Advertising WFH

This work-from-home situation seems to be the new normal. In the advertising world, the reaction to it has been mixed. There’s famous inside joke about the advertising industry (and to some extent PR industry too) that if you do not smoke, you lose out on inside information, promotions and connections! Because it is believed that most such decisions are taken during a smoking session in a small, crowded balcony or outside a tea shop near the office 🙂

The advertising industry is also quite famous for insisting on face-to-face meetings and even lags behind the adoption of even group tools that other industries have taken too more easily. It may be in the DNA, actually – group tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams are many-to-many tools (much like most of social media) and advertising is primarily a broadcast-based function (a brand talking to millions of people, without expecting to talk back or engage in a conversation). In comparison, digital marketing and PR firms have conversations baked into their DNA given the kind of communication they practice.

I had a brief say on this in last week’s Brand Equity, The Economic Times.

Ogilvy’s Johannesburg office was in a bit of a PR mess last week around their blasé attitude towards work-from-home.

But, the most creative attempt at turning the work-from-home situation into a fantastic branding opportunity was by BBDO. The global advertising giant announced its work-from-home policy on March 16th through an all-office email. But along with employee communication, they also took public a website called BBDOYourHome that lets any employee add their home building/locality name tagged along with BBDO and get a logo that they can display. The idea is that BBDO frames it as ‘opening up hundreds of new offices’.

This is fantastic framing of the simple work-from-home idea, to turn it into an opening offices spree, which, in principle, is actually technically true.

I noticed tons of people on LinkedIn and Instagram add their ‘new office’ locations and this makes for excellent branding effort for something that everyone is going through, but one that BBDO won as a branding challenge!

I did consider a couple of perspectives, though.

One – is there a privacy issue? People mention their apartment names too and that literally leads one to know where they live (which is the intent anyway). But, in the large scheme of social distancing and lockdowns across cities, physical address’ privacy seems far less concerning.

Two – why is the BBDO Your Home website publicly available? It makes sense to make it available only to employees using some sort of a sign-in (via office email) since it is meant only for them. Making it open to public is not harmful, but may create potentially comic and needless versions like these 🙂

Three – AdWeek reports that there were murmurs inside the office’s network chat rooms that they enforced the work-from-home policy later than necessary. (See: Some Staffers Don’t Want BBDO and Omnicom to Get a Pass as ‘the Poster Child for WFH’) That they were forced to do so after others had done and that this website effort is a way to mask that delay.

Still, beyond all these considerations, I do think the idea of framing work-from-home as new office opening is brilliant.

On the topic of advertising in the time of coronavirus quarantine, here’s how the Portugal-based agency ‘Coming Soon’ helped their client Mola, a post-production agency 🙂 Smart!

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