As agency leaders start to prepare for their teams returning to their offices around the world, Havas Media Group Global CEO Peter Mears spoke to MediaPost about the challenges in bringing his team back safely to work, the future of creative, and reevaluating the pitch review process.
"Our culture is still under crisis, but it is moving away from health concerns to become more of an economic priority," he states.
Havas Media Group, like most of its holding company peers, is planning its return-to-office schedule in phases, aimed at reaching specific percentages of staff by set calendar dates.
Although Mears declined to reveal the exact details behind this strategy, he expresses his concerns about ensuring the safety of his team in an unprecedented situation. There is also input from additional players, including state and city officials, building management and landlords.
Mears does believe in the importance of returning to the office citing the positive benefits and inherent advantages with in-person communication. “We may have some workers do more things remotely, but I very much believe in the shared experience. There is a value in bringing humans together.”
Mears believes one post-pandemic alteration will introduce a more balanced work schedule, moving the workforce away from the polar ends of either working entirely remotely or permanently at the office. “It will meet more in the middle,” he predicts.
As with everyone, Mears does not have a crystal ball to provide insight into when the industry will return to normal, but he does think agencies will have to work harder post-pandemic because there will not be as much money moving around. “Everything is going to be measured and there needs to be a solid ROI,” he states.
Moreover, this crisis is accelerating all existing trends. There will be a greater focus on eCommerce, digital transformation, and the role of content will continue to grab more market share.
Data will remain critical especially with the increased focus on measuring the impact for all campaigns. That said, Havas Media Group will not be making any acquisitions for data providers. Mears reiterates Havas Media Group’s long-stated “rent not buy” policy. “There isn’t one right solution and we want to be agile to find the right solution for our clients.”
The company has continued to participate in global reviews during the crisis, including some wins he plans to announce shortly. Mears adds the new business pipeline has “slowed down.”
The one emerging upside to the crisis has been the pivot to remote agency reviews. Some clients say they now prefer this process because it tests the ability of the agency to handle what is oftentimes an entirely virtual relationship.
Mears is less optimistic about travel post-pandemic. He concedes it is unlikely he will be flying to Europe until 2021. He expresses bewilderment over calls to quarantine for two weeks after any foreign trip, saying it would be untenable for someone who flew to Europe twice a month.
Award shows are also not likely to happen in 2020. “It just isn’t the right time. The priority needs to be on our people, clients and the work.” He remains a full supporter of these shows moving forward. Cannes is canceled this year, but the company plans on being there in 2021. Awards shows are an “important benchmark and there is value in recognizing good work.”