How Covid-19 Impacted Marketing & Advertising Agencies

By Kylie Moore

The Covid-19 pandemic dramatically altered how companies in the United States were able to do business. For those not deemed “essential,” like many marketing and advertising agencies, teams were sent home with laptops and desktops and forced to set up “temporary” WFH stations at home. 

While some communities have slowly transition back into office life, others remain fragmented, dealing with tenuous client loads in continued uncertain economic times.

Covid-19’s Impact on Agencies

But as our agency principal said in a Zoom conference early on in the pandemic: “Chaos is a ladder.”

We found ourselves in a position of great uncertainty, but also great possibility. As we tried to forecast client workloads and budgets, we started thinking about our business offerings as a whole: Could our model of service offerings survive a global pandemic? Or, did we need to change things up.

We intuitively knew that we weren’t alone in rethinking our service offerings. So we reached out to marketing and advertising agency executives across the country to find out how the pandemic has shaped their business. 

Meet the contributors

We spoke to 30 agency executives about their agency experience, and 23 went into detail about how Covid-19 has impacted their agency and how they’ve refined their service offerings.

Of the 30 executives we talked to, two-thirds said Covid-19 changed how their company operated. Whether it was amending service offerings, or extending their current reach, the majority of agencies have changed things up since March 2020.

The top change cited? Roughly 75 percent of those polled for this post said they’ve changed their service offerings in the wake of Covid-19:

  • Amending current service offerings (48%)
  • Offering new services (29%)
  • Reducing prices of services (16%)
  • Brainstorming new services (16%)
  • Increased prices of services (6%)
  • Offered fewer services (6%)

We also wanted to better understand the financial toll the pandemic has taken on agencies. The majority of those surveyed for this piece said they’ve made some type of financial change because of Covid-19.

But let’s get down to business… The real question is not just if the global pandemic changed business operations and services but how? And whether those changes represent large or small alterations in how agencies conduct business moving forward.

Question: How has Covid-19 shaped your agency’s offerings?

We are having more conversations with our clients about what we offer. Making sure they are aware of our full service suite and not assuming they will call us if they need anything. Empathetic outreach is key right now. 

Chris Bonney, VP of Strategy, Gulo

Jim Tobin

We’ve actually used the pandemic time to build a new product delivery mechanism around carefully vetted contractors. It’s designed to complement our agency services at a lower price point, while tapping our experience and expertise. 

Jim Tobin, CEO, Ignite Social

Dana DiTomaso

We haven’t changed what we offer at all. We are doing a larger percentage of website design/development work than we have in past years, but that could either be COVID-19 related, or would have happened anyway because we are getting better known for our website work. 

Dana DiTomaso, President & Partner, Kick Point

John Florey

We made sure the brands we currently or ended up working with remained focused on their message and how their product/service can contribute to helping consumers.

John Florey, President & Co-Founder, SAMA Labs

Nancy Dilbert

We now offer disposable menus and created new social media and website programs for industries severely impacted. 

Nancy Dibert, CEO, Epic Marketing Consultants

Matt Roberts

The types of clients we serve has changed more than what we offer them. Less smaller clients, more larger clients who were better equipped to weather the storm. 

Matt Roberts, President, AdInfusion

Jon Boles

The only thing that happened for us during COVID-19 is that our business grew much quicker than we were expecting so we had to hire another 3 team members to help out as there was a major influx in business. We are very grateful that we planned for the market to take a hit which is why we purposely have clients in 4-6 different industries. Some industries went down in sales and then some sky rocketed which is why our business had a huge influx during COVID-19. We also went 100% remote for the rest of 2020 which has been amazing. Our team’s productivity has skyrocketed and our culture even grew as team members were much happier being able to work from home and eat healthier and even workout during the day

Jon Boles, Founder and CEO, Avintiv Media

Pia Celestino

We are definitely looking at COVID as an opportunity to pivot into a product or more specialized agency. We have been thinking about it for a long time and these times, as hectic as they are, present an opportunity to change and evolve into something new. This is surely exhilarating.

Pia Celestino, Chief Creative Officer, Crea7ive

Jonathan Saeidian

Our agency saw a dip from COVID-19, however, since we spent a lot of time building the team & internal operations we have quickly scaled back. We are now a growth-focused agency where we outsource services we don’t want to focus on increasing our clients revenue. We have totally changed since COVID and our structure has improved dramatically. 

Jonathan Saeidian, Head of Growth, Brenton Way

Amin Lalani

We refined to give more results and sense to our offerings. 

Amin Lalani, Digital Strategist, EVISION

Trish Thomas

COVID-19 has impacted our clients, and in turn, impacted TEEM.  The changes we’ve made to our service offerings and rates have been in direct response to our client’s needs and our passionate commitment to support them during this difficult time.  While our slate of services is unchanged, we are offering much greater flexibility in mixing and matching services and requiring lower minimums for retainers and projects than usual. We’ve also made temporary rate concessions to help clients maintain marketing efforts rather than curbing spend to a detrimental level. 

Trish Thomas, CEO, TEEM

Scott Elkins

Our service offerings haven’t changed much, but we’ve had to become more flexible. Our workflow has become more friendly to remote work, and we’ve had to really tighten our operating budgets. 

Scott Elkins, President, The Elkins Agency

Jonas Dominique

We developed technological solutions leveraging data science and AI to provide more insights, proactive alerts, and the ability to reduce wasteful spending during a time when our clients need to make the most of every marketing dollar. We also developed a new tier of websites, offering customizable features at an extremely affordable price to enable our clients to meet the new demands of increased web traffic and displaced foot traffic. 

-Jonas Dominique, Senior Marketing Manager, LeaseLabs by RealPage

Dustin Moore

Offering workshops that were once in-person have had to be adjusted to accommodate digital communication methods. 

Dustin Moore, Founder, Ivio Agency

Timothy Weaver

We have introduced our Small Business Website platform to help businesses grow online.

Timothy Weaver, CEO, Sure Exposure, Inc.

Rahul Vij

We did not change our service offerings but we decided to focus on different industries during Covid, we started targeting digital companies, companies delivering groceries, or gaming companies, and with that percentage of work for different services changed during covid. 

Rahul Vij, CEO, WebSpero Solutions

Newaz Chowdhury

We are still doing the same thing. We just became more competitive in our pricing. We are charging slightly less for web development and marketing projects. 

Newaz Chowdhury, Digital Marketer, Powerphrase

Rebecca Hanson

COVID changed how we work internally but we have not altered service only improved.

Rebecca Hanson, Business Development Executive, Rainfactory

Deepak Shukla

Since SEO primarily takes place online, we didn’t change many services as the internet space wasn’t affected directly by COVID-19. We also mainly operate remotely with employees and clients all over the world, so we typically conversed virtually or over the phone anyway, so our communication has not been significantly affected. We haven’t changed much in the way we operate due to COVID-19 and what services we offer. 

Deepak Shukla, CEO and Founder, Pearl Lemon

Alen Kevorkian

We have adjusted the offering by providing monthly plans for many of our services to allow for our customers to be able to afford us, during these trying times. Many want to take this opportunity to begin their own business, but with limited funds it’s hard for many to take the first step, this is where we have adjusted our pricing module to help them achieve their goals. 

Alen Kevorkian, CEO, LiveWebMedia

Aimee Meester

We haven’t changed our services due to COVID, but it has added some nuance to the way we are delivering services because the conversion has shifted for buyers. 

Aimee Meester, CEO, Madison Taylor Marketing

Mark Lennon

We’re building some online services using videos and learn management systems to replace onsite consulting and onsite workshops

Mark Lennon, Managing Partner, Espresso B2B Marketing

Roger Malinowski

We have begun to offer virtual events including facilitating up-leveled zoom meetings, point-&-click micro-site engagements and meetings, designing and activating events in 3D virtual environments. We’ve also started a Covid-Safe consultancy as we return to live event production. 

Roger Malinowski, VP of Business Development, BeCore

Key Takeaways:

As one leader said, the pandemic has been a “humbling experience” – one that many have used to hone their offers and focus further on their business model. 

While many companies didn’t overhaul their offerings, many became more nuanced in the cost of doing business. We found several agencies said they became more competitive in their pricing, or more flexible in their payment plans for existing clients. 

Client retention during these uncertain times has been key to agency survival nationwide. Some executives mentioned working more efficiently to maximize their clients’ budgets, while others said their dialogue with clients has become more open, as both sides navigate uncertain futures. 

One thing is clear, the digital nature of our industry helped many agencies weather the storm. For most, even with a remote staff, business has been able to operate with (some) normalcy. Allowing teams to stay connected and productive, without dramatically changing the services they’re able to provide.

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