The ‘new normal’ and the era of the specialist

Laptop on desk, working from homeAs the UK starts to look at pulling itself out of lockdown and salvaging the economy, it’s no secret that the future of the nine-to-five has firmly found its place in the spotlight.

With stores already entering administration, confusion about the best type of workplace set-up and tough talks around redundancy, it’s never been more important for brands to adapt and find their ‘new normal.’

For the creative sector, these ‘non-essential’ budgets were amongst the first to be culled, leaving many freelance and agency professionals with a very uncertain future ahead. Yet, Stephen Knight, founder and CEO of independent agency network Pimento, believes the time is upon us for a significant shift in the way we work.

When it comes to working from home, spending hours developing ideas over Zoom and collaborating with people we’ve never met, it’s nothing new to the Pimento family. As a virtual agency network, we’ve been pooling our creative ideas using the power of digital since 2005.

However, the Coronavirus pandemic has brought the ‘it’s not broken, so why fix it?’ approach to working into sharp focus. And that old-school mentality now looks set to be thrown out in favour of a more agile and holistic way of operating.

While the creative sector is, by its very nature, a lot more fluid in the way it functions – who doesn’t hold romantic preconceptions of writers holed up in moody coffee shops and graphic designers trawling for inspiration in city parks and hipster bars?

Yet, of the 200 agencies and consultants which make up the Pimento agency network – and subsequently employ over 5,500 people across a huge range of marketing services – every single one of them has been faced with a hurdle they have never encountered before, over the past three months. Raising the question, is shared specialist knowledge the future of our industry?

Who better to deliver the super-charged enthusiasm of entrepreneurs, and provide the security of proven practitioners, than a completely bespoke team of people which has been hand-picked on the merit of each individual’s own unique specialism?

As is the case with any personal or professional community, there is a lot we can achieve if we share and respond as one. In our case, the creative sector needs to support itself at a time where Marcomms spend is being cut, and our own clients are suffering.

But while teams might switch their focus to PR internal and direct comms, webinars, marketing automation and a strong push on social media in order to maintain their place at the table, it’s important for those who can, to support each other through these unprecedented times.

Gone are the days when similar organisations should be viewed as competitors, and leaders spend hours poring over a brief to trump that of their rivals. Not least because brands are now demanding a joined-up approach to their outsourced solutions, but because we are entering a time where ‘in-house vs. outsourced’ is very much on the business agenda.

To secure any slice of the proverbial pie, return on investment is key. Take, as an example, a client looking to launch a campaign which requires web design, PR, copywriting, advertising and SEO support.

Rather than trying to find a ‘jack of all trades’ agency, wouldn’t it be better for all involved to bring together a network of creatives to form a ‘super-specialist’ crew which could deliver on said brief?

It should go without saying that with so much talent across the UK, those looking to harness their capabilities would benefit so much more from a ‘drag-and-drop’ approach to their talent pools vs. one or two agencies trying to deliver on a multitude of requirements.

That’s why, during a period when some might view these next few months as a time for survival of the fittest, we need to be coming together in order to unite and offer the very best in class. Meaning a shared goal towards establishing an ‘era of the specialist’ is now more important than ever.

Stephen Knight About the author

Stephen Knight founded virtual agency network Pimento in 2005, in a bid to offer clients and brands an alternative way to manage their agency resources.

Previously chief marketing officer for The Walt Disney Company (EMEA), Stephen’s aim with Pimento was to shake up the traditional client/agency relationship. Since its inception, the firm sought to establish new ways to support clients’ marketing needs through flexible agency models.

Fast-forward to now and Stephen’s team has revolutionised the way the marketing industry responds to client requirements, creating bespoke teams, structures and fresh ways of working – adapting to the needs of the market.

As one of Europe’s leading independent agency networks, Pimento boasts over 200 agencies and consultants, employing 5,500 specialists covering every aspect of the marketing services mix. Passionate about making the outsourcing process as bespoke and simple as possible, the ensuing collective is able meet the complex demands of clients by creating bespoke teams, drawn directly from its members.

As its tagline ‘one agency, many flavours’ suggests, Pimento handpicks the brightest and best in each field – such as Brand, digital, PR, social media, design, web development and advertising – to work on any single brief and deliver the highest quality outcome.


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