Adland's younger talent share feelings about COVID-19 crisis

Illustration created by So A Ryu, associate designer at FCB Chicago (included below)
Illustration created by So A Ryu, associate designer at FCB Chicago (included below)

A raw, shoot-from-the-hip take on this disruption through the lens of those not in C-Suite.

We've spent the past week hearing from ad agency leadership about how they're dealing with the coronavirus disruption.

But how is their staff really feeling? In particular, their younger employees who rarely get a voice on the mainstage and may be more concerned than C-suite management about how this crisis will play out for their own careers.

Campaign US caught up with some of the industry’s brightest and new(ish) talent to ask how they truly feel about the unforeseen impact of COVID-19.

Victoria Rosselli, art director at FCB Chicago

It’s scary out there and I’m grateful to have a job during all of this, but it can get scary in here when work and home start to blend together. I think it's important we continue to respect our colleagues' time as we're adapting to work in an environment surrounded by our kids, significant others, and even our troubled thoughts.'

Ransom Haywood, senior copywriter at Dagger in Atlanta

This has been a really interesting experiment in how creative teams can work together. Being at home really frees my mind up to think about my work when my brain is best at thinking about it. There aren’t as many unexpected meetings, so I’m getting that time back to come to a review with deeper ideas. But it forces me to be more intentional about setting time to work with my creative partner since we are both working our own schedules for the most part. Concepting can be difficult when you’re not in the same room."

Laura Omodt, communications manager at Broadhead, Minnesota’s largest independent agency

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried, but right now I’m doing the best that I can to keep my head up. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for the last five years, and oftentimes I have a hard time separating my professional productivity from my self-worth.

It’s kind of a hierarchy of needs thing for me - I need to make sure my mental health is intact before I worry about my advertising job. At the same time though, I know work is a big part of what gives me a sense of purpose and confidence.

So A Ryu, associate designer at FCB Chicago

Of course, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the industry – so I’m paying close attention to what the industry leaders are saying and how they are responding to the situation. Fishes are jumping out of the water for understandable reasons and we are dialing in for virtual water cooler chats hoping to gain insight into what is truly going on - in the industry, with our brands, with our jobs. 

What can agencies do to help young creatives during this confusing time? Well, we are looking for guidance, but what we really need is a space for us to speak up and a system that will enable us to do our job. Here’s what I noticed this week.

Overall transparency and clear collective goals that build trust and give voice to everyone: Our Chicago leadership clearly defined boundaries and a helpful transition guide that still applies when we are not physically exiting the doors every day. Getting this message from top down makes it easier for me, a young creative, to have the necessary conversations and set boundaries if needed. 

Strong team communication and help system in place: My team has weekly workflow meetings that lay out our responsibility for the week. It’s our chance to review each individual’s workload, giving us an opportunity to raise our hand to help, or ask for help. This is something we’ve always done, and incredibly important in this chaotic time. 

Ask and reach out: I am an international creative and disabled — I prefer to be on a video call rather than calling-in so that I can read lips during meetings. Right now there are shifting government policies and rising xenophobic harassments everywhere – all things that are very real and that I am very aware of. On the surface I may be a young creative who seems to be least affected by all of this, but there is always room for people to reach out and ask.

David Suarez, junior designer at The Lab NYC

With the coronavirus disrupting life as we know it, it makes sense to have mixed feelings like fear, stress and simply overwhelmed. I believe pushing forward and adapting as much as possible is key in times like these, especially adapting to a different work setting like your home and social distancing. Even with the daily trivial news updates, I feel confident as a whole we will come out of this a better and stronger society.  

Robyn Frost, creative at FCB Chicago

I don’t think I’m reaching when I say it feels like Love Is Blind and The Circle were simply warmups for what we could now consider ‘the new normal.’ Thanks to Teams, Zoom and BlueJeans, our bosses and coworkers have a direct line to our living rooms – and while it’s slightly disconcerting, it’s also wonderfully grounding to see we’re all just humans making the best of a potentially daunting, uncertain situation. The 90+ person creative department Friday drinks was kinda fun, kinda weird in equal measure. 

When it comes to coping at home, we all of course have our own way of dealing with things. I’m reading less of the news and more of the catalogues that drop through the door – West Elm can’t hurt us. CB2 is safe. Maybe I’ll finally get a cool pot for that plant in the corner. 

And hysterical, shock-factor posts aside – for real, Twitter’s come through with the support. The other evening about 14 of us (who for the most part have never met in real life, but all work in advertising) had an hour and a half’s Zoom chat from our respective cities.

Work-wise it’s business as unusual. As a creative, routine is key for getting up and getting on – it’s easy for us to drift and get distracted when we’re paid to imagine things. I’m writing a lot, journaling every day, and spending a decent whack of time under a weighted blanket. I’ve sectioned my flat into zones – work happens at the counter or occasionally on the sofa (I write best lying down).

I’ve created a no-laptop-in-my-bedroom rule, making it a true escape from work at the end of the day. Remember to carve out time to FaceTime your family and friends – especially if, like me, you’re thousands of miles from home. My 89 year old Grandma sent me her first voice message this week and learnt to scroll on an iPhone, which was a huge bloody moment for both of us. 

How brands show up in the world over the next few weeks and what they choose to say, or not, will be very telling. We’re literally employed to solve problems in cool ways, so it’s tempting to look at what a client could say or do right now. But unless they’ve got a factory like LVMH that can produce hand sanitizer, millions of masks and surgical gloves, or create more ventilators, they should probably sit on the sidelines for a while. Advertisers cannot cure Covid-19, as much as that case study in a few months time will try and convince us. 

If there’s one thing that truly reassures me, it’s that London supermarkets are apparently running out of tea. Instead of going to the pub with your mates, just hunker down, wash your hands and have a cup of tea. It’s the most sensible thing we can do.

Sofia Gomes, junior majoring in Design and Communications at the Georgia Institute of Technology

We are not ready for the unexpected, we all know that. People don’t tend to react well to the shit the world throws at us from time to time - we tend to look for order in the disorder that is life. Probably the origin of our obsession to take notes, make lists, track our belongings, measure what we eat, how much we earn, how much we weigh. We have let the ability of being in control blind us to the unexpected. 

There are moments in a person’s life that are considered as some kind of godly birthright. Whatever crap you believe in, there’s a template that was laid down by your predecessors that lead you to have unrealistic expectations of what life should look like.

In life’s template, those important moments would be like chapters in a novel. It rocks our work skipping one or the other, and don’t even get me started when they switch their freaking positions. 

2020 has caused a whole lot of drama in so many people’s templates - it doesn't matter how, we were all touched by what has happened this year (and it’s only March for f*ck’s sake) and if you think about it, that’s one of the few things we all have in common. You may hate olives, think Pink Floyd sucks, argue that Friends isn’t all that and that GIF isn't pronounced with a hard "G," but let me tell you something: besides being wrong (just kidding), we are living and surviving 2020, so I guess we aren't so different after all. 

I don't care who you are or where you’re from, this year has taken away some things from me, and from you too - and you’re right, it sucks. So why don’t we talk about how much it sucked together?

Estie Wassner, art director at BARKER

This is an emergency. I am directing all my time, energy and creativity right now towards my clients and my team (following my own health and sanity, that is). The reality is that everyone’s lives have been turned upside down and I am doing everything I can to support my team’s projects and clients’ business objectives.

I just need to show up right now -- not just for me, but for them. Once we get through this together, the training, growth and advancement will still be there. In fact, I’m willing to bet I’ll be taking some important learnings from this entire situation.

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