This article first appeared in Marklives.
I think I speak for many of us when I say that I’m looking forward to the end of the year, both with some trepidation and some relief. As is the case every year, time seems to rush past faster and faster; how did we get here so quickly? It was surely only the other day when we were sitting down to earnestly plan what this year would entail. And yet… what a year. What a year. Bring on the time off; it feels well-deserved.
This time of the year is often one for reflection and contemplation. In no particular order, here are some of the things that resonated with me over the past year.
Smaller is sometimes better
It’s not the first time this has been said and it certainly won’t be the last. Agencies that are not looking for ways to make their business models smaller and nimbler will struggle, as clients look to partners who can turn excellent work round quickly without massive, cumbersome teams.
The past year has seen a number of the bigger, established local agencies suffer from some serious blows. On the flipside, however, I’ve noticed many smaller hot shops building their business through innovative new business models, based on small core teams, serviced by excellent contractors and freelancers.
Mediocre isn’t going to cut it any more
When times get tough, the weakest links get let loose. There are so many examples of poor work being produced by agencies and, with this, I’ve seen many clients moving their work to agencies and suppliers that they trust.
Agencies don’t have the buffers to support staff who coast through under the radar, letting other people carry them, anymore; and clients don’t have the budgets to have multiple reverts with agencies who just don’t get it, or who waste time and money with enormous account teams in every meeting.
I still believe here is enough of a pie to share among all (or at least most) of us, but only to those that deserve it.
The ride will continue to be bumpy for some time yet
The past year has certainly been no joy ride, and the economic tremors we have felt here are sure to continue as our political situation continues to be unstable. However, we’re not alone: Trumponomics, Brexitonomics and more continue to give our foreign friends the heeby-jeebies and there’s no sign of it calming down for them, either.
The solution? Apart from putting all eggs in a Bitcoin basket, the same holds true of every phase of economic uncertainty — hold tight and ride it out, if possible.
I would add, for those in our industry, there is the need to consciously make changes to operate in a way that is tighter and nimbler. See point one above for those who are finding the economy particularly tough. Massive account teams, duplicated roles and bogged-down ways of working just won’t cut it any more.
Things aren’t necessarily getting worse; we’re just more aware of them
If 2016 was the year in which all of our favourite celebrities died, 2017 was the one where we found out all the ones left were really creepy. In the tsunami of relegations about celebrity sex pests and the resulting #metoo stories, it would not have been surprising to assume that things were suddenly getting out of control. But I think it is a case of us being more aware — and of people standing up and saying enough is enough — rather than things necessarily being “worse” than before.
Harassment and bullying of women and the young — and any other groups who are marginalised or weak — is not new. Every woman in the industry I know has a story, or many, to tell of how they have been at the receiving end, whether it be unwanted sexual attention, or being patronised, downtrodden or “mansplained” to by men in the workplace. And things are not going to suddenly change but, the more they are spoken about, and the more we say they are “not OK”, the more things will start to transform.
In times of darkness, look for light
It’s pretty easy to get downcast when looking at the news and social media feeds awash of people talking about the demise of the country, impending economic doom and so on.
So, here’s the thing. It’s not just us who are in a shitty place. Have a look around the world. Having lived and worked overseas for more than a decade and, after having come home again, I can promise that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
While we are all bitching and moaning about how tough it is, there are others who are using this time to their advantage. In times of downturn, innovation and entrepreneurship flourish. While we sitting here talking about the lack of opportunity, there are a load of global brands and companies from around the world coming to South Africa — and Africa — to build their fortunes.
I have a strong belief that our reality is driven by our thoughts and actions. Which means that how 2018 unfolds for us will very much be down to the changes and outlook that we implement now.
Emma KingEmma King (@EmmainSA) is the owner and MD of The Friday Street Club (@TheFridayStClub). She is allergic to bad grammar and ampersands, but likes working her way through piles of novels and travelling the globe. She contributes the monthly “Dissident Spin Doctor” column on PR and communication issues to MarkLives.com.