Advertising Week Europe 2021 held a four-day immersive digital experience from Monday, 10 May to Wednesday, 13 May, showcasing some of the most revered minds in advertising, brand marketing and technology from around the globe.

Among the leaders were FCB Joburg's group managing director Thabang Skwambane, as well as FCB's Joburg deputy managing director Thithi Nteta. They reflected on the reality of previous years in a session called 'Finding Inspiration and Creativity in a Time of Crisis'.

The pair sat down to retrace what work life was like during the height of the global pandemic in South Africa and how as a group, FCB Joburg used unity as a valuable point to maintain stability during a time of crisis.

Skwambane recounted how he lent on authentic leadership to guide his team in the most honest manner; he shared his account of his fears and aspirations in his talk. 

"I remember certainly not wanting to talk about or expose my feelings because I felt guilty that other people were experiencing greater grief and were going through more challenges," says Skwambane. 

"There were so many decisive moments within the organisation where we confronted our shame and gave the agency the opportunity to create a safe space for people to feel and be a certain way," adds Skwambane. "This allowed for a deeper connection amongst the team, colleagues, partners and clients, which fuelled us to do the work that we needed to do."

Nteta says, "Allowing and letting people on my team know that I was struggling was very hard. However, this led to a breakthrough and new rapport with team members. I do believe that it is important for leaders to show emotions; it allows others to exercise empathy. It sets a tone, I believe, for how we then communicate and treat each other."

"This attitude of empathy guided us through tough business discussions at the height of hard lockdown, when some of our clients felt the financial pinch and were looking to instate cost-cutting measures," says Nteta.

"Through discussion, we were able to place ourselves in their shoes, collaborate for a solution and remain deeply connected partners. And once hard lockdown was over, we were able to work with one another, rebuild and navigate the current normal together," Nteta adds.

FCB Joburg says that during the toughest times of 2020, it instituted numerous initiatives internally to offer support to staff and clients. This saw the birth of initiatives and programmes to tackle issues that came out of the '#BlackLivesMatter' movement. 

Other initiatives included giving care packages to those in need, providing telephonic counselling and professional services to staff members and creating platforms that offered a safe space for members of the organisation to engage in issues that deeply affected people.

FCB Joburg says that, notwithstanding the societal shifts brought about by the pandemic, there have been various developments in the industry. This is particularly prominent now as the remote working trend continues.

It is of paramount importance, concludes the agency, to remain courageous and forge an openness and willingness to tackle every brief that leads to different perspectives and that leaves clients and stakeholders inspired, striving to continue to never finish making extraordinary happen every day.

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