It is clearly tough for everyone in times of lockdown, and for a long time now, no working professional is going to crave ‘work from home’. But what kind of challenges does it pose for a Digital agency with work that is considered largely technical in nature? Gautam Reghunath, CEO, Dentsu Webchutney explains.
Q] What kind of processes and support have you put in place for the Dentsu Webchutney team for the work from home season?
I’m sure everyone agrees all this is unlike anything we’ve seen before. The smaller joys over these uncertain times have been heartening. We have been amazed by how our people have come together to respond to the unexpected nature of the situation. We’ve taken steps at the network level, agency level, team level and individual level. Our network initiatives have focused on business continuity: hardware relocation and working from home capabilities. At an agency level, we’re committed to making this transition and are fully using it as an opportunity for skills across offices to come together. The whole nine yards are tough, but we’re learning fast. It’s been tough because agency culture is typically built for an in-person workplace, but that’s where I think our teams and people have stepped up. We have seemingly become even more collaborative, with daily stand-ups among teams and helping out with virtual cooking classes for our vast migrant talent pool. People have taken the onus to protect each other’s mental wellbeing and that is heartening.
Q] Are you able to manage most of the work from home... considering Digital agencies' work is also largely technical in nature...? What are the limitations?
I’ll admit it hasn’t been easy. It’s another world from being face to face in discussion and throwing ideas at each other and disagreeing and nodding and making white board notes in excitement when a good idea pops up. Currently, I think the limitations are purely tangible. Additionally, remote work and working from home are two drastically different things. I’m hesitant to take tips from people and organisations that have been remote for years. Working from home in our current context is different. It involves isolation, it involves lack of any other activity outside of your home, a complete lack of a social life offline, not meeting friends, not being with family. The list goes on. In fact it’s the opposite of what remote work was supposed to help us achieve. That said, we’re extremely open to what we’re about to learn.
Q] What are clients’ expectations at such times... are you doing many moment marketing campaigns right now?
I think it’s important that brands avoid getting into conversations unless they’ve got something constructive and helpful to say at a time like this. Brands will lose if they seem opportunistic but if you have products or services that can be of help, then go ahead and actually help. We’re repelled by some of the work that’s going out to capitalise on the situation. We are working very closely with brands that Indians love and trust, to devise messaging that equips people with the right information. You already might have seen some of our work around it. Certain sectors have suffered economically, but we’ve realised there’s more to what’s happening than just business as usual. Clients have been forthcoming about their challenges, as have we, and the long term nature of our partnerships ensures we help each other get over what’s new to all of us.
Q] What kind of impact is this going to have on the revenues of Digital agencies?
I’m hesitant to discuss this at a time when bigger issues are at play for humanity. For those in advertising, it might be hard to see now, but the long-term prospects for the industry look bright as ever. Most brands will take a step back and keenly understand that firstly they are more than products they sell and secondly that ‘figuring out digital’ is so much more than spraying media money online. The latter is especially important, because I expect inflated expectations in the market to course-correct. The global economy is likely in a comatose situation. A week-long business disruption pushes back weeks and months of planning. There will now be many months of uncertainty but it’s hard not to dismiss that as a small price to pay for the well-being of society. It’s a ripple-effect on suppliers, vendors, agencies, employees, and new hiring. What we all will need is time to cope.