Amp spotlight: How COVID will affect agencies' 2021 budgets – AdAge.com

In a normal year, September means back to school and the return of football. In agency world, it also means budget season. But as we’re all acutely aware, 2020 has been anything but normal.

The outlook for the coming year is far foggier than in years past. Some industry leaders have tapped into creative thinking to adapt to the challenges 2020 has brought on, while agile strategies have helped others roll with the punches. Although the industry-wide trend has been to cut back, some agencies have increased spending.

“We’ve literally banked on optimism and advancement,” says Mike Popowski, CEO at Atlanta’s Dagger. “In the economic downturn of COVID-19, a season in which many brands and agencies have been tightening purse strings and taking a conservative financial approach, we’ve taken a contrasting approach.”

Similarly, at Duckpin, the approach has been to maintain status quo as much as possible. “Despite the business world coming to a screeching halt in March, the leadership team here agreed in our quarterly meeting that we would leave our sales goals and budgets exactly as we initially set them for the year,” says CEO Andrew Woods.

Here’s how the rest of the Amp community is handling fall planning and budgeting in the coronavirus age:

People

With most of the country working from home, agency leaders have been pushed to look at new ways to keep their employees engaged and happy, while continuing to build on existing skillsets—an important investment given the shifting landscape of media consumption. At Just Media, that investment has taken the form of educational programs, certifications, and leadership and diversity training, along with more flexible schedules and added mental health days. “I’m continuing to invest in personal coaching because I want to do everything I can to help guide our team through what is a very stressful and emotional time,” says CEO Brandon Friesen.

Some agencies have looked at outside-the-box ways of making employees feel valued, even at a distance. “During the peak of quarantine, we implemented Friday lunch deliveries to both support local restaurants and to provide a creative way to engage with our people,” says Mark Ervin, president at Big Communications. Fun stuff aside, that investment also means tangible support for Big’s staff. “We evolved our cross-departmental mentorship program to be virtually focused, and we have been making significant investments in our technology infrastructure to ease everyday access to our digital tools and resources,” says Ervin.

Workspace

Physical offices have been cast in a harsh light this year—and we don’t mean fluorescents—with many business owners wondering if they really need them at all. For production-heavy work, however, there is still a resource gap that needs bridging in a work-from-home reality. “After having so much success with remote work, we decided to downsize our dedicated office space but invest further in our production studio facilities next year as well as our team’s home-studio capabilities,” says Night After Night CEO Elliott Phear. “While many of our creative disciplines can now be done anywhere, we wanted to ensure we could continue providing effective and safe production solutions for our client’s rapidly changing content needs through our efficient owned studio set-up.”

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