How does a company get its name? Is it through rigorous, consumer-based testing? Or conceived over a beer? Or by hiring an expert? If you are a start-up, you often don’t have the big budgets or time to conduct months of expensive research to identify the absolute best name. To better understand one of the earliest, and most important decisions entrepreneurs will make, the choice of the firm’s name, I sought insight from several agencies. Below are some of the inventive ways that companies arrived at their names.
What is it that has enabled the creative output upon which Vann has built his career? Vann’s answer: his “ability to look at creative through a strategic lens”. As we talked about what this meant, Vann noted that strategy creates parameters. While some may find parameters limiting, he said it’s when he uses those to his advantage that he has the most success. Inspiration actually strikes hardest when figuring out how to work creatively within boundaries. While he’s known many creative types to want to do “cool or hip” work without a strategic foundation, he’s also seen how that work turns into a singular tactic, and not a true, long-term campaign.
In branding, advertising, and marketing it might be assumed that he who has the loudest voice, wins the most consumers. As the Greek philosopher Epictetus once remarked, however, “we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak”. While understated, listening is an essential part of the branding and/or marketing process and a skill I’ve personally found value in honing. As I look back at my career, learning to listen has been a key to success, regardless of industry.
At FL+G, we often consult with startups. One of the first things we talk about with these new companies is the need for strong brand messaging. We firmly believe that a strong core message is essential when building a brand because this process is about figuring out what needs to be said, what wants to be heard, and the best way to deliver it. To us, messaging is the branding decision companies should make before the logo design, before the website launches, before any marketing materials are pushed out.
If you work at an agency, you’re pretty much 100 percent guaranteed to experience a variation of the following conversation in the next few months: “How’s it going?” “Busy.” “Well, a good problem to have.”
What you’re experiencing is a symptom of an affliction that plagues agencies across the boards: a “busy trap” mentality that prizes busywork over real productivity.
“It’s a huge problem within agencies,” said Matt Howell, global chief digital officer at Havas. “There is pride in having a meeting calendar that’s ‘back-to-backs.’”
Indeed, trying to get a meeting with an ad agency executive is often near impossible, with multiple assistants coordinating times and huge chunks of calendars that are just blocked out with meetings. Howell said that it’s also a machismo thing — and a self-perpetuating one at that: People that are “sought after” are often the ones that tend to keep their calendars full.
Vann Graves, chief creative officer at FL+G, said his entire career he has seen a lot of “busy time” with no productivity. To be sure, these calendars aren’t blocked because actual work is being done. It’s simply because of meetings — a scourge in the agency world that many rail against. Graves calls them phantom meetings — when people go to meetings followed by another meeting but there’s never any quiet time to actually execute or process what happened in those meetings. It’s also a problem beyond optics. Howell said that creative people who actually don’t perform well without quiet time suffer in a busy-trap culture because their time gets directed into meetings instead of actual work.
One big driver of the phenomenon may be that agencies traditionally bill on time. Even as fee methods change, executives that grew up in a world of hourly billings that looked at how time was spent feel the need to cram their days, said Graves. “It’s a residual effect on the industry because we were all raised in the billable-hour world.” The digital era also made being busy more possible: There’s always more Twitter to be checked and one more email to be sent. There’s also more work to be done, and less time to be doing it.
That leads to a general feeling that if someone doesn’t have their calendars full, they’re slacking off. “We do a busy brag,” said Noah Mallin, head of social at MEC. And it works across agencies — Mallin said he has a friend at another agency and they regularly compare how busy they are. “It’s a measuring contest.”
It might be darker than that: One agency vp, who said he didn’t want to be named for this article, said that he finds he’s increasingly “busy” with absolutely meaningless tasks — not real work. And along with his peers, he wondered if the reason for it is to cover up the fact that he isn’t actually producing anything. “Lunches with clients are part of what I do, for example, and then I have meetings with my team about how those lunches went,” he said. “But I realized that if I didn’t have those meetings, I really would find myself at wit’s end. Maybe I’m busy because if I wasn’t, I’d realize I don’t really do anything that important after all.”
Of course, the idea of time poverty isn’t new. Back in 2011, a Gallup poll reported that the more successful, or cash-rich, Americans became, the less time they seemed to have. More eloquently, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin called the time stress complaint the “yuppie kvetch,” suggesting the more technologically progressive and successful people became, the likelier they were to complain about feeling time-crunched.
And yet, Howell said he hasn’t seen similar issues in other places that bill by time, like in the consultancy world, for example. “The problem isn’t quite pervasive there,” he said. “In our industry, we have this ‘being crazed is good’ phenomenon because it shows that there’s demand for you and what you’re doing.”
At Engine Digital, the company worked with agency consultancy Agency Agile to change how the company operated, setting predetermined blocks of time for meetings so people were free the rest of the day. At Grey Advertising, there’s long been a “no-meeting” rule for certain days of the week. Howell at Havas is experimenting with fewer meetings and more workshopping so things actually get done.
“Everything is moving fast, so if you’re not busy, you’re probably doing something wrong,” said Graves. “I’ve got a lot of busy to take care of. Busy is built into the system.”
By Shareen Pathak - published - Digiday - June 28th 2016
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME
“What’s in a name?” When Juliet, in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, originally spoke these words, Shakespeare was making the argument that language is random. Names are just labels used to distinguish one thing from another. To Juliette, the name “Montague” itself did not create worth or meaning.
Up until recently, FL&G did not have a name. We were an entity; a fully functioning company, however we had no set identity. If names are just labels, we shouldn’t need one to create meaning and worth, right?
Doing business with no name, however, was a challenge. Without a name, we had to navigate how best to introduce ourselves to prospective clients. We had no business cards, we used temporary email addresses, we couldn’t yet define our brand or our visual identity. We had less to fall back on and more to explain.
The sense of identity that a name provides is at the heart of why names are important to us as individuals and business entities. Names are descriptors that allow people to make quick judgments and assumptions about us. While we can understand the harm of assumptions (and the reasoning behind Juliet’s assertion), names provide the human mind a fast way to categorize a lot of information in a short amount of time.
Interestingly, names have also been shown to be a crucial factor in an individual’s internalization and development of their sense of self. Names help propel us forward on various paths of life and career. For example, a name can “exert unconscious influence over a person's own choices. Some scientific researchers contend that there are disproportionately large numbers of dentists named Dennis and lawyers named Lauren, and that it's not purely an accident that Dr. Douglas Hart of Scarsdale, N.Y., chose cardiology or that the Greathouse family of West Virginia runs a real-estate firm.”
If choosing a name would inevitably have external and internal influences, choosing the right one for our new agency was one of the most important decisions we had to make to date. This decision was one that would shape how we were going to be perceived by society and how we would perceive ourselves.
As an agency, however, there were other things we had to consider during the naming process, too. For example:
How would our name influence our brand? We had to consider Brand Law #5, “The Law of the Word”, which dictates that a brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer.
As a creative agency we had to be unique, and being unique in a world full of creative agencies who had already called dibs on certain words proved to be a challenge. Finding a name that wasn’t already taken while concurrently connotating the right message and voice meant we had to dig far and wide for ideas.
We had to simultaneously find a domain name that 1. paired well with our choice, 2. was available, and 3. wasn’t exponentially outside our budget.
We all had to agree. With five founding partners all located on different parts of the “purely rational” to “out-there creative” spectrum, we were all driven by different reasonings.
As we struggled to narrow down our ideas, we decided to let internal and external forces intersect. If society was going to judge us based on the name we chose, then why not include them in the process?
Working with Campaign US, we started by choosing five options that we believed we could internalize as we developed our agency’s identity. Then, we left it to society to chose one of those.
As a result, we got the best of both worlds.
Check out the Campaign US articles to see how the process unfolded!
From Mr. T to driving on Mars, FL+G's CEO and CCO practices creative alchemy
Name: Vann Graves
Title: CEO and CCO, FL+G
Years in ad industry: 20+
First job in ad industry: Creative Intern at BBDO
Vann Graves began his career under the tutelage of Phil Dusenberry at BBDO. He moved up quickly through the ranks before heading to McCann, McCann Worldgroup and then Fancy Rhino in Chattanooga. Earlier this year, Graves — remaining in Chattanooga after leaving Fancy Rhino — helped found full-service shop FL+G. In an unprecedented move, he let the ad industry at large choose the name of his new agency.
He says being a creative was simpler a decade or two ago, when good work alone could carry a career. Today, though, "you must be an alchemist," he says, "finding the right mix of storytelling, content, technology and relevance."
"It’s not just about the content you make, but how you connect the elements of your work. Every client is different, and each project needs to be approached in a personal way."
Here are the executions Graves says mean the most to him and his career.
Work: "Groovy Summer"
This was the first CGI project Graves worked on. "I quickly learned that technique doesn’t garner immediate results," he says. The process took some getting used to.
"On the stool sat a big mirrored ball that, through the magic of post-production, would become the cool and laid-back Green M&M," he says. "It was amazing to watch it all come together and to hear for the first time the magical yet sometimes horrible words, ‘We can fix it in post!’"
Brand: Motorola ROKR
This spot featured a large roster of musical megastars and was shot in under a week on two different continents. It was a crucible that "taught me the importance of collaboration, timing, logistics and great production," Graves says. He lauds producer Paul Feldman (who made a cameo as Beethoven.) "Now, like then, I know to rely on my producer," Graves says, "because a great creative idea executed poorly is a missed opportunity."
Brand: Mastercard Prepaid Debit Card
This multicultural spot was a big hit in the general market, too. But it was tougher sell behind the scenes. "Sometimes it is easier for clients and agencies to want do work that is less creative and fun and default to familiar approaches to multicultural work," Graves says. Getting innovative work approved can be "an uphill battle."
But he learned how to defend the work he believed in — a lesson he uses on every project now.
Agency: Fancy Rhino
Work: "Remember When?"
During his time at Fancy Rhino, Graves worked with the tech startup Torch to launch its new brand. "Creating everything from the messaging, to the logo, to the content was amazing," he says. "With startups, you are not just building a brand but working with the founders and innovators to create the brand."
He also learned to stay flexible during the project. "Everything has the potential to change on a minute-by-minute basis," he says. When he started his new agency, FL+G, Torch followed him, becoming the agency’s only launch client.
Brand: Lockheed Martin
Client: Lockheed Martin
Work: "Field Trip To Mars"
Graves had long since left McCann by the time this work came out, but such is the pace at which highly technical work sometimes gets made.
Lockheed’s acclaimed virtual field trip was only possible because the creative team took a risk with the pitch, and the client saw its value. "It reminded me that creatively we have an obligation to be more than a vendor to clients," Graves says, "but a true creative partner."
That kind of partnership fosters open dialogue and greater creativity, Graves says. In this case, it resulted in "an entirely new technology platform."
By I-Hsien Sherwood published - Campaign US - June 9th 2016
Advertising creative directors speculate on how it might look when the NBA starts putting sponsor ads on jerseys in 2017.
Back in April, the NBA announced it would begin putting sponsorship logos on player uniforms in the 2017-18 season, a move that could generate at least $100 million per year. Commonplace in all sports around the world, monetizing uniforms is a move major American sports leagues like the NFL, NHL, and Major league Baseball have yet to make.
The revenue numbers might have team owners salivating, but the prospect of adding logos has some fans worried their hoops heroes will look more like German hockey players. More realistically, the NBA is imagining a future in which fans will accept (and buy) jerseys with brand logos, just as world soccer fans still scramble for the newest kits of Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Barcelona.
European soccer clubs have practically made selling uniform space into a capitalist art form—they sell the front of the shirt rights, they sell the back of the shirt rights, they sell shirt rights for different tournaments, they sell the warm-up shirt rights. Everything is for sale. They must look at the real estate on NBA shirts and wonder, 'Why are the numbers so big on the front?'
In anticipation of the NBA's first foray into brands on player uniforms, I asked some of the people brands will be talking to about their potential jersey sponsorship strategy, and asked them to speculate on how marketers may be approaching this new sports sponsorship opportunity. Creative directors, art directors, and executives from six different ad agencies weighed in on everything from placement to specific brand/team partnerships that would make sense.
Some are realistic, some are ambitious, and some are just batsh*t brand crazy. Check them out in the slide show above.
CUTWATER ASSOCIATE CREATIVE DIRECTOR GONG LIU, AND COPYWRITER JAY BROCKMEIER
Golden State Warriors and Twitter: "The best partnerships are going to come from an idea that helps all parties involved and feels smart. So for Twitter, we’ll put players’ Twitter handles on their jerseys instead of their last name—something that will make Twitter, the Warriors, and the players happy."
Chicago Bulls and McDonald's: "Americans don’t agree on much, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: McDonald’s fries are delicious. To remind people how much they miss them we will create a jersey with a pocket made of their iconic fry container and more ventilation for a completely new look."
Atlanta Hawks and Brawny: "For the Hawks, we’ll work with Atlanta’s own Georgia-Pacific—owners of Brawny—to create a jersey featuring the iconic red and black plaid pattern of the Brawny Man."
Atlanta Hawks and United Airlines: "We’ll work with United Airlines and the Atlanta Hawks—both know a little about flight—to re-imagine their uniforms. We’ll use the simple and familiar flight pattern motif as a design element in the fabric and the Hawks logo and uniform number will serve as the 'hub.'"
FL+G CEO/ CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER VANN GRAVES
"Creating logos for NBA jerseys comes with a lot of pressure. You have to strike the right balance between staying on brand while not annoying the millions of basketball fans that will be ready to pick your work apart the second it walks onto the court. The solution is to use icons that are quickly recognizable yet add a fun component to the game."
FL+G PARTNER/ CREATIVE DIRECTOR JOE SCALO
"For brands like McDonald's and Starbucks, we wanted to branch out from using their typical logo and put the focus back onto their most iconic items. Who can resist the nostalgic image of the yellow fries or the classic coffee cup? They bring an unmistakable symbol to the jersey, a tactic that will keep the NBA happy while offering something that fans can get excited about."
GYK ANTLER BRAND AND MARKETING EXECUTIVE LUKE BONNER
"There’s a reason we’re attracted to—and turned off by—brands. Branding creates value and loyalty when we feel it shares and reflects our core beliefs. Otherwise, it’s just crass corporatism. So, as the NBA dips its collective toes in the world of co-branding, remember, fans don’t like crass corporatism. Luckily, we’re in the business of keeping everyone happy, so here’s our $0.02 on well-aligned co-branding."
Boston Celtics and Dunkin’ Donuts: "Pride. To Bostonians, it’s what separates them. It’s what unites them. It’s also what makes them care more about triple doubles than triple ventis. Whether it’s their sports teams or their breakfast, Boston fans are rabidly loyal to brands steeped in tradition. Born and bred in Massachusetts, the Celtics and Dunks go together like coffee and donuts."
Atlanta Hawks and Delta Airlines: "Above the sky or above the rim, these two Atlanta-based franchises know a little something about pushing the envelope. The Hawks have seen serious lift-off connecting with millennials through engaging game-day experiences, while Delta continues to carry more passengers annually than any other airline in the world. Plus, the Delta widget fits perfectly into the Hawks’ design. Together, there’s no telling how high they’ll fly."
INNOCEAN USA CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER ERIC SPRINGER, AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR SHANE DIVER
McDonald’s and LA Clippers: "As McDonald’s shifts away from its traditional fast food menu, the brand can only benefit from reaching a broader, healthier audience. So it only made sense to create something that represents McDonald’s future and marry it with the NBA style and aesthetic. We mirrored the famous NBA logo and created a more athletic version of Ronald McDonald to make it clear that you can "Be Like Mike" (or Steph) if you eat McDonald’s."
MONO SAN FRANCISCO MANAGING CREATIVE DIRECTOR PAULA BIONDICH, AND DESIGNER BEN JOHNSON
Logo Fantasy Leagues: "Let's have different brand items or icons represented on different players' jerseys, and turn it into a 'fantasy' game, in which people can draft their 'team' based on these different logos. For instance, let's say I draft the McDonald's Hamburger, and my friend drafts McDonald's fries—if the player with the McDonald's hamburger logo scores the most points, I win a coupon for a hamburger on my next visit."
United Way: "A jersey is a personal object, to both the players and the fans who wear it. Why not give that space to some of the fans who'd appreciate it most? Each player represents a local individual child 'sponsored' by the United Way. When that particular player is the leading scorer, a matching donation is made to that particular child's name. For example, if Kari-Anthony Towns led the team with 27 points, $270 would be given from the Wolves to The United Way in the name of that particular local child."
American Express: Let's spread the local love and have teams sponsor businesses, not the other way around. In partnership with American Express, each NBA player 'promotes' a small business in their market by donning its logo on Small Business Saturday. It's a small gesture that will go a long way on such an important shopping day."
By JEFF BEER Published - Fast Company - May 5, 2016
Fourteen years ago, an executive at Bain & Co had a suggestion -- create a short consumer survey to test brand loyalty. The idea took off, so much so that the executive, Fred Reichheld, has watched it morph into a Frankenstein: the endless loop of “brief” satisfaction surveys following a dental appointment, car rental or salad at a corner restaurant.
Not only are the requests inescapable, but employees increasingly pressure, even bribe, customers to offer only the highest marks, raising real questions about the results.
Reichheld came face to face with the monster he unwittingly helped spawn when he recently entered a hotel lobby where a sign read, “If there’s any reason you can’t give us a 10, stop by the front desk. We’ll make it worth your while.”
That hotel is no outlier. An Allstate insurance agency in Westchester, New York, sends customers frequent notes pushing them to give it a flawless score on an e-mailed survey by saying the customers will benefit: “Each time we obtain a ‘Perfect 10’ on the survey, our agency is given additional resources from Allstate that will allow us to provide our clients with an even higher level of service.”
Trump University students who have sued for false promises have testified that they were pressured to give high marks to professors. Uber riders are familiar with the not-so-gentle demand from drivers for five stars out of five.
The explosive growth in instant customer surveys results from a confluence of forces, scholars say: the growing thirst for client feedback to improve products and services; the increasing focus on data; the ease of reaching customers via e-mail and text; and the growing conviction that by rating a product, customers gain a stake in it, that they become members of that product’s “community.”
“There was a time in marketing where the consumer was on the sidelines,” said Vann Graves, chief executive officer of FL+G, an advertising and marketing company. “Now this idea of participatory marketing helps to engage people. It’s like, ‘I’m affecting the brand by participating.’"
Those under 35 have grown used to this approach and consult many online reviews before making a purchase, according to Nora Ganim Barnes, professor of marketing at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
But the tsunami of surveys -- more than two-thirds of Fortune 1000 companies use the Net Promoter System started by Reichheld, according to Bain -- is making them far less useful, Graves said, and change seems inevitable.
Foot Cream on Twitter
There was a time, he noted by way of example, when every brand thought it necessary to have a Facebook page or Twitter handle. “Do I really care if Pepto-Bismol has a Facebook page?” he asked. “Do I really want to follow my foot cream on Twitter?”
“We’re just in the middle of everybody doing it,” he said. “It works for a lot of service oriented things, but I’m not going to rate my toilet paper online.”
Context is clearly important. TripAdvisor Inc. doesn’t face survey fatigue, according to Brian Payea, head of industry relations, because people want others to learn of their travel experiences.
“It’s the thing you want to share, whereas the fertilizer I bought and the deck-paint I bought that I got requests to review, it’s like, ‘Hmm, not that passionate about it,”’ he said.
Problems with surveys are two-fold, researchers said. First, too many surveys with too many questions turn off consumers. Second, results that are tied to employee bonuses -- or jobs -- prove inaccurate. Combined, these problems are turning a useful method of interacting with customers into a headache.
People are losing patience. Pew Research telephone poll respondents fell from 36 percent in 1997 to 9 percent in 2012, according to a company report. The number is likely even lower today.
Those who do respond often do not make it through the whole survey, especially if it’s longer than a couple of questions. Each minute, 2 to 4 percent of respondents abandon the cause, according to a 2015 retail industry study by Medallia Inc., a consumer experience research company.
“Survey fatigue is a real (and growing) problem facing anyone who wants to collect data,” wrote Andrea Fryrear, in a SurveyGizmo blog post Feb. 25. “If we want to be able to continue to get information from an audience, we have to design survey projects that are respectful of their time.”
For Michelle Henry, co-founder and president of the Akron, Ohio-based Center for Marketing and Opinion Research LLC, the solution to the problem of consumer turnoff is giving more thoughtful surveys just once or twice a year aimed specifically at helping improve products.
The wrong way is tying surveys to compensation or benefits and having the employees give them, she said, like some restaurants where waiters ask customers to fill out a survey and put in a good word for them.
Customer Ill Will
In a letter to the editor of Automotive News in 2013, Ronald Russo, executive manager at Vaden Automotive Group in Savannah, Georgia, complained that survey fatigue was leading to customer ill will and harsh responses.
“If our dealership gets poor survey ratings because customers state they are tired of receiving surveys, the manufacturers will count that against us,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Reichheld said, bloated ratings defeat the purpose. Coaching responses can drive scores up, yet higher scores indicate nothing about whether the customer will return or recommend.
“The instant we have a technology to minimize surveys, I’m the first one on that bandwagon,” Reichheld said.
By Jennifer Kaplan Published - Bloomberg - May 4, 2016
The strangest thing about walking into an agency these days is that you can hear a pin drop.
The confluence of open-floor plans, rampant headphone use, and a generation of phone-averse millennials has created a workplace where silence, not noise, is the new normal. Ironically, the library-like environments can be traced, in no small part, to agencies latching onto trendy ideas around collaboration.
Open office plans, popularized in Silicon Valley, were adopted en masse by ad agencies through the 2000s. But people sitting next to each other without office walls don’t necessarily collaborate more. In fact, they often collaborate less, as they re-create private space with headphones.
“It’s a funny thing,” said Michael Epstein, chief client officer at Carat USA. “With an open floor plan, you’d think it would be wildly disruptive with people constantly talking to each other. More often, you see them with headphones on.”
Rich Silverstein, co-chairman at Goodby Silverstein and Partners, said that he thinks headphones were invented by money-crunching CFOs to make people believe they have their own office. “Headphones are the greatest invention for office space ever,” he said.
Not all of this is bad, of course. Agencies have long rewarded fast talkers; headphones are the new way of burrowing more deeply into work. You could argue it’s the mark of a doer.
“Headphones are a way of announcing to the world, ‘Don’t talk to me, I’m actually working’,” said Dave Snyder, executive creative director at Firstborn.
Of course, this isn’t always the case. Some at agencies say headphones are a convenient way to cut themselves off, which often becomes an all-day habit rather than an as-needed mode. (As Digiday alum John McDermott wrote in MEL last week, there are many negative effects on efficiency and creativity in the workplace because of headphones.)
When Vann Graves, now founder of small shop FL&G, started in the business at BBDO, folks had offices. Junior people started in a bullpen or a big table on the floor. Having an office was a rite of passage, he said. But being junior and working at a big table with other people was helpful, he said. But it was also OK to go find a quiet space to have a private conversation or a meeting.
Open floor plans mean fewer private spaces — so in the absence of a place to go “be collaborative,” people just put their headphones on. “It got quieter because if you try to talk, people tell you to ‘shut up,’” said Graves.
There is also, of course, the millennial factor. These born-multitaskers are used to a work culture where open floor-plans are the norm. Their instinct is to put on headphones. “That’s just what they’ve always been exposed to,” said Graves.
One agency exec who said he did not want to be named because “it’s my problem, not theirs,” said he struggles with having a team who is sitting physically near him but never really available because of their headphones habit.
“I used to think they were uncommunicative, but truth was they were IM-ing and texting and Snapping each other the whole time. Just doing it silently.” As Snyder at Firstborn puts it, collaboration doesn’t have to mean two people talking physically. As mystifying this is to executives with flecks of gray in their hair, their young colleagues shrug and send off a Snap to someone sitting 10 feet away.
Silverstein says that back in the day, offices defined people: what they hung on walls, the books they had, what was on their desks. “Everyone insisted on having their own,” he said. Today, space isn’t what defines people, he said. “Sardines would all be happy if they had headphones.” But agencies need to be loud, said Silverstein.
Another thing that changed collaboration levels was a shift in roles. Previously, there may have been a different art director and a different writer working together. Now, roles have blurred; one person wears many hats. “I am the AD and I’m the writer, so I’m going to put headphones to block out the noise and so I lose out on the collaboration thing.”
For Steve Williams, CEO at Maxus Americas, it may also be cultural. He said in the U.S., the agency world is more low-key and lacking in energy at least from an office-space perspective. “There is a lot of hankering for private space and thinking spaces.” And since few agencies have the rooms, headphones go on.
Maxus is about to redesign its offices and Williams says he will focus on a “strategic” open-plan environment with plenty of huddle rooms. “Is it getting quieter in the workplace? Yes. But you can’t dictate a culture.”
While headphone use on one hand is considered polite, studies have shown that it increases feelings of isolation. A study by professors Sigal Barsade and Hakan Ozcelik from Wharton and Cal State, respectively, found a couple of years ago that isolated employees often feel like they belong less at work, which in turn affects output. And a different study from Isaac Kohane, a director at Harvard Medical School, found that innovation and creativity are directly linked to physical proximity — which headphones figuratively, at least, decrease.
Ken Lloyd, a professor and author of a book on office culture said some research that headphones contribute to employees missing conversations and sensing less engagement in their work, as well as feeling less connected at work. The buzzword in HR circles is “employee engagement.” Headphones wouldn’t seem to encourage that, as they disengage from their surroundings and coworkers.
Another reason for quieter offices is a shift in communication strategies, say executives. At the Digiday Agency Summit in March, plenty of agency execs groused about phone-phobic millennials who don’t want to talk to clients in the time-honored way: long, intensive conference calls. And calls are a way of life: Carly Carson, an account director at PMG, said that account services used to go through specific phone training that showed how to write call recaps, kick of phone meetings. “They almost prepared us with a script of sorts.” That has come less in handy — Carson said she communicates less on the phone than ever before.
Workplace collaboration services like Slack have rolled out at agencies like Firstborn and R/GA that have meant client and internal communication text-based. Kim Sivillo, a managing director at iProspect, has found more employees are now texting clients. She herself has five different messaging platforms on her computer — each client prefers different ones, from AIM to Slack to Facebook Messenger.
“Clients are expecting real-time responses, so phone calls are on their way out,” she said. “And it’s not just millennials. Every time my phone rings, I look at it and say, ‘Who? Why are you calling me!’”
By Shareen Pathak Published - Digiday - April 18, 2016