"Switching off in the home office is an art form that I have not yet mastered excellently"

2020 marked the end of a challenging year. However, Swiss agencies also took advantage of opportunities, created new traditions and learned important lessons. In the second part of our mini-series, Farner, Havas Switzerland, Inhalt und Form, Rod Kommunikation and TBWA\Zürich share their insights.


The Corona virus has kept the entire world in suspense for more than a year now and has not left the advertising and communications industry unscathed: In addition to all the challenges posed by home offices, canceled advertising budgets and closed stores, there were also many opportunities and lessons that Swiss agencies were able to learn from the crisis. In a first part of the miniseries, Equipe, Heimat Zürich, Hinderling Volkart Part of Dept, Jung von Matt Limmat, Ruf Lanz, Serviceplan Suisse and Wirz das have highlighted both the past and current year.

For the second part, Werbewoche.ch asked Farner, Havas, Inhalt und Form, Rod and TBWA\Zürich. How was 2020 for the agencies? And with what resolutions did they start 2021?


Philipp Skrabal, Partner and Chief Creative Officer, Farner

"First and foremost, my 200 or so colleagues are in good health. No one is or was on short-time working. We were able to maintain our sales from the previous year and even grow as a Group.

Personally, I'm still very impressed with how quickly we were able to flip the switch and be productive in the home office. Last spring, we bridged the social distance with virtual aperitifs and photo challenges, keeping our spirits up and developing resilience. The second shutdown feels different, somehow more normal, not the same sense of emergency. I feel the same on the customer side. You start to know it and it's annoying. I often think about the restaurants I usually go to over lunch, like Bar Basso. I feel sorry for the great team there. So do the many cultural workers. That's where we agencies are privileged.

Personally, I can also see good things in the situation. For example, not having to commute anymore. I haven't had that much time for sports in a long time. Unfortunately, the refrigerator is also closer than usual.

And yet, we would all like nothing more than to get our heads together again in the same beautiful rooms on Löwenstrasse, to work things out together and then go out to eat together. Or to celebrate together.

The new year has started well - even if many things will remain uncertain for a while longer. The first two weeks have already brought four new clients, and we are in a top position in terms of personnel. Our path consistently leads across a broad setup - from advertising, marketing, change and corporate communications and branding to public affairs and data & commtech, which allows us to work on highly complex tasks, such as in the digitally driven transformation of companies. And we systematically combine our creative power with our data and technology expertise. This much-vaunted co-creation between specialists on the agency and client side doesn't happen by itself. It must be cultivated if it is not to end up as a buzzword or lead to mediocrity. Excellence is key, especially in challenging times."


Patrick Beeli, Havas Switzerland

"2020 was a big challenge for the whole industry. 2021 will be no less difficult, as we cannot yet grasp the impact of the pandemic. It will be exciting to see how flexibly customers and agencies work together in these turbulent and uncertain times without sacrificing quality and speed.

The new challenges we have to master together with our customers strengthen the relationship between customer and agency. Discussions are more often held at eye level again, because we're all in the same boat."


Karin Estermann, Content and Form

"For Content and Form, 2020 was a very successful year. We were able to quickly turn the initial uncertainty into positive creative energy and, with many ideas and inputs, guide ourselves and our customers through the new situation. A small example of this is the "Restart Switzerland" initiative, which we implemented quickly and successfully in the lockdown.

In 2020, we also founded the media agency "Iundf Media Impact", which has successfully established itself and wonderfully integrated into the "Iundf Family". In general, the interplay between creation and technology was even more strongly demanded this year, which suited our orientation.

But what gave us the most pleasure were our employees, on whom we could always fully rely during this time. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our family. It was also nice to have offspring - two new agency babies were born in 2020.

2020 was a very human year for us - despite social distancing, we felt a great sense of cohesion in terms of content and form. The biggest challenge for us was to transfer the agency spirit to the digital world. Our "Prosecco Fridays" were missed by the employees. New forms of team building were in demand. In addition, the new home office is not the right working model for everyone, which makes it all the more important to pick up each employee individually. And of course, planning on customer projects also had to be made more flexible.

But we are still in a very privileged industry. Overall, there are endless new opportunities for us. Online consumption will continue to expand, so there will be many more digital, personalized campaigns that address customers individually and thus give them real added value.

For ourselves, we have realized that humans as beings are very adaptable and we are more flexible than we thought. Pitching from the home office is now normal, which was hardly imaginable before. Staying loose and not being afraid must continue to be the motto. Talking to each other even more, promoting the "social life" even more - despite social distancing. Even more laughter together, even if it's only through the webcam. We have to cope with everyday agency life and stress together, not alone, even in the home office.

What's more, the lockdown has made us all more open to digital interaction in 2021. Consumer behavior will shift even more online. In the future, consumers will think much more carefully about what they really need. Therefore, the personal relevance of a product or brand must be clearly evident to the customer. It's our job to advertise this in such an individual and creative way that the product reaches the buyer."


Regula Bührer Fecker, Rod Communication

"2020 has gone by in a flash for Rod. The basic feeling was that we all moved closer together. The Corona campaign on behalf of the FOPH kept our whole team very busy - on all days and at almost all times. However, the constructive cooperation with the FOPH and the urgency of the task always made up for the expenses. Week after week, we had to anticipate how opinions in Switzerland were developing and where we could help in terms of communication. Communication became systemically relevant in 2020. Sensing this gave us a sense of purpose.

To be honest, we simply had so much to do that we didn't have to deal with the crisis in such depth. All of us at Rod are more than aware that this is a privilege. As of March 2020, we were all in the home office and just kept working. And because there was so much to do, it quickly settled down. Personally, I find it a challenge to separate work and home because everything merges. Being able to switch off is certainly an art form in the home office that I haven't yet mastered excellently. My children are very quick to correct me when I mentally have one foot in the office.

I felt the biggest opportunity from the crisis was that the collaboration with the customers and the team was put on a very new, more honest and direct basis. In the call, you have to be very present and active in order not to have any misunderstandings. That collaboration tools were introduced faster and used more actively. I found it nice to get better together here.

In recent months, the Swiss media have done a super job, achieving record numbers. Nevertheless, many suffered from the outflow of advertising funds. Swiss advertising clients and agencies are dependent on strong media in our country. I would like to see clients become aware of these dependencies again, and not shift the bulk of the money to Silicon Valley. I'm not usually so protectionist or patriotic - but when it comes to the media, we have to take more care to preserve values.

In the new year, the FOPH's vaccination campaign is keeping us very busy. It must be continuously adapted to the new situations. I personally hope that the population's willingness to be vaccinated will continue to grow, and that we can contribute to the vaccination decision through communication. In addition, we are working on other exciting projects such as the relaunch campaign of Annabellewhich I'm really looking forward to myself. In addition, we are developing a new communications strategy and implementation together with Helvetas. So there's a lot going on - but of course we're also looking forward to further inquiries."


Matthias Kiess, TBWA\Zurich

"Despite all the adversities, the year 2020 has left many positive marks on us at the agency. We were all catapulted into an unexpected learning process, which manifested itself in many ways. In the foreground were certainly the new "Ways of Working", which manifested and established themselves very quickly. From today's perspective, I see this as very positive. The year has brought us together and numerous successes, especially at the end of the year, have contributed to the fact that we have started the new year with a lot of positivity.

Even though the year ended well, we also had our challenges to overcome. Immediately digitizing ways of working and collaborating, consistently protecting employees, customers and partners, maintaining all functionalities and securing the business to ensure job retention. On top of that, as part of a global structure, we have many stakeholders who get involved with good intentions, but also make additional work once again.

In addition to the regulatory requirements, the change to "working from anywhere" mode was certainly the most drastic change that affected us - quite positively. Nevertheless, I believe that home office fatigue is slowly starting to take hold. Social interaction that goes far beyond scheduled appointments is missing, and reinforcing culture and cohesion is becoming increasingly difficult. With the best will in the world, online aperitifs cannot simply replace shared, physical celebrations.

Fortunately, the economy has not come to a complete standstill and most of our customers are active in sectors of the economy that have perhaps not been hit quite as hard as other market players have been. Certain areas have become so dynamic that they have even opened up new potential. Consumer behavior has changed permanently, affecting e-commerce, audio as a channel, convenience services, VR/AR, or e-sports, for example, which also creates new opportunities for agencies to penetrate new business areas.

At the same time, consumers are also looking for orientation, which strong brands that operate in the spirit of the times can give them. Value and an even more conscious lifestyle are changing needs and accelerating changes in the market.

Thus, the courage to change does not have to be sought for a long time at all; there is no alternative to change at all. And we have experienced this in a largely positive way. Decentralized work is uncomplicated and brings a lot of efficiency. Questioning our own business model has also become a success criterion and has induced new momentum, which creates new opportunities for us.

As soon as the Corona madness comes to an end and we can orient ourselves to a new reality and standardize, there will once again be a liberating jolt that will inspire one or the other. We will all open a new chapter, in which new thinking and acting is required. Those who recognize this will also benefit from it."

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