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US cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I concur — but must add, “until Covid-19”. 

The initial brushstrokes of Covid-19 painted darkness around the globe, with a force we could neither see nor fight, threatening untold misery. Now, almost two years down the line, we continue to count losses — but the resilience of the human spirit is showing up in small but bright patches across a number of industries.

As intermediaries, we are looking at the changes that affect our business. One of the most valuable is the realisation among marketers and agencies that we are a truly borderless world.

Creativity is no longer constrained to regions and intermediaries are free to find the best creative solution from a broader range of options than before. Not that technology hasn’t allowed remote working in the past, but the pandemic has forced more people to see its value and make choices that enable a combination of talent that really works for them.

Agility on a smaller carbon footprint

Smaller, more agile agencies can set up business almost anywhere and still have access to clients. The other big silver lining is that while we are working together from thousands of kilometres apart, we are able to reduce our collective carbon footprints like never before.

Where travel around SA and even overseas was often required for stakeholders to trust that their brief would be understood and their requirements met, online communications in their various forms have shown same-room discussions can be carried out as effectively online, and with less cost to the planet and the company budget.

Quality beats price

Because intermediaries usually know all players and are also adept at understanding the value new players bring to a project, we’re being called on by marketers who ask for remote agencies whose work they have seen — online. When a marketer says, “Let’s go global”, accessing those agencies is as easy as accessing those at home.

It’s been suggested that some foreign companies look to countries such as SA based on the strength of their currency against the rand. This is not true, in our experience. Every client seeks quality above all else. Anything less would be reputationally disastrous. If there is any cost-saving to be had with the same level of quality and professionalism they demand, it’s a bonus, but not a prerequisite.

Of course, the other bright light that has been enhanced by the pandemic forcing all of us to master online communications, is the greater trust that marketers and agencies place on the knowledge and value of intermediaries. 

We, like everyone else, are hoping the global vaccine rollouts continue apace, and more lives are saved as the days go by. In the meantime, we are all just grateful that the technology required for so many industries to keep doing business safely arrived before 2020, making creativity without borders a thing.

For more information, visit the IAS website.

About the author: Johanna McDowell is CEO of IAS and partner in Scopen SA and the UK. 

This article was paid for by the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company.


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