Departments learning from one another, specialists on a team teaching and sharing their knowledge with colleagues, teams or other agencies part of the group: the cross-learning technique is being applied more and more with great success, as shown by the following two Romanian agencies.

by Romanita Oprea

Recently, the digital agency Grapefruit implemented the career plan (a complex process for everyone to grow at a fast pace with quarterly objectives in different areas: team, learning, authority, advocacy etc.). With this technique, everyone in each department had the chance to learn new skills. The middle level designers had to experiment with coaching skills, the content colleagues had to learn Photoshop at a basic level, and so on. Spreading the learning process across different departments was the best solution to keep all employees up to date on all new trends, but also to gain cross-skills. And the results didn’t take long: a three-month Photoshop beginner’s course, created by one of the agency’s UI/UX designers took place, in which a tester, a front-end developer and two content employees participated. Furthermore, there have been other similar cross-learning courses regarding Facebook learning, channel strategy learning, Google Analytics and proper estimation of a project, all of which have finished or in progress. “Now, our colleagues are more independent when it comes to small tasks, but the most important thing is that they understand why colleagues made some proposals and their way of thinking,” said Georgiana Dragomir, managing director at Grapefruit.

This technique also gives people like Victor Keller, UI/UX designer, for example, the opportunity to practice his coaching skills. He wanted to see what problems other employees were being confronted with, how he could teach his colleagues in an easy and efficient way, especially considering that everyone has tasks and ongoing projects. He saw how he could combine theory with practice, and, last but not least, if he was a good fit for this role. “For me, it was a great experience that will come in handy for the next junior graphic designers that we hire and, in my opinion, every department should try and figure out if they could pass on some skills, as that would make our team better and more efficient,” explained Victor Keller.

The agency doesn’t want to stop here. Its members plan on creating more cross-learning programs and exercises and even convincing their clients to join in and learn. According to its representatives, Grapefruit already has micro-cross-learning sessions in its design department. One designer may be better at drawing, the other at user experience, or at prototyping, and the format for these micro-sessions is that one designer teaches the others new programs, skills, tips and tricks. Things are developing in other departments as well, and the results and everyone’s progress is highly anticipated.

But, besides the learning process, these types of activities can also prove to be good internal communication and HR tools, helping members of the teams to bond and develop new skills and passions. “In terms of HR, we are approaching the learning process from two sides: firstly we encourage our colleagues to grow and keep themselves engaged. Secondly, we offer a growth environment for future candidates that want to join our team. On the business side, it enables us to tackle new and challenging trends/technologies beyond just theory. All the learning that we do has a practical outcome that can be applied in our clients’ projects the minute the team finishes a learning session,” concluded Georgiana Dragomir.

 

Always improving your skills

Another agency that is putting a lot of emphasis on learning is DDB Romania. They had the idea of spreading learning through the departments after feeling a need to change the business model and that the manner in which they accumulate knowledge implies a process of perpetual learning. At the same time, according to Roxana Memetea, managing partner DDB Romania, stereotypical advertising roles don’t exist anymore and have been replaced by the need for specialists who can work in an integrated system. This means learning every day, shared experiences between specialties and following the best practices to keep up to date with the strenuous rhythm of things.  “The more I think about it, the more I realize this is not an idea, but a consequence of the way the market and the new generations have evolved. We have two types of specialists: those who developed during the ATL period and those who are digitally native. Both types need to grow and expand beyond their area of expertise, since advertising has stopped being all about TV or the Internet, and started being about creative ideas that meet consumers’ needs and deliver results. The agency we are part of, the group, is based on a philosophy of always learning and developing our skills, thus we always take part in trainings to help us become better at what we do,” explained Memetea.

How does it work? Once every two weeks they organize meetings between mixed teams in which they discuss a certain topic (strategy, insight, creative techniques, digital technology, user experience, VR, social media etc.), then they hand out a brief regarding the topic they discussed. Every team presents its ideas and solutions, while receiving feedback and they all discuss, share opinions and build on ideas. “These seminars work wonders, people exchange knowledge, they stumble upon their mutual chemistry, they come up with ideas which are integrated and coherent. Most of them see the light of day in presentations we forward to our clients. These solutions would have never happened if only one department worked to solve the brief or if it was approached in the classical/traditional way. Win-win, right?,” said DDB’s managing partner.
Moreover, once a month, the agency organizes sessions of best practices in advertising worldwide and the teams watch festival showcases on different themes. They invite specialists, when the theme allows it, and discuss or experiment different technologies. “We used this in our latest agency pitch, we searched for inspiration and motivation and showcased the best ideas worldwide in order to come up with the best solution. It worked, we are really happy with the result. I would also add here fun workshops: wine tasting, make-up sessions, dance sessions, detox juices, nutrition seminars, cooking contests, leisure activities that bring us closer as a team,” added Memetea.

And what is maybe one of the most important factors, according to DDB’s representatives, after implementing these meetings, the team became much more performant and coherent. The results were seen in many integrated and holistic projects, where the clients resonated with the vision that tended to their needs. “This year, DDB and Tribal have more clients because of the mixed teams, that approach problems with complete solutions, from A to Z, budget and KPIs included,” considers Memetea.

 

Global power

At an international level, a new type of teaching and joining creative and digital forces, is shown by Publicis Communications MEA that kick-started a strategic partnership between Google and all its creative agencies: Leo Burnett, Publicis, Saatchi & Saatchi and Arc.

The Google collaboration enables Publicis Communications’ creative agencies to perfect a digital first approach, starting with the Google All-Stars Academy 2.0. The partnership aims at helping Publicis Communications MEA creative agencies adopt, develop, and apply a digital-first approach and power integrated thinking, resulting in effective, engaging, industry-defining, award-winning campaigns that dwell in the digital domain and use Google platforms and products at its best.  The collaboration entails a joint business plan with the creative agencies to excel in their digital, integration and collaboration agenda, as well as a capability-building program for their teams across Google platforms. A robust learning program launched that partnership starting with the Google All-Stars Academy 2.0. Over 60 participants from the MEA region leadership teams of Leo Burnett, Publicis, Saatchi & Saatchi and Arc came together to attend the recent tailored four-day Google All-Stars Academy 2.0. in Dubai held between from May 29 to June 2, 2017.

Through talks and workshops the Academy provided a platform for a vibrant discussion on how to operate with a fully integrated and digital first model, aligned with Publicis Communications’ ‘Power of One’ model.

The program included speakers from Google, publisher and consultant Contagious, think tank the Zoo, video platform YouTube and its content creators, as well as production house Prodigious. Participants took part in a live brief challenge and Google and The Zoo committed to giving full support to the winning team in the execution of their campaign

“As communications specialists who constantly have our fingers on the pulse of the creative evolution, we have been investing in our digital capabilities to ensure using the alchemy of data and creativity empowered technology. Joining forces with Google enables us to further bolster our user-first approach via superior access to data and technology. This will empower our clients to win in the digital space through cutting edge, award winning campaigns that deliver engaging and effective business results,” said Raja Trad, Chief Executive Officer, Publicis Communications MEA

Bechara Mouzannar, Chief Creative Officer of Publicis Communications MEA said: “In today’s world where content rules and users create, we constantly need to ignite an entertaining conversation between the brand and the people. Creativity doesn’t stop anymore at the brilliance of the idea but also depends on how relevant and innovative we are in engaging with the people. Through technology and knowledge, Google enables us to cast fresher human insights and elevate our ideas to new heights” “We will continue to focus on our People and our Clients. This partnership is about them. Our diversified and fully scalable solutions in Publicis Communications aim at enabling smart business solutions through listening to our consumers and leveraging data and technology to deliver the best for our clients. By pursuing this strategy of collaboration, we are ensuring the optimal ecosystem and Google is the start” said Samer Shoueiry, Executive Head of Digital & Social Marketing, Publicis Communications MEA.

The Google All-Stars Academy 2.0. marks just the beginning of that collaboration between Publicis Communications MEA and Google. An extensive learning program is planned to further build the capabilities of all the teams at Leo Burnett, Publicis, Saatchi & Saatchi and Arc. The capacity building initiative will include Google products’ certification programs and a framework that will enable best use and understanding of Google ecosystems for all the Publicis Communications MEA creative agencies. Initiative will also include road trips in every office within the MEA region to train teams on Google products, platforms and tools, as well as a close collaboration with brand teams to foster a digital first, integrated thinking approach to campaigns that dwell in the digital domain. Furthermore, the collaboration will provide great support to the agencies using Google digital platforms and help achieve effective business results.

In the words of Alex Brunori, Creative Lead for Google MENA: “By collaborating closely with a prestigious Group like Publicis Communications, one of the most revered and effective communication powerhouses in MEA and the world, we aim to keep fostering and accelerating the digital transformation of one of the most exciting and digital savvy regions in the world, bringing brands and users closer than ever before. There has never been a better moment, and a better region, to be in advertising”.