"The end of the pandemic will hopefully release a lot of energy"

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 final part of our mini-series, Contexta, Notch Interactive, Publicis, Spina's Civil Voices, Thjnk Zurich and Wunderman Thompson share their insights.

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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, cancelled advertising budgets and closed shops, there were also many opportunities and lessons that Swiss agencies were able to learn from the crisis. In the first part in our mini-series, Equipe, Heimat Zürich, Hinderling Volkart Part of Dept, Jung von Matt Limmat, Ruf Lanz, Serviceplan Suisse and Wirz das have shed light on both the past and the current year. For the second part Farner, Havas, Inhalt und Form, Rod and TBWA\Zurich talked about the challenges, opportunities and lessons learned from the Corona crisis.

In the final part, Contexta, Notch Interactive, Publicis, Spinas Civil Voices, Thjnk Zurich and Wunderman Thompson reflect on the crisis. How was 2020 for the agencies? And with what resolutions did they start 2021?

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Nadine Borter, Contexta

"With creative nomadism, we put ourselves in a controlled state of emergency two years ago. When the lockdown was declared a short time later, we were ready: 2020 was a very successful and creative year for us. A year where our shared mindset revealed its full value. It was one of the best years in our 52-year history.

It was the worst year from a social point of view. We can find little good to say about Covid-19. The fact that the marathon is federally declared a triathlon doesn't make things any better. The good-guy veneer is peeling off. Underneath, the ugly face of a pandemic is revealed. We're all learning how important good, understandable, empathetic communication is. Or rather, would be. But criticism from the sidelines is not appropriate here. Only the media can be reproached for the fact that a minimum of responsibility towards the people in our country should actually prohibit clickbait headlines of the kind we are served on a daily basis.  

2021 we continue on our path. We have fun with great clients and make the best out of every project. We currently work from our home office and - when necessary - from our nomadic office in the Wasserkirche Zurich. We believe more than ever that the best ideas don't come from order, duty by the book or fancy offices, but from movement, adventure and free thinking. The last few months have shown us that almost anything is possible in a very short time, if you allow yourself to break with conventions. Or if you are forced to do so by external circumstances.

We're moving on in mid-March. Right now we are evaluating a car wash and a fitness center. We always move our office to where our clients' clients are. Where life happens. And this one will come back. It's just a matter of time."

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Peter Van der Touw, Notch Interactive

"The year 2020 had several exciting challenges at the start for Notch:

  1. The integration in Publicis Zurich
  2. The cultural and process transformation into a larger setting from both agency sides.
  3. The virtual onboarding of new employees during home office hours

The chance to work with even more specialists à la "Power of One" was very stimulating. The willingness to learn from both sides also continues to be inspiring.
The changeover to Mobile Office went well and worked quickly. Of course, face-to-face, physical meetings still have a different quality than brainstorming over a virtual beer.

In 2021, we want to continue to actively support our customers and new customers in the digital transformation and even expand our services in this area thanks to the network. Whether in the strategy and conception of UI/UX design and programming of platforms and apps, in digital campaigning, in performance campaigning including media or in the content area and social media. We can now also advise our clients on digital CRM and marketing automation.

At this point, also a compliment to our teams who have adapted extremely quickly to the new situation and are fully passionate about serving our customers."

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Matthias Koller, Publicis

"The year 2020 was honestly mixed for Publicis, with ups and downs - as most years are. Last year, for reasons we all know, was perhaps even more pronounced, with higher ups and lower downs. What I am happy about, however, are the various client and project wins as well as the excellent cooperation with the former Notch employees. The two agencies are extremely good for each other. 

The biggest challenge - and this is no big surprise - was the Corona crisis. More precisely, the resulting switch to a home office and the lack of physical interaction with employees and customers. We had to learn a lot very quickly - which was of course exciting and helped us to move forward. Some customers have major problems because their core business has been massively restricted or completely shut down. Others are benefiting. What they all have in common is that they therefore have new needs in the area of communication. 

What we learned in the process: Flexibility and adaptability help enormously. Often we are simply too much in learned and habitual patterns on the way, which we can break or adapt only with difficulty. Last year we were forced to do this. And lo and behold, not only did we do better than we thought, but in some cases these adjustments helped us to move forward. Be it in the way we work together, in the use of tools or in completely new ways of thinking when it comes to tackling and solving our customers' challenges together.

In 2021, we are looking forward to many new things. First and foremost, of course, to tangibly implement our new direction. For our customers as well as for our employees. But I'm also looking forward to many laughs; to tackling challenges as a team and to many creative ideas and implementations at the highest level."

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Susi Kammergruber, Spinas Civil Voices

"Virus. Zack. Home office. That's how fast it happened when we were one of the first agencies in Switzerland to switch to home office. The trigger was an employee who had spent a weekend in Milan, which turned out to be a hotspot the next day. It quickly became clear that we weren't just sending him home, but that to be fair we were rehearsing the emergency for everyone. 

Laptops and monitors were taken away from the agency as if in a robbery. What remained were two almost empty floors and five lonely employees. Two weeks and a digitalization push later, the real emergency: a nationwide lockdown. We are ready for the total emergency situation. Luckily, because the phone is ringing off the hook.

Our clients are pretty much all NPOs. The uncertainty was great everywhere: Is it permissible to advertise for donations in such times of crisis? Or should one even do so? With a lot of extra effort from our teams and courageous clients, many appeals for donations for Corona emergency aid were made from home office to home office. Courage and commitment were rewarded: the Swiss population strongly supported the weaker ones with donations in these exceptional times. 

What was challenging for everyone at first became the norm over the course of the year. Art directors and copywriters no longer hold their ideas on paper under their noses, but rather into the camera. Creative campaigns emerged, significantly more than usual - logically - for online channels. New strategies for digital fundraising have been tested and gone live. Following the digital surge of the population, we see in the numbers that online can now be a viable channel for fundraising advertising. This is where a big opportunity lies for NPOs.

So actually everything would be fine. If it wasn't for the Corona blues. We miss each other. We try to offer as many opportunities as possible to talk besides work with Zoom sessions like 'Bier um vier' or 'Jetzt es Kafi'. But if you've been sitting in front of your computer all day, you'd rather get up for a break, stretch and get some fresh air. The initial will to persevere slowly gives way to a certain tiredness. I think we all feel the same way. 

It's been proven that home offices work. And everyone actually thinks it's great. But not forever. And so we will integrate the total exception from the past, that you can work from home, as a new normality in our agency's everyday life. Let's hope that everything else will soon be normal again, too: drinking coffee together, putting our heads together, brainstorming ideas - together at the same table. Not because it's more efficient. But because it's so much more fun." 

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Alexander Jaggy, Thjnk Zurich

"In 2020, we came through our fourth year with full employment and were even able to expand our business in the second half of the year. Campaign productions in compliance with FOPH safety guidelines have posed challenges for clients, agencies and film productions alike, but have also shown new ways of streamlining processes.

It is interesting to observe the impact of the pandemic on consumer psychology and the opportunities that have emerged. The crisis has sharpened the brand profile of some customers in a natural process.

We have standardized the home office for the future. In 2021, we will switch to mobile working. Everyone can work where they want. Furthermore, our forecasts for the current year are cautiously optimistic, as the saying goes. We have used the time to carve out our brand identity and adapt our market offering. In addition, we're looking forward to two or three nice projects launching in the first quarter."

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Swen Morath, Wunderman Thompson

"2020 felt a bit like looking left and right before crossing the zebra crossing, only to be hit by a plane. The year took a very dramatic turn, which of course also greatly affected and challenged Wunderman Thompson Switzerland. But compared to other industries, such as events or travel, we got off lightly. We can be grateful for that. 

After the switch to virtual collaboration worked very quickly and mostly smoothly, one of the big challenges was certainly to quickly adapt customer needs under the permanently changing parameters and reflect them in innovative concepts. At the same time: If you are thrown into cold water, you swim faster. Without Corona, it would have taken years before we would have handled digital tools such as Miro or Teams so naturally. 

In crises, creativity is a sought-after commodity and an important tool for overcoming them. New ideas are needed, in all areas. That's why I'm sure that our industry, thanks to its creativity, can also use every possible future as an opportunity.

But - one does not even dare to think about it yet - almost certainly the end of the pandemic will come. This end will hopefully release a great deal of energy. At the beginning of the last century, after a devastating First World War and an even worse pandemic, came the famous "Roaring Twenties". A boom in culture, science and business. I would hope that we are at the beginning of the new "roaring twenties"."

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