The 23rd of July 2020. An ordinary date to some but to others it was monumental. Taylor Swift dropped her 8th studio album ‘Folklore’, featuring collaborations with The National and Bon Iver (a lockdown labour of love and significant departure from her usual pop style). Louis Theroux started a podcast; Zadie Smith penned an entire collection of essays and my husband became a highly scientific bread baker. My friends started knitting, singing, writing, and gardening. People started sharing some really funny original content on TikTok. As we got bored, we got creative. Somehow being forced to stay in meant that our minds wandered further than ever before. Lockdown changed us all.
This creativity spilled over into the media industry as we also had to get creative in terms of how we work. Teams had to find new ways to keep in touch and maintain morale – the Zoom quiz brought us together and the steady descent into niche knowledge and bonus rounds kept us all entertained.
The working day also changed as we found new ways to keep ourselves motivated, to get outside where we could. Our hours contracted and stretched, and the demands of the job were new to everyone as we found our way through an “unprecedented time”. Our relationships with clients and suppliers changed as we had to work closer together to keep businesses going. The rule book went completely out the window.
And when it came to those client relationships, things got more honest and, though more distanced, also more intimate somehow: professionalism was sacrificed to necessity, with meetings held over various kitchen tables with family, kids, pets and bookshelves in the background. Things got personal, and ultimately our conversations became more meaningful as we pulled together to weather the storm and come out of the other side stronger. The content of those meetings changed, and the depth of our commercial empathy came to the fore, focusing not just on media and marketing but ranging across business strategy and exploring overarching roadmaps to return.
We did virtual pitches and events went online – access to which was never more attainable. Video calling – a perfectly viable meeting option that we had long avoided – became the norm, with screen sharing and mass involvement making meetings just as productive. That, teamed with the lack of a commute, meant we suddenly got some more time back in our diaries and we filled it with exciting, inspiring work.
New processes were formed, old processes that no longer made sense were dumped. The workforce and Space & Time adapted and morphed into an unrecognisable agency. But while the office desks sat empty we were working like never before. As budgets declined and the stakes rose, our planning and strategy became paramount.
Across the industry we saw work that was fresh and different. Brands moved from making beer to producing hand sanitiser, big fashion houses promoted face masks and across the board advertising became kinder, funnier, lovelier. We spoke to each other in softer tones as we suddenly started seeing people on either side of the billboard as humans.
I am by no means saying that lockdown was easy, new Taylor Swift record notwithstanding. And I am certainly not saying that the next few months or even years will be plain sailing. But take a minute to look at what we have done. Look at how different, creative, and forward thinking we can act and how rewarding that can be. Sometimes it just takes a global pandemic to shake us up.