Advertising, Marketing & PR  August 17, 2022

BizWest CEO Roundtable: Marketing, ad firms grapple with credibility, sparking creativity remotely

BOULDER — For businesses reliant on creativity and collaboration — marketing and advertising firms, for example — the COVID-19 pandemic has been a shock to the system, forcing companies to develop new processes for sparking ideas in a setting where many employees are still working from physically separate spaces. 

These types of businesses, along with their peers in the public-relations sector, are also grappling with building and maintaining credibility in an ever-fracturing media landscape where institutional trust is on the wane, industry leaders said during BizWest’s Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations CEO Roundtable held Tuesday in Boulder at the offices of Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti LLP.

“The dynamics have changed with the flexibility of remote work,” Vermilion CEO Susan Touchette Aust said, requiring a shift in mindset from company leaders toward recruitment, retention and day-to-day work processes. 

While industry leaders agree that Zoom meetings and Slack chats aren’t always the most conducive environment for creativity — “I want my team back!” Mighty Fudge Studio founder Patrick Mallek said — some acknowledge that the new paradigm hasn’t been as destructive to productivity as many feared. 

“We’re coming off our best year ever,” Parallel Path chief growth officer Hardy Kalisher said.

Still, building culture and achieving the sort of “indirect mentorship” that can occur almost through osmosis when colleagues are in the same office is now more difficult, Boulder Economic Council executive director Scott Sternberg said. 

The decision to return to the office has evolved into a question that not only has the potential to impact collaborative work, but into something of an “ethical dilemma” for firms seeking to do right by their workforces, TDA Boulder executive creative director and partner Jonathan Schoenberg said.

Consumers face their own dilemmas when deciding what media to consume and which products to buy. This, of course, greatly impacts the marketing and advertising firms tasked with selling products and choosing where to advertise.

“We’re starting to bump into credibility [issues] and disinformation,” Comprise CEO Doyle Albee said. 

Faced with fewer legacy media platforms and the proliferation of digital outlets, “We always love to layer traditional [media buys] with digital,” Touchette Aust said. 

It’s not just a weakened trust in media institutions and the increasing consumer reliance on social media that have marketing professionals on edge, but the nation’s heightened economic anxiety during this prolonged period of uncertainty. 

Deals that have historically taken days or weeks to close now often take months, Moxie Sozo chief creative officer Derek Springston said. Clients “haven’t been as quick to pull the trigger.”

Thankfully clients don’t yet appear to be fully retreating from marketing and advertising. 

In fact, many clients are taking a “full bore” approach than “cautious” one in the face of economic anxiety, People Productions CEO Don Poe said.

Market uncertainty and the pandemic have even provided some companies with new avenues for revenue — crisis communications, for example, Albee said. 

The current climate has required that marketing, PR and advertising companies adopt more of a “problem-solving role” for clients, Kalisher said.

BOULDER — For businesses reliant on creativity and collaboration — marketing and advertising firms, for example — the COVID-19 pandemic has been a shock to the system, forcing companies to develop new processes for sparking ideas in a setting where many employees are still working from physically separate spaces. 

These types of businesses, along with their peers in the public-relations sector, are also grappling with building and maintaining credibility in an ever-fracturing media landscape where institutional trust is on the wane, industry leaders said during BizWest’s Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations CEO Roundtable held Tuesday in Boulder at the offices of…

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