That is to say, an agency without a physical office, with delocalised job positions, creatives thinking from their kitchens, executives managing accounts in sneakers, meetings in the open air. With remote editing tables; deconstructed teams telecommuting from beach flats, cabins in woods, boats in harbors; scattered all over the world, from Pedraza to Denpassar…
In other words, would it be possible to have an agency that is permanently run in the same manner as we have all been working for these last few months?
In March, we had no choice. Out of the blue, with more frenzy than confidence, for the first time we all saw our face in a mosaic made up of little squares, on a screen, next to the faces of those that we sat next to, chair to chair, in our Chueca, Castellana or Diagonal office. All of a sudden, there we all were, like the The Brady Bunch, looking at each other and thinking in unison (but in silence, in a bid to hide our jitters): Oh, God, what is coming our way!
And yet, despite initial fears, it wasn’t too bad. The saying goes that necessity is the mother of invention, and we all needed to learn to cope with this new situation by any means necessary. Or fight or die. If he were still hanging around here, my dear Darwin would have kindly reminded us of his famous principle: the species that survive are not the strongest or the biggest, but those that can best adapt to their environment. And what was coming next was the war, so we, just like Bogart would have done, looked Ingrid Bergman straight in the eye and we said to her with a mixture of warmth and sadness:
– The world is falling apart, and we are digitalizing.
And so, like Marty, we pushed the pedal of the DeLorean until it got to 88 miles an hour, and a couple of seconds later appeared five years into the future… This is what experts calculate that the lockdown has done to us, shooting us into the future of the digitalization process.
There is no doubt that many things have changed forever. Telecommuting has worked (although it has intruded on our privacy more than we imagined), digital meetings are more flexible and more effective (although there are also more of them), and everyone’s responsibility and involvement has been commendable. There are many things to correct, but digitization was already unstoppable, and with everything that has happened, it is like Django: unchained.
Who knows, maybe entirely virtual advertising agencies – models that were tried without great success in the past-, are now are a viable reality. And when one speaks of agencies, one speaks of media centers, producers, companies that make candy or fill in the blank… After all, that’s what we’ve been doing during this time, right?
Well not quite. I firmly believe that one of the key success elements has not been technological, but human. In my case, those faces that I have seen during these months through the screen are those of people with whom I have previously worked shoulder to shoulder, gone for beers, taken risks, I have fought, I have laughed, I have trusted and I have learned from. Knowing each other beforehand has been essential for everything to work later. And getting to know each other, is something that can only be done looking one another in the eye, without machines in the middle. That’s why I, in the case of companies with a high human content -like agencies-, would bet on a mixed future setting and not an entirely virtual one. It’s not that technically the latter can’t be done -it can be-, it’s rather that I’m convinced that it wouldn’t be the same. In the coming digitalization, there is no doubt that technology will be very important, but people will carry on being more important. Or well, at least that’s what I want to believe.