich

"Despite all its adversities, 2020 was a successful year for Heimat Zürich. Corona has turned the world upside down. In 2021, we want to use this to make ourselves even more relevant. For customers who rely on creative solutions for change, progress and success."


Michael Volkart, Hinderling Volkart Part of Dept

"2020 was quite a year for us - it started with a double whammy. In January, we announced that we were joining the Dept agency group. Then, practically at the same time, came the lockdown and the start of the new home office era. On the one hand, there were the opportunities that arose in the new Dept environment and, on the other, the daily challenge of keeping a team together during the pandemic, motivating them and ensuring communication from home. As a result, we have not yet been able to do sufficient justice to our claim of enabling our employees to truly feel part of a global agency. First of all, we had to focus on the stability of the team and on internal issues here in Switzerland.

The tension between all the demands was enormous and challenged us greatly at times. This made it all the more valuable to be part of a group with Dept that recognized the complexity and sensitivity of the issues and events at all times, trusted us completely and allowed us to act in an entrepreneurial manner.

Fortunately, the economic uncertainty caused by coronavirus was kept in check - not least thanks to our balanced customer and project mix. We also felt a great urge from customers for innovation and digitalization, which opened up new inquiries and projects for us. In the Dept context, we reacted and communicated quickly, unbureaucratically and comprehensively to coronavirus, which gave us peace of mind.

For us, 2020 was a year in which we primarily had a stabilizing effect and were able to put ourselves in a secure and good starting position for 2021. We will use this new year to open another chapter. We are looking forward to the opportunity to use the combination of creativity, technology and data for our further development and that of our customers in an international context with Dept. We are eager to start new, more comprehensive projects, combine disciplines and put our strengths into a broader context. In this way, we are learning at all levels and opening up new fields."


Roman Hirsbrunner, Jung von Matt Limmat

"2020 was a challenge. On an individual and collective level. But it was also a challenge that we mastered together as an agency.

In spring 2021, we naturally also asked ourselves how working in a changed world works. Accordingly, we have invested a great deal in order to initiate the necessary changes with and for our customers as well as with and for our employees. And in terms of form and content: working together remotely and digitally has now become part of everyday life - keyword "work from anywhere" - and in terms of content, we were able and allowed to look strategically into the future with many of our customers.

What we learned in 2020: It is always worth working iteratively, building prototypes that you constantly change and improve. Especially in times of great uncertainty, you have to take advantage of this fact. Nothing must, everything can. We have also practiced this in our collaboration with our customers: working on ideas quickly, agilely and with little hierarchy and implementing them in the shortest possible time. And 2020 has also shown us how important and challenging it is to live a culture even in times when we are not together. Transforming culture into the digital space requires a great deal of commitment and a willingness to no longer take anything for granted.

For us, 2021 is all about excellence and momentum. A piece of work, a project or an idea only becomes excellent when it is conceived, implemented and perceived at the right time. We are constantly working on our setup and our culture to guarantee a breeding ground for inspiration and excellent ideas. Our creative ecosystem is growing and many new opportunities are growing with it. For our employees as well as for our customers."


Markus Ruf, Ruf Lanz

"On January 2, 2020, I was sitting on the terrace of the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore with my sweetheart in a vacation mood and heard about a new type of virus from China for the first time. Back then, the only necessary protection consisted of generously misting with mosquito spray. Today, the world is a different place. With regard to Ruf Lanz: entire presentations were suddenly a waste of time and many things had to be redone. Our motto: create instead of lament.

Just three examples: For VBZ, we used the colors of the canceled Zurich Pride with the streetcar lines nevertheless brought onto the road - for a tolerant, colorful Zurich. For Hiltl we have the Protective measures pointedly linked to the animal-friendly attitude of the vegan pioneer. And for the foundation Tier im Recht we used the Time to pause for thought on wildlife tourism.

We are convinced that in times of uncertainty, the attitude of a brand becomes even more important. People want to know what it stands for and what contribution it makes to society. Staging this contribution in a surprising and smart way remains our goal in 2021."


Raul Serrat, Serviceplan Suisse

"The situation in 2020 was unexpected and radical for all of us. At first, we thought that the lockdown and working from home would nip creativity in the bud. But we discovered that this was not the case. Suddenly working from home worked surprisingly well. Creativity always creates and finds new solutions and ways to keep things moving forward. The well-coordinated teams continued to work creatively online. Crisis situations often bring to light whether people really work together constructively, and we are very proud of our colleagues in this respect.

But it has certainly been a strange year and we are all missing the personal contact with each other. Keeping the agency culture alive to some extent was and is probably one of the biggest challenges for us as managers during this time. The exchange of ideas between people creates space for new ideas; in the agency this happens all by itself, in the home office you have to explicitly make time for it. Our awareness of how important the atmosphere in the workplace is for creative people has grown even more, and we will continue to cultivate this carefully. I also firmly believe that this situation brings with it a few insights that we will retain and cultivate in the future. And from the second half of 2021, there will be a lot to catch up on: we are all very much looking forward to coffee breaks, aperitifs and parties together."


Petra Dreyfus, Wirz

"2020 was probably one of the most extraordinary years we have experienced as an agency. Despite all the adversity, however, we are grateful and proud to have had a successful year in business. This was made possible in particular by the trust and flexibility of our existing clients, great new business and, of course, our employees, who proved in 2020 that real teamwork works even in extreme situations.

In spring 2020 in particular, our world was turned upside down: campaigns and projects that had been developed for months had to be canceled or completely rethought, sometimes shortly before launch, so that they corresponded to the current situation in terms of tone and visual appearance. In addition to these challenging tasks, we as an agency had to get used to the fact that planning as we had known it in the past was no longer possible. Internally, we also had to do without many cherished rituals this year.

However, like many other Swiss companies, we have proven to ourselves that many things that were previously dismissed as "unrealistic" or "not working" actually do work. We have learned a lot about digitalization in the workplace and value this modernization. Internal rituals and events that we were unable to hold as usual gave way to other, innovative forms of team building and entertainment: for example, we held an internal online jass tournament.

We also proved to ourselves that we are more flexible than we perhaps thought. It was confirmed to us once again that we have incredibly innovative and adaptable employees who are fighting their way through the pandemic working day with discipline and creativity. However, as a creative agency, we realize that working from home has its limits and is no substitute for personal and creative exchange. We humans simply need real community.

In 2021, our most important concern remains investing in even more highly qualified, motivated and enthusiastic employees. With Kathrin Jesse joining us from DDB Berlin in April, for example, we are able to reposition the head of our strategy department with an absolute dream team. Of course, we also have a lot planned for our valued customers. We can only reveal this much: there are already some highlights in the quiver."

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