The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. Two weeks of working from home has turned in to six months, with no definitive end in sight. Through all the chaos and uncertainty, it now feels more important than ever to stay in touch with our clients, vendors and partners.
We recently caught up with Adam Frank, executive director of advertising at The George Washington University (GW), for a virtual “coffee break.”
But it turns out, Adam isn’t much of a coffee drinker. “I normally just stick to water, maybe a hot chocolate in the winter,” he told us. The caffeine-free lifestyle is impressive, considering Adam cut his teeth in New York City’s notoriously demanding advertising scene and today heads the advertising department at a nationally-renowned university.
Read on for more of our conversation with Adam.
LMO: With the tough questions about your coffee-drinking habits out of the way, let’s talk about the pandemic. How are you doing? How has your day-to-day changed?
Adam Frank: I’ve been lucky enough to get out of the D.C. area and up to my family’s house on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. It’s beautiful here, the weather is fantastic and it almost feels like a different world here versus Virginia. Most people out and about are wearing masks, but it’s like being in our pre-COVID world again.
That said, I do feel like I’m working a lot more than I ever have, but working remotely has made it easier to feel relaxed about it all.
LMO: How has your team adapted to working remotely?
AF: It’s been amazing to see how effective people can be when they are working from home. I have a three-person advertising team at GW, but I also manage our agency relationships and internal client relationships. It’s almost like an internal agency, to a degree, with so many moving pieces, so it’s definitely been an adjustment for everyone.
We’ve had to adapt and develop different contingency strategies. Collaboration has become a little more difficult, just because ideas often flow a lot better when you’re face to face and can read people. You realize how important body language and non-verbal cues are once they’re taken out of the way you communicate.
LMO: Have you faced any unexpected challenges?
AF: I didn’t expect to have such a hard time setting boundaries for my workday. There’s no longer a separation between home and the office, so I find myself replying to emails outside of typical working hours. However, I feel fortunate that my team and I have anticipated most of the issues we’ve come across from an operational front.
In terms of the actual work we do, that’s a different story. We work in higher education and right now we just don’t know what everything is going to look like. The uncertainty of everything has been the main catalyst.
(*Note: The George Washington University’s fall 2020 semester will be held online)
LMO: We know you have a background working in advertising in New York City. How did it feel for you to see the city ravaged by pandemic?
AF: I still have a lot of family, friends and contacts in NYC, so I was definitely paying attention to the news. It’s tough to hear of people in my field being laid off and furloughed, and how the industry has been affected. I’m very curious to see how the advertising industry continues to change in a post-COVID world – I don’t think it will be what it once was.
LMO: How do you think it might change?
AF: Advertising is always growing and reinventing itself. I expect we’ll see less of the “standard” agency and more variations, more people going at it alone.
LMO: What do you expect from an agency at this time?
AF: I expect agencies to be knowledgeable about what the opportunities are in our new environment. Agencies should be able to keep pulse and help their clients navigate this new world. So many brands are being called to make statements and take stances – it’s a great opportunity for brands to redefine themselves or reaffirm who they are. An agency should be prepared to help make those decisions.
We’ve worked with LMO for four years now. That relationship has really helped us overcome our uncertainties and bridge the stability we need.
LMO: Finally, what is your silver lining to all of this? What has brought you joy during such a challenging time?
AF: I’ve always wanted a puppy, but with work and the time commitment I’ve never been able to get one. So, I finally got a bulldog puppy that’s been the perfect addition to my family. And, of course, reconnecting and spending more time with immediate family and close friends.
LMO will be sharing more of our virtual “coffee break” conversations with clients in the coming weeks – stay tuned!