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Working — and Winning — Through The Pandemic

The Coronavirus has created an unprecedented global crisis. But it also helps us find our strengths, and resolve to overcome our weaknesses.

Sure, we’d heard about the coronavirus and COVID-19. But it was somewhere else. Until it wasn’t. And from one day to the next, our world changed.

It’s not been easy for any of us. But once the initial shock lessened, we found there were new ways of doing things — not just to save existing business but to create new business and to develop new strategies and to forge the bonds between us and our clients and the brands we serve.

As a fully-digital boutique agency accustomed to working remotely, and with global operations in Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai, and Paris, FF had a strategic overview of the crisis — from its debut in China to confinement in the rest of the world. This global presence and perspective allowed us to strengthen the two attributes necessary for success in the marketing world today: agility and creativity.

FF Los Angeles, FF New York, and FF Paris began working remotely on March 17; FF Shanghai had been grappling with the virus since January, during the Chinese New Year celebrations. Being accustomed to working globally as a company and remaining in close contact with FF Shanghai helped us anticipate what was to come as the virus spread. We understood pretty early how this crisis would develop.

Now, as the world begins to emerge from confinement, we want to share with you some of our experiences working through this difficult period.

Preserving Human Capital

“As a manager, the real challenge was to cope with the sudden lack of human interactions,” says Nathan Smith, Business Director at FF Los Angeles. “We humans are social animals. So we immediately implemented a new routine so people wouldn’t feel lost or abandoned. It was a way to safeguard human capital — that fragile and precious basis of agency life.”

Amanda Hellman, Managing Director at FF New York, says, “The FF teams started marching to this new routine and rhythm quickly. We are committed to preserving the mental and physical health of our employees, and the sustainability of our businesses.” This unprecedented period also gave us the opportunity to discover new sources of agility and to use all our global resources to accompany our clients through uncharted waters.

Looking back, we see evidence that the constraints imposed by the virus and confinement have been catalysts for creativity. FF’s digital mindset went to work to amplify the communications tools we’d already been using to work collaboratively and creatively with clients and within teams to create and design projects. “You have to think of very smart processes which are continuously adaptable,” says Feng Huang, Managing Director, Executive Creative Director and Partner at FF Shanghai. “International coordination between our agencies was fundamental for the proper monitoring of our productions,” he continues. “When we entered confinement, for example, we were able to count on the support of our FF Los Angeles teams for a shoot. We were also able to produce a film for Vivo outside of China in Thailand during confinement.”

More recently, benefitting from its earlier confinement experience, it is Shanghai that has been a cornerstone for the three other FF agencies, helping the agency teams understand, adapt and find creative solutions. That approach went beyond the classics. We began producing projects in full CGI, animation, or centered on User Generated Content or Influencers. Creativity, flexibility, and agility were crucial in helping us find new solutions: FF Paris launched the food brand, Provamel, with a 100% digital strategy. And more campaigns are in the works for the second quarter.

At FF we’ve always been very resilient. FF didn’t slow down. Quite the contrary. Our four agencies continued to develop new projects during the COVID-19 confinement period. For instance, FF Los Angeles launched a video to support Greta Thunberg’s climate organization, Fridays for Future, in conjunction with this year’s Earth Day on April 22. The video plays on Thunberg’s repeated challenge to the World Economic Forum: “I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is” and features a family going through their morning routine — awakening, breakfasting, leaving for school and work — as millions do every day. But their house is in flames, the fire increasing its reach throughout the video’s 60-seconds..

“We now know how to set up a COVID-compliant shoot, with a team filming in one country and a director in another country,” says Amanda Van Caneghem, Executive Producer at FF Los Angeles. “And for that, technology is key!” This production solution allows clients to manufacture content without necessarily moving teams around the world. That’s good news for brands who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

Business, But Not As Usual

In China, the Coronavirus crisis did not put commerce on hold; but it did shift the arena. “The Chinese were already making the majority of their purchases online, and so they continued to consume massively during the confinement,” says Feng Huang. “What has changed are the consumption periods (as people are online all day long) and the types of products and services preferred. The wellness and sport sector, live entertainment, gaming, and fashion were the first to benefit from this shift.”

The corporate need to communicate internally, of course, spearheaded the adoption of digital services such as Zoom and WeChat during the confinement period. For marketers, the increasing sophistication in telecommuting services was a staple in sharing ideas and concepts and products. For clients, it was an opportunity for brands to test formats and new applications, to put live streams at the heart of their relationship with consumers. “What the Covid-19 has changed is speed,” opines Laurent Leccia, Executive Creative Director and Partner at FF New York. “We are experiencing behavioral changes that would have taken 10 years before this crisis hit.”

Relations with our clients, of course, go beyond creating campaigns. There is the psychological aspect, the teamwork, the idea that we’re all in this together — assisting them with their communications and messaging even though businesses were closed. “With our clients, we insisted on fighting inertia,” says Severine Autret, Managing Director and Partner at FF Paris. “This period definitely marks the transition from storytelling to storydoing. That means developing the ability to put creativity not just in the service of a communication idea, but in the service of business ideas.”

The Emerging Reality

This is a crucial mindset for everyone going forward as we begin emerging from confinement. Some research conducted by FF Shanghai shows us that the brands that did not develop during the crisis are the ones that will have a hard time restarting. “Our duty is to prepare brands to protect businesses and find sources of growth,” says Colin Nagy, Head of Strategy and Partner at FF New York.

There are questions about how consumers will behave a few weeks or months from now, and the answers aren’t at all clear. Will the changes observed be lasting? What will the post-crisis “new normal” look like? In what timeframe? And what about economic forecasts that predict a serious downturn?

“Brands will play a crucial part in supporting social and economic rebound,” Olivier Lefebvre, President and Partner at FF Paris, continues. “So we must help companies and brands to be up and running, not guided by fear, just before lockdown ends.”

And there’s an optimistic glimpse into what’s to come from Shanghai, where 50+ days of confinement have ended. “The whole team was very moved to be together in the same place,” says Adrien Goris, Creative Director at FF Shanghai. “Working remotely actually brought us a lot closer together and created a dynamic on which we can build to approach post-confinement confidently. But there is one big change: everyone wears a mask at the agency.”

What is FF? We are a global creative agency, a creative partner for CMOs and brands.

What does FF do for brands? We do brand strategy, branding, content, social activation… with taste.

Where is FF based? We are based in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Shanghai.

Who is leading FF? The group was founded by creative team “Fred & Farid”.

What is the website of FF?

Where can I see the work of FF?

What is the philosophy of FF? Think with your heart.

How can I contact FF? / /



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