The Agency Brief: 13 November 2020

Welcome to The Agency Brief, a weekly round-up of news, ideas, advice and brainfood for leaders of creative agencies.

Every week, we'll bring you the latest news from across the world in The Newsroom and explore what it means for your business. We'll also share great articles, advice and events on the latest issues in Things to learn from and What’s going on. And we rounding up some of the best stories on the web this week in What we’re reading.

We're publishing this first edition of Agency Brief publicly, so you can get a flavour of what each week's Brief contains — future editions will be premium publications for members only.


The Newsroom

» What can we expect from the Joe Biden presidency?

Read him in his own words, with some potentially concerning news for the UK as we approach the end of the Brexit transition period, especially for those pinning hopes on a swift UK–US trade deal.

Why America Must Lead Again
As president, Joe Biden plans to take immediate steps to renew U.S. democracy and alliances, protect the United States’ economic future, and have America lead the world.

Read more

» Brexit goes down to the line

Analysis from Reuters on the options available in the final Brexit negotiations. Reuters sees three possible outcomes:

  • A thin deal masquerading as the 'oven ready' option, but in reality with little scope for closer integration in areas important to UK agencies, such as services and regulations.
  • A tumultuous no deal, likely declared amid a row that blames European intransigence, with trade between Britain and the EU (and Britain and the rest of the world) falling back on World Trade Organisation rules.
  • A messy fudge, with political grandstanding on both sides, pressure from businesses may force a partial compromise on certain areas at the last minute.
Brexit goes down to the line: Deal, no-deal or fudge?
After nearly five years of Brexit crisis, the European Union and Britain are making a last ditch attempt to clinch a thin trade deal that would govern nearly a trillion dollars in annual imports and exports from 2021.

Read more

» UK's lagging economy

The 2020 UK economic picture is complicated. Beyond the soundbites, here’s some important analysis, from outside the UK and in, on what is actually happening in the UK economy.

Although there's been a much-touted upturn in the 3rd quarter with 15.5% growth July–September, that did little to make up for the 20% lockdown slump. Growth in September in particular was significantly slower. Overall, the UK economy is severely lagging behind other wealthy nations.

The economy is largely being propped up by more than 200 billion pounds of emergency spending and tax cuts from the Chancellor and the Bank of England, masking the real state of affairs.

UK’s lagging economy lost more speed in September, worse ahead
Britain’s economy grew by a slower than expected 1.1% in September from August, lagging other rich nations as it struggled to recover from the shock of the pandemic even before the latest COVID-19 lockdown.

Read more


Things to learn from

» Learning lessons from the last financial crash

In-depth analysis from The Drum on how the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic will affect some of the biggest brands.

The last recession saw a crop of challenger brands disrupt industries and dominate their rivals – all by offering consumers a way to save cash. Now the next recession has arrived, will we see the same again?

Lessons from the last crash: which brands will be undercut in the new recession?
The last recession saw a crop of challenger brands disrupt industries and dominate their rivals – all by offering consumers a way to save cash. Now the next recession has arrived, will we see the same again?

Read More

» Masks Work. Really.

A visual journey through the microscopic world of the coronavirus shows how masks provide an important defense against transmission.

Masks Work. Really. We’ll Show You How (New York Times [Subscription required])

» What Should Crisis Leadership Look Like?

The animal kingdom offers unexpected guidance for how we might respond to the pandemic.

What Should Crisis Leadership Look Like?
Douglas Starr writes about “swarm intelligence,” a concept central to good leadership in a time of crisis, according to Harvard researchers who studied the response to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Read More

As an example from the UK, London Borough of Hackney were hacked in early October. One of the leaders believes in transparency, though, and has blogged openly about the experience:

Matthew Cain on that hack. (Part 1 of 4)

Whatever the underlying crisis may be, many of the lessons are the same.

» Design leadership

Andy Budd of Clearleft has been thinking about the challenges designers and creators face when moving into leadership roles. In Being a Player Coach: Is it the best or the worst of both worlds, he shines a light on the pitfalls (and high points) of design leadership.

Being a Player Coach: Is it the best or the worst of both worlds?
At some stage in your design career, you may find yourself at a bit of a crossroads. One path is the path of the craftsperson; a path you’re very experienced and comfortable with. Down the other path…

Read more


What’s going on

Here's some dates in your diary for upcoming events.

» For The Agency Collective members

For members of The Agency Collective there's two upcoming events to look out for:

» Defining your value proposition and improving your pitches
Nov 17, 2020 01:00 PM (London)

Find out more and register

» Profit before purpose: Exploring sustainability, B Corps and impact-led projects
Nov 25, 2020 01:00 PM (London)

Find out more and register

» For Agency Hackers members

For members of Agency Hackers there's also two upcoming events:

» Running An Agency Podcast: Is The Juice Worth The Squeeze?
Nov 16, 2020 11:30 AM (London)

Find out more and register

» Zoomed Out: How Are Agencies Keeping The Creative Juice Flowing?
Nov 17, 2020 12:00 PM (London)

Find out more and register


What we’re reading

» A founder’s journey story

Nick Patterson of Storm & Shelter celebrates 7 years in business and reflects back on his founder’s journey in this great article, 7 Things I've Learned in 7 Years as a Founder.

7 Things I’ve Learned in 7 Years as a Founder
Seven years. Seven crazy, fun, stressful and rewarding years of running a production company.

Read more

» ZHC on Advertising

We're big fans of the Storythings newsletter here at Agency Radar, so this week's list of fun distractions kicks off with a recent highlight from there. What YouTuber ZHC Can Teach Us About Advertising charts ZHC's growth from 1,000 subscribers in 2017 to five million subscribers in 2019, with lessons along the way about strategic thinking, experimenting with formats and the future of advertising.

What YouTuber ZHC Can Teach Us About Advertising
How the hell did ZHC become so huge? XHC’s success seems deceptively obvious on the surface. His format is MrBeast meets Andy Warhol. Pop art with a stunt. His viewership was not happenstance. There’s a formula.

Read more

» 10 best practices for running remote workshops

Trenton Moss of Team Serka offers 10 detailed and practical steps to running remote training and workshops online.

Running interactive remote training: 10 best practices

Running interactive remote training: 10 best practices | Team Sterka
Our training is high energy, super-interactive and a great learning experience for everyone - find out how we do it.

Read more

» Great icebreaker ideas for online meetings

With all the online meetings we’re holding now, we all need some good ideas for icebreakers that don’t leave everyone squirming. Here’s six great ones from Emily Webber of Tacit:

Quick icebreakers for online meetings, (that don’t suck) - Emily Webber
Reading Time: 4 minutes Icebreakers seem to have lots of people squirming in their seats, me included. There is a lot of benefit to running them well and downsides when they are not. This post covers why do them and shares some that have gone well for me in the past. I have been running an online le…

Read more

» The Business Sustainability Management course

Madelyn Postman of agency Grain Creative takes the eight weeks of the Business Sustainability Management course from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and distils it down into the top 5 things you can take from it.

Top 5 takeaways from the Business Sustainability Management course
It’s a challenge to distill the incredible and inspiring (my California self says “mind-blowing and life-changing”) eight weeks of the Business Sustainability Management course at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) into my top five takeaways. But after turning in week after

Read more

» Radar Reads: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

We wrote a kind-of review for the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. The book is about what’s happening inside our minds when we make choices. In particular, it explores why we make poor choices so often and what we can do about it.

The review gives an outline of the book — the Big Idea of what it's about, and the key points — but we focus mainly on what it means for agency leaders, and we make some big recommendations on things you can do in practice to learn the lessons from the book.

Thinking, Fast and Slowby Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize forEconomics, examines what is happening in our brains when we make choices. Inparticular, it explores why we frequently make poor choices and what we can doabout it. At each turn the book also offers stratagems, practical…

Read more


And finally …

We’re all beginning to think about our strategy for 2021. There’s lots on everyone’s minds — the ongoing coronavirus pandemic; the end of the Brexit transition period in January; the turbulent state of the UK economy; and more.

That’s what it’ll feel like in companies who plan well for the pandemic.

Doing your own 2021 pandemic planning? Read our in-depth Board Brief on the pandemic in 2021 to help you and your board as you build your strategy:

Board Briefing: The Pandemic in 2021
Once a month we publish a detailed briefing for subscribers to guide in-depthdiscussions at board meetings. This is designed to bring the kind of thinking,analysis and viewpoint to your agency board meetings that you’d expect from anexperienced non-exec, but at a fraction of the cost. If just on…

Read more


Coming up next week on Agency Radar

» Mad Men Monday

We all need some fun, in amongst the serious stuff. So watch along with us on Monday night as we see what Mad Men can teach us about running an agency.

Catch up on read-along for Mad Men S1E1 — Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

» What Works

We’ve also got a deep dive on what works … on company playbooks. How do you make sure any one of your staff could play in any position? This is an in-depth look at playbooks — what they are, why you need one, what should go in it, how you make one, and how you can use it to take your business to even more success.


Read more about Agency Radar, what it is and why we’ve made it for you. And sign up to be a member here, to get access to all these briefings as they are published.


Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

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