Brave New (COVID) World

by T Taylor

Way back in 1931, when Aldous Huxley wrote his famous novel, Brave New World, readers were captivated by his genetically engineered future where life was pain-free, but meaningless. During that time, the real world was suffering through the tremendous hardships of a stock market crash and worldwide depression.

Now that was quite painful—and meaningful.

Advertising played an important role in the slow comeback, encouraging women to stay home and take care of the domestic chores, while their husbands went to work and “brought home the bacon.” Strangely enough, advertising actually grew during this time of intense economic hardship.

It’s been over a year now since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020. And like the Great Depression, this disease has impacted the world—infecting 136 million people globally—more than the entire U.S. population back in 1931.

When COVID first hit our shores, I was worried. Our agency had always been people- and client-centered, and not meeting face-to-face was hard to fathom. How would the deadly virus affect our business? Our clients?

Thankfully, we didn’t close our doors, but instead went remote in March.

Businesses of all kinds and all sizes wondered how they could make it if the pandemic lasted more than a few months. The following is an excerpt from a study published in July 2020.

“When firms are told to expect a 1-month crisis, the expectation of remaining open by the end of the 2020 hovers above 68% across all industries, with the exception of arts and entertainment, personal services, tourism and lodging. In those industries, the expectation of remaining open drops to 66%, 57%, and 63%, respectively. When firms are told to expect a 6-month crisis, the average expectation of remaining open falls to 39%, and there is significant heterogeneity between sectors. The expected survival probability for firms in Arts and Entertainment drops precipitously to 45% under a 4-month crisis, and 35% if the crisis lasts 6 months. The expected probability of being open for Personal Services firms falls to 19% if the crisis lasts 6 months.”1

Reading that study was more than concerning, it was depressing. I didn’t even share it with my staff, as it only would have added to their anxiety. We needed to stay focused and positive.

So, our business slowed a bit, and revenues with a few of our clients went down, but very little.

As the weather warmed, things began to look more hopeful. We started meeting together as a team once a week outside in a park, socially distanced and with masks. We talked about our lives, our work, and discussed how we could help our loyal clients.

Being together, even for that little time every week, helped keep us close and engaged.

Doing business changed out of necessity. And everyone seemed to be in the same situation, so, in a way, it was a level playing field. We called each other and our stakeholders, and our communications became more natural. Instead of our face-to-face meetings, we held Zoom meetings—and business started feeling like it was getting back to normal.

This scenario has surely played out in most businesses around the world.

Thankfully, our business had become almost entirely digital. This had been the trend since the early 2000s and today it’s the norm. It’s rare when we create tactile work like print brochures, displays, three-dimensional graphics and the like.

We still manage to get out and meet new clients and other stakeholders in person from time to time, which is important. Working remotely, even without COVID, seems to be the future. If fact, our business continues to thrive despite the pandemic due to our client-centered approach. And having a great, veteran team that adapts quickly and seamlessly makes it all worth the effort.

So, our “brave new world” has been relatively painless, but very meaningful.

1 The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Business Outcomes and Expectations – First published on July 10, 2020