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What 2020 taught Havas Media Group’s Patrick Affleck: ‘industry fragilities have been exposed’

2020 has been an education for all of us. So as we approach the end of a year like no other, we're asking media and marketing luminaries to share with us their biggest work lesson of the last 12 months. Here Havas Media Group chief exec Patrick Affleck reflects on four crises that have reshaped the industry over the past 12 months.

Well, what the hell just happened? 2020 has exposed multiple fragilities in our industry and perhaps these needed to be laid bare in order to engender the sort of positive changes we’re beginning to witness. The dinosaurs of yesteryear have at last been laid to rest.

We are witnessing four simultaneous, interconnected crises that are accelerating the transformation of the ad industry. We have the Covid-19 health crisis, which has resulted in a deep reaching economic crisis, which in turn has shone a brighter light on the widening inequality crisis, all of which has been sparked by the burgeoning climate crisis. But, before I have you dabbing that tear away, let’s focus on some of the positives that have come out of this (it’s Christmas after all, damnit).

In response to the pandemic, we have had to reimagine the way we work, and collectively, we have shown that we can maintain high levels of productivity when working from home, suggesting that we need to be open to more flexible ways of working and partial remote working arrangements in the future.

2020 has also seen a wave of new digital entrepreneurs and startups that will help to fuel the post Covid-19 economic recovery. London is no longer the epicentre for innovation, instead we are seeing the growing importance of other cities such as Manchester – leading the way in fintech, Bristol in sustainability, and Brighton becoming a 5G testbed to help digital businesses realise the future potential of 5G. I’m keen to see how we might better leverage and support these growing industries in 2021 as we become truly nationally representative and not so London-focussed.

In response to the economic crisis, we’ve seen clients struggling to budget for growth versus the targets given, and as such we’ve had to help them prioritise the right KPIs to deliver against their business goals. More than ever, our respective goals need to be 100% aligned in the pursuit of more meaningful outcomes. We are stripping away our own operating complexities to mobilise and enable teams that are smaller, faster and more diverse in nature that can devise more effective solutions to the challenges posed and who are better equipped to circumvent any obstacle that might impede delivery.

In 2021, pace will be everything and our teams will be increasingly enabled by cloud-based infrastructure that will enable allow us to realise outcomes in a fraction of the time, whilst giving rise to new products that improve both efficiency and effectiveness.

In response to the growing inequality crisis, it was time for action, not words. The Black Plaque Project, an initiative commemorating overlooked black figures in London, Press Pause, our commitment to the Conscious Advertising Network and the launch of the Social Equity Marketplace were just a few of our collective initiatives designed to support underrepresented groups within the UK. With the launch of our new DE&I charter, we will continue to champion more ethical standards within our industry in 2021.

And finally, in response to the climate crisis, we have an enormous opportunity and duty to develop solutions and campaigns for our clients that tackle climate change and promote sustainability. The launch of EDF Energy’s new “Helping Britain Achieve Net Zero” campaign and the overt promotion of Kia’s eco range are just two examples which have shown that businesses can prosper and grow through sustainable innovation. The time to do more is now.

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2020 has been an education for all of us. So as we approach the end of a year like no other, we're asking media and marketing luminaries to share with us their biggest work lesson of the last 12 months. Here Havas Media Group chief exec Patrick Affleck reflects on four crises that have reshaped the industry over the past 12 months.

Well, what the hell just happened? 2020 has exposed multiple fragilities in our industry and perhaps these needed to be laid bare in order to engender the sort of positive changes we’re beginning to witness. The dinosaurs of yesteryear have at last been laid to rest.

We are witnessing four simultaneous, interconnected crises that are accelerating the transformation of the ad industry. We have the Covid-19 health crisis, which has resulted in a deep reaching economic crisis, which in turn has shone a brighter light on the widening inequality crisis, all of which has been sparked by the burgeoning climate crisis. But, before I have you dabbing that tear away, let’s focus on some of the positives that have come out of this (it’s Christmas after all, damnit).

In response to the pandemic, we have had to reimagine the way we work, and collectively, we have shown that we can maintain high levels of productivity when working from home, suggesting that we need to be open to more flexible ways of working and partial remote working arrangements in the future.

2020 has also seen a wave of new digital entrepreneurs and startups that will help to fuel the post Covid-19 economic recovery. London is no longer the epicentre for innovation, instead we are seeing the growing importance of other cities such as Manchester – leading the way in fintech, Bristol in sustainability, and Brighton becoming a 5G testbed to help digital businesses realise the future potential of 5G. I’m keen to see how we might better leverage and support these growing industries in 2021 as we become truly nationally representative and not so London-focussed.

In response to the economic crisis, we’ve seen clients struggling to budget for growth versus the targets given, and as such we’ve had to help them prioritise the right KPIs to deliver against their business goals. More than ever, our respective goals need to be 100% aligned in the pursuit of more meaningful outcomes. We are stripping away our own operating complexities to mobilise and enable teams that are smaller, faster and more diverse in nature that can devise more effective solutions to the challenges posed and who are better equipped to circumvent any obstacle that might impede delivery.

In 2021, pace will be everything and our teams will be increasingly enabled by cloud-based infrastructure that will enable allow us to realise outcomes in a fraction of the time, whilst giving rise to new products that improve both efficiency and effectiveness.

In response to the growing inequality crisis, it was time for action, not words. The Black Plaque Project, an initiative commemorating overlooked black figures in London, Press Pause, our commitment to the Conscious Advertising Network and the launch of the Social Equity Marketplace were just a few of our collective initiatives designed to support underrepresented groups within the UK. With the launch of our new DE&I charter, we will continue to champion more ethical standards within our industry in 2021.

And finally, in response to the climate crisis, we have an enormous opportunity and duty to develop solutions and campaigns for our clients that tackle climate change and promote sustainability. The launch of EDF Energy’s new “Helping Britain Achieve Net Zero” campaign and the overt promotion of Kia’s eco range are just two examples which have shown that businesses can prosper and grow through sustainable innovation. The time to do more is now.

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