by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) Over the eight days of last month’s 2020 AdForum Worldwide Summit — held virtually for the first time ever — 105 pitch consultants from all over interacted with 33 agency leaders across six holding companies, one global network and three independent agencies, as well as with each other. It was a great success as a summit overall and there were some fascinating moments.

Key learnings

Captured below are key learnings from those memorable eight days.

  1. Working from home (WFH) has worked but people generally want to get back to the office so that they can see each other and return to some normality. Fear of the pandemic is still huge.
  2. Office space will need to be reconfigured: more space, less open plan, more office walls
  3. Nine-to-five every day in the office is over: most people will work a mixture of both office and WFH
  4. Returning to the office will have to be carefully managed and the big issue is public transport — London, NYC, Paris, Madrid, Johannesburg and Cape Town are examples
  5. Clients have definitely cut back on spend but some are spending more (mixed bag); agencies that weren’t in great shape before covid-19 have gotten a lot worse (redundancies)
  6. Some brands have coped well and been very successful during the crisis; others have failed miserably often because they’ve been unwilling or unable to find new ways of working or promoting their products and services during the pandemic
  7. Fifty percent of consumers is coping with the effects of the novel coronavirus on their day-to-day lives; 50% isn’t
  8. Generally, agencies are moving towards being much more involved in consulting, and data seems to be the trigger for that
  9. Everything in tech has accelerated as a result of covid-19
  10. Virtual summits are excellent but we, as consultants, missed the camaraderie of our group when we’re together and learning from each other — plus we believe that the agencies which we met were less comfortable to share details with us virtually than they would have been when we’re a smaller group and physically in their agencies.

See also


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is MD of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK.  Johanna is one of the few experts driving this mediation and advisory service in SA and globally. She also runs the IAS Marketers Masterclass, a programme consisting of 10 masterclasses (up from eight) held in Johannesburg (now at GIBS). Twice a year she attends AdForum Worldwide Summits. She contributes the regular column, Masterclass Notes, which aims to help marketers and their agencies, to


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