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Cannes Lions: Five Ways the Creative Industry Can Rebuild Through Uncertainty, Together

by | May 13, 2020

We Are Rosie Founder Stephanie Nadi Olson.

Originally posted on Cannes Lions, May 13, 2020


There’s no sugarcoating the situation that we are all facing. The shock and pain of the daily layoffs, the budget freezes and the closure of businesses are leaving us with grief, and one big question: Where do we go from here?

The entire industry is feeling this moment, but it’s one I’ve been preparing for in my work at We Are Rosie. We need a total system reboot, and where we take it is up to us. This is a powerful moment for our community. And developing a new type of advertising practice through We Are Rosie over the last few years has afforded me a perspective on where we might be heading:

Remote work as a foundational principle

Organisational design and process will integrate remote work, not as an afterthought, but as a legitimate and welcome form of working. This will increase diversity and inclusion, bringing people onboard who live beyond the city limits of the organisation and create space for people to work remotely for a variety of reasons. According to a study we are soon to publish, only 1% of marketers say they must have a traditional office, while 69% of marketers say they must have the ability to work remotely.

Staffing to the lowest common denominator

The new paradigm of our industry will mean a literal rebuild of the system that limits overhead and bloat in favour of agility and niche expertise, using burst capacity to fill in gaps as needed. To make this work, organisations will need to re-think the credentials when hiring in order to break down barriers and accommodate flexible talent in the fabric of their operations.

Acceleration toward more project-based work

We saw this trend swell before Covid, but the future is project-based, and will require organisations to think flexibly about using niche experts to opt in and support their core team in making excellent work. Baking in a ‘flex talent strategy’ in annual or quarterly planning helps the core full time employees opt-in with more lead time, versus with last-minute urgency.

Acceptance of liberated talent

Talent has been leaving our industry for brighter horizons over the last few years. In the future, we’ll celebrate their desire to work on a variety of projects that light them up, versus chain them down. The impact of this will be massive – when people thrive, they make better work. Ultimately, portfolios made up of wide-ranging work done by talented people are more of a value proposition for future clients.

A recurring ‘resiliency assessment’ of teams and suppliers

We now know that the ability to pivot and shapeshift as an organisation is a superpower. Resiliency assessments will be needed to operate functionally flexible teams. Assessments of both internal and supplier organisations – including agency partners for CMO’s – can be managed by forecasting on a quarterly basis to ensure value sustainability. We need to tailor every approach, but the end result will be giant marketing organisations that operate much more like startups.

We will not go back to marginalising and limiting access to work for people who want or need to work in a more flexible way. In fact, we will welcome back those who have been marginalised to do the work they love in an environment where they are cared for and supported. One that focuses on the talent – unique gifts, personal connection, and enthusiasm for specific work.

We are shedding the old paradigm of work. The future is one where brands continue building in-house teams, and where flexible micro-agencies (collectives of curated talent) can support core teams to bring in fresh voices, project-based work, and niche expertise. The future is one where talent is liberated to do the work they love.

It gives me hope to see leaders stepping up to institute changes that will create a more inclusive and thoughtful work structure. It will be made of fixed and flex talent, working side-by-side, by design. This is the future.