How clients are dictating agencies’ return to in-person work
As the world of work continues to redefine work culture, client relationships often influence how agencies and media companies make real estate decisions.
The one-size-fits-all approach no longer seems to apply to the future of hybrid working. Agencies are moving forward with the transition back to the office, with some expanding overseas; others are reducing certain locations and sites based on changing interactions with customers and partners.
These changes have largely been driven by customers who no longer expect to meet in person.
This new reality has in part caused the leaders of the independent agency Boathouse to rethink how and where they set up shop. A new expansion on the west coast is focused on the healthcare and technology sectors. And while the company is located in Boston and Washington, D.C., it also recently opened in a shared space in Menlo Park in the Bay Area, where many executives lived before companies spread all over. the country.
“Clients are definitely more flexible when it comes to physical presence,” said Boathouse president Peter Prodromou, who joined in August. “What we’ve learned during the pandemic is that productivity can be very high, even in remote locations. So we look at real estate through this lens – the realistic space required for collaboration and the economic and creative flexibility now inherent in a post-pandemic reality.
Patritia Pahladsingh, managing director of media and creative company TBWA/NEBOKO, a media and creative company, also acknowledged this new work reality by offering “more social spaces” that “are not necessarily tied to the work,” said Patritia Pahladsingh, Managing Director. the. Increasingly, open spaces may include more call booths or social and meeting spaces designed for both gatherings and remote conversations.
“After two years of COVID, it’s also important to get online again, and it’s better and easier if we have these kinds of places in the office,” Pahladsingh said.
TBWA clients prefer virtual meetings, so in-person office space is prioritized for in-person meetings for briefings, brainstorms or client presentations.
“But in the end, they also prefer seeing each other. After all, we sell creative ideas, and ideas are energy. You can convey that much better when you’re together in the same room,” said Pahladsingh.
Some agencies have invested in new technologies to sweeten the deal. At Hylink Digital Solutions, that has meant big screens and video conferencing software, said Humphrey Ho, US managing partner at global advertising agency Hylink Digital Solutions.
“We will now build and buy the best technology in the office… modules for working in the office, top-down desks that we already have, good coffee, comfortable chairs, comfortable lounges and common gathering spaces – to attract people want to come to the office rather than having people come to the office,” Ho said.
Hylink is headquartered in Beijing, with various offices including South Korea and the UK. Over the past three years, the company has moved into a smaller, temporary office, which has significantly reduced the rent, though Ho didn’t say by exactly how much. Although customers did not expect them to have physical offices nearby, employees began to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“It got us out of the big resignation and salary inflation and everything, because we saved on what’s the third most expensive item in any ad agency – which is rent,” said Ho to Digiday.
Customer preferences also vary by market, Ho added: “In Los Angeles, customer expectations of physical locations to serve are always an expectation. However, in New York, interestingly, they just want New Yorkers even if they live in Florida or Philadelphia… Customers in Europe keep asking us to have offices located in countries close to them, even near.
When it comes to the real estate budget, different agencies take a varied approach by scaling up or moving into temporary and shared spaces. Boathouse’s office budget will “probably be smaller”, but Prodromou did not say by how much.
Tug, an independent global agency, is expanding to the United States with a new office in New York this year. It has an international footprint with offices already in London, Berlin, Singapore, Toronto and Sydney serving international clients such as Trivago, IKEA and Intuit.
“We’ve really looked at the market, and the idea is that we’re going to come to the United States with the proposition that we can help [brands] go international,” Beck said.
For Tug, future spaces and changes will ultimately differ from market to market, but Beck finds comfort in not being locked into a lease and the agency plans to occupy WeWork spaces until a hub reaches 10 employees before securing a permanent office.
David Jordan, president of Milwaukee and Chicago-based agency Bader Rutter, said the company’s real estate investments “will remain fairly static.” Bader Rutter is opening a new space in Chicago designed for more hybrid working, with team tables, hotel workstations and other smart technology – using funds reinvested from any real estate savings.
“We understand that to provide the best experience for our employees and customers, these premium investments are important,” Jordan said.
TBWA echoed a similar approach in its finances – the company will invest more in call boxes, new furniture and shared spaces. “It’s more about how the office is set up, rather than investing in more or less of our office space,” Pahladsingh said.