A year ago, today we posted on LinkedIn to mark our 20th anniversary. We were two weeks into lockdown, and everyone was very scared. To be honest, even mentioning our 20th anniversary seemed a little tone-deaf but we went ahead as, all the bad news notwithstanding, we had massive confidence in our team’s ability to ride it out and we wanted to say thank you to everyone who had helped us on our journey.
Well, it’s a year on. We certainly didn’t think then that we would be writing our 21st anniversary post in lockdown as well – even if the road out of the pandemic now has more dates and certainty.
It has been a year when we have all learnt an awful lot about ourselves, our colleagues and our world. We’ve stared into each other’s living spaces every day; we’ve heard children home-schooling and delivery drivers calling; and been introduced to partners, flat sharers and parents. In some cases, we’ve sat alongside and comforted our colleagues and our clients as they or their loved ones have succumbed to and, in most cases, thankfully, recovered from COVID.
We’ve had the chance to truly appreciate and thank those heroes in the NHS, care homes and on the front line who have kept society going despite great danger to themselves. Crucially, following the killings in Minnesota and Atlanta and the events that followed, we have all been prompted to re-examine our attitudes to diversity, equality and inclusion; to listen and learn about how others see the world; and to accelerate our work towards becoming an anti-racist, anti-discrimination agency.
Business-wise, we’ve ended up having a far better year than we might expected when we looked out a year ago and that’s thanks to our amazing colleagues here at Brands2Life. All of them have gone above and beyond to ensure our clients continue to get the counsel, creativity, campaigns and results they expect from us. We know that the hours have been long and, with lockdown so strict, opportunities for holidays and relaxation curtailed. There’s a limit as to how far virtual drinks, quizzes, surprise gifts and online Pilates & yoga can go to make lockdown working tolerable. That’s one of the reasons why we decided to give everyone an extra two days’ holiday the weekend following 21st June so everyone can get out and really enjoy freedom again when it comes.
We always knew everyone here was pretty special, and this past year confirmed that in spades. That’s why we put everyone in our logo when we refreshed it in December. We need to give a specific shout-out to everyone behind the scenes here. Our People, Recruitment, Operations, IT and Marketing teams have been amazing in their dedication to ensuring our business has stayed on track whatever the world has thrown at us all. Without them we wouldn’t be here now.
So, it was a big moment for us, last August, to be able to announce that we had become a majority-owned employee trust (EOT) and that, as a consequence, everyone here became an indirect shareholder in the business. We’ve always been an employee-first business, but this enabled us to put our money where our mouth is. It has enabled us to pay everyone bonuses (tax-free in the UK) as a thank you this year. We envisage many agencies will follow this path in the years ahead. We certainly recommend it.
We’ve also seen more recognition for our work than ever before. All-in-all we had over 50 nominations and won 12 industry awards including six Agency of the Year Awards. We’ve won awards for our global campaigning, our film work, our purpose, our social media and our consumer work. And we were blown away to win PR Week Large Agency of the Year nineteen years after we won New Consultancy of the Year, followed two weeks later by PRCA Large Agency of the Year.
We call ourselves The Agency for the Brands Transforming Our World and this last year, more than ever before, we got the chance to show the world why we think we deserve that title. We showcased some of the amazing work our clients have been doing to help society and businesses through the pandemic. From Hologic helping with COVID tests through Autodesk producing 3D-printed masks and Ricoh and VMware enabling people to work from home better to LinkedIn giving a platform for those Changemakers seeking to change workplace attitudes, we had better stories to tell than ever before. And, thanks to our digitally led, integrated approach those stories had a bigger impact than ever before as well.
Our investment in developing social and digital expertise of all our staff has paid dividends over the past year as our clients have pivoted their strategies from ATL and events to online especially creative content delivered via social. Our ability to design and deliver multi-discipline, multi-channel, multi-country campaigns has never been in greater demand. At the heart of those is our best-in-class earned media expertise: despite a very different media landscape we delivered some phenomenal coverage across the board.
This time last year we said we hoped that we might be able to raise a glass with all our colleagues and clients in the Autumn. Lucky, we didn’t say which Autumn but, hopefully, it will be Autumn 2021.
In the meantime, many thanks to everyone who has helped us in the past year. We are so indebted to you all.
Giles & Sarah