agency-brand relationships during COVID-19

The Benefits of Shifting Business from the Boardroom to the Living Room

It’s been eight months but who’s counting? It was only yesterday that the industry was jumping on planes, trains, and into automobiles for all sorts of prospect, pitch and client meetings. Overnight, it was over.

For one of the most technologically advanced industries, we avoided the “Zoom room” (dare I say it), like the plague. But somehow, we’ve not only adapted to it, but we’ve also embraced it.

Sure… we tripped up during the early part of the pandemic as we learned how to rapidly adjust. But it somehow feels like second nature now and here’s the big “ah-ha” – we’ve proven that we can absolutely manage all meetings remotely, successfully.

Working from home has some hidden benefits for brands searching for new agency partners… and I’m going over those gems right here.

Disruptions in Real-Time…They Tell You Everything You Need to Know About a Partner.

The circumstances are challenging but quite frankly, not any more challenging as they were pre-pandemic. The difference is it’s just different because we’ve shifted from the boardroom to the living room (or dining room or bedroom or patio room).

But here’s the interesting part… business is more human than it was before. And aren’t we really in the business of relationships first?

The fact is, the client can select the greatest agency in the world but if the compatibility between teams is flat, the relationship will fail quickly. There is something to be said for “seeing ‘them’ in their home environment” or “meeting their child who makes a cameo appearance” or “hearing their dog bark in the background.”

That something is two-fold.

  • We quickly realize they have a personal life too… which humanizes them!
  • We get to see how they react to distractions and interferences in real-time.

So what? You might be thinking.

Well, there are constant interferences in the day-to-day activities of managing a brand and how a person reacts in the moment during a meeting can help you to project how well they will react to most daily disruptions.

I was recently in a meeting with a client where her daughter busted into the room asking her mother for her necklace for school. The client (who all of a sudden morphed into a mom) quickly helped her daughter and refocused back on the meeting. What she didn’t know is, that one reaction left everyone with a new view of her.

She’s a mom… with every day struggles… just like me or you. But somehow, with that one interaction, she is perceived as more authentic. What’s more- she’s not only a pretty great multi-tasker, but she also showed how she remains collected when interferences occur!

I remember sitting in a conference room years ago when the computer crapped out in the middle of the creative concepts part of the presentation. Sure, the CCO was dying on the inside but she remained cool and kept going while one of her team members quickly corrected the computer crash. Although those four minutes felt like forever, it was the tipping point for winning the business. The client said, “When the sh!t hits the fan, I want her on my team!”

More of those types of interferences are occurring in the virtual conference room… leverage them and show how you can remain calm under stressful situations. Who doesn’t want that person on the team who can keep it all together when things go awry?

Pitch Passion Can No Longer Hide in the Dark

Sure, the Mad Men days allowed for some great pitch stories and there are thousands of them to be told. One of the greatest pitch stories I have been part of was during the Ben & Jerry’s pitch.

The agency in Philadelphia picked up the clients at the 30th Street Station and while driving them to their offices, they nodded at agency team members placed at certain points in the city dressed in cow costumes. As if that wasn’t enough, when they got to the agency, there was a real cow being milked outside of their offices.

Boy… did that agency cry over spilled milk that night when the client team expressed how irresponsible they were with spending their own money! Fast-forward and the most engaging pitch theater now is the type of Zoom background… which can also be a big fail.

The point? Everyone is subject to the same white board… and the crutch of pitch-theater is dark.

The content and discussion was always vital but it is everything at this point. You must engage and re-engage in the Zoom room to help alleviate Zoom fatigue – but honestly, now you can’t fake the passion at all. The team is a collective unit that needs to be in unison and the meeting is evaluated on the agency’s own merit.

The benefit of this shift? It will help set up, for what I believe, to be richer, stronger, longer and more successful client-agency relationships as a result of remote pitching.

There is no doubt that certain meetings, like a working session, are missing the energy of physically being in the same room to collaborate on ideas. Eventually, we will get to a hybrid with some in person meetings but more will be acceptable as remaining virtual.

Conclusion: Embrace the Benefits of Remote Environments

Don’t hide your environment with backgrounds. Let your kids pop in. Show off your dog.

Formality is fine… I’m not here to knock it by any means. But it’s during those informal moments that true character comes out.

And if you’re an agency, remember… clients will always choose the partner they’d prefer to sit down and have a beer with.

Searching for a new agency partner during these unprecedented times? AAR Partners can help. Reach out today for a complimentary consultation. Want to be considered for the AAR Agency Growth Program? Email to schedule a call.

Lisa Colantuono

Lisa Colantuono is the President of AAR Partners. An agency search consultant for nearly two decades, Lisa is also an avid writer. Lisa has contributed many articles in top industry trades such as Forbes, Huffington Post, Advertising Age, Adweek and HubSpot Blogs’ Agency Post. Recently, Lisa entered the world of publishing with her book, @AARLisa: New Biz in 140 characters (or Less), written for the on-the-go new business exec that needs cut-to-the-chase insights to nail new business wins again and again. Lisa is also part of the industry speaking circuit, presenting at national conferences including 4A’s Transformation Conference, AAF Admerica National Conference, BOLO, HOW Design Live, Mirren, and AdAge Small Agency Conference.