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Marketers Look Back on What They’ve Learned After a Year in Lockdown

Truth Collective Truth CollectiveMar 16, 2021


Bob Bailey, CEO of Truth Collective, was quoted in this March 11, 2021 Adweek article by Tiffany Moustakas.

Jim Johnson will never forget where he was on March 11, 2020.

The vp of account planning at the video advertising company was in line at a grocery store when he saw a TV announcement that the NBA was suspending its season after Tom Hanks had tested positive for Covid-19.

“You could feel the heightened tension in the air as people quickly strode through the aisles, piling carts high and looking around nervously at the crowds of shoppers,” he said.

Many people like Johnson can’t forget the complex emotions that resulted as people realized their lives were about to drastically change. And in a year of establishing a “new normal,” there are lessons that will always stay with them, like establishing connections “during a time when connection was most needed,” Johnson said.

Adweek conducted a survey focusing on how the pandemic impacted marketing professionals. Participants shared what it was like to be remote during the first week of the pandemic and what they’ve learned from a year in lockdown, along with lessons that can apply to their lives going forward.

Kasha Cacy, global CEO, Engine

Engine did a “work-from-home drill” on March 13 to ensure that if we had to go remote, everyone would be prepared. Over the weekend, multiple employees were exposed to Covid, and it became clear we needed to shut down. The positive news was that we had already made sure that our employees had the information, tools and technology needed to work from home.

The biggest thing I learned is that people can be extremely productive, collaborative, creative and effective without being physically together. In many ways, remote working has leveled the playing field.

Courtney Buechert, CEO, Eleven

We had several people at the agency who had been monitoring and warning about the dangers of the virus for a couple of months, so we had already started changing our travel policies and work-from-office requirements in January. Thanks to them, we were less shocked by the explosion of the pandemic.

I learned two important things: We can work productively—maybe even more[so] in some ways—in a distributed model. Creativity requires serendipity and human contact that cannot thrive in a purely remote model.

Hana Visaya, senior project manager, RPA advertising, and a former Adweek executive mentee

For many folks, our last day in the office was coincidentally Friday the 13th. I’m not superstitious or anything, but it’s a little funny to think about. The first week was filled with lots of outreach, empathy and finding our way virtually.

I’ve learned to double down on empathy and grace, and respect everyone’s boundaries and limits, including my own.

Krista Thomas, svp, marketing, Amobee

During the first week of the pandemic and working remotely, we learned that proactively taking the lead—even in a time of great confusion—was the right thing to do. When a sense of normalcy returns, I’ll remember the sacrifices our employees made in order to make a difference and continue their good work. My biggest takeaway is that facing adversity as a team builds far stronger bonds than any company offsite or culture program.

Henry Fernandez, director of business evolution,
Muh-tay-zik / Hof-fer

The first step I took was checking on the mental wellbeing of my team members and clients, as week 2 was slowly catching up to people. The steps I took really focused on trying to make everything feel as normal as possible. This helped me feel human and confident, while also giving me a routine in the morning.

Now that we’re all used to being on a video conferencing call, why not call that person in another state or country, and take time to see their smiling faces?

Justin Chadwick, vp of marketing, Tremor Video

I was admittedly naïve to the reality that beckoned, but my No. 1 priority was ensuring my team felt safe, and I made sure to reinforce that I was readily available to talk.

Working at home while homeschooling (and entertaining) my two young, restless daughters has been challenging to say the least. But it’s also forced me to become more proactive and efficient in managing my time and limiting distractions. I believe this greater sense of focus and the ability to be present in the moment will come in handy down the road.

Heather Petaccio, president, SRDS

The first week of being remote was not very different for me because I’ve been working remotely for close to 10 years. However, my husband and children were all home, and the news coverage was on a constant loop in the background. I remember feeling very undone because of the uncertainty.

I’m not sure what normal will be, but I know that I will never take for granted in-person meetings, attending conferences or going to trade shows. I will welcome the day when I can hug a friend or shake a colleague’s hand again.

Bob Bailey, founder and CEO, Truth Collective

We began planning for all-remote work the week of March 9. We created an [operations] team and in two days they had a plan. We did some in-office dry runs with the technology and on Friday the 13th, we said goodbye for what we thought would be a few weeks tops.

I learned how in-person interaction with our teams and clients is the piece that gives me the most joy as an agency founder/owner. “Normalcy” is in the eye of the beholder. Let’s be honest: We’re not going “back,” we’re going forward.

Kelly Bayett, cd and co-founder, Barking Owl

Our first week of being remote was surreal. We were on Zooms together, trying to figure out what we needed to purchase, so everyone could be fully remote. It felt like the entire week we were looking for signs. Where were we going? What were we doing?

I really want to keep doing Zooms. I might be the only person on the planet who thinks that, but I think for us, there is something great about connecting on a personal level and seeing people that would normally just be a voice on the end of a telephone line.

Matt Baker, chief strategy officer, Deutsch New York
It was obvious early on that the challenge was going to be communication. We made sure people had the basics, the right equipment. And then it was about lines of communication—anything that would foster a sense of “We’re in it together.”

I learned not to take small things for granted. Finding mental headspace was the hardest challenge. And even though it sounds ridiculous, I learned to appreciate my commute. A soft transition from work to home is important, and I’ll make the most of it when we’re back in the office.

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