Once upon a time, when we thought of advertising executives, we’d have brought to mind high flying, jet setters traveling the world to work on new campaigns. Of course, anyone who works in advertising these days knows that lifestyle is mostly long gone.
But, up until very recently, the industry was still responsible for a huge amount of global travel, as execs and crew were flown from country to country to cast their expert eye over the latest shoot. And it is undeniable that this kind of global workflow has a real impact on personal health, the environment and budgets.
But now, in a world still reeling from the impact of coronavirus, the way many agencies think about this work is starting to change. We’re seeing many in the industry moving to a new model instead, one that focuses on hiring local teams.
Impact on both a personal and global scale
But before diving into this new world, we should first understand the costs. One study found there are a host of consequences -– physiological, psychological, emotional, and social – to frequent travel; something that’s been labelled “the dark side of hypermobility”.
And those who travel frequently for work will understand, there are certain stresses that come with the territory. Feelings of loneliness, distance and unfamiliarity with your environment are common. There is also the physical toll of constant travel to consider with numerous hours spent in transit, perhaps cramped in economy seats. These effects go so far as having 13 percent of business travellers describe negative effects on their emotional health, and 20 percent describe negative effects on their physical health.
With all this travel, there is also the environmental impact to consider. When teams or individuals are brought from overseas, that likely involves some amount of carbon emissions. Even the relatively swift flight from London to Glasgow produces an estimated 160kg of CO2 per traveller. And this hardly compares to the longer distance flights between continents that we frequently see – or, indeed, for teams with a bigger headcount.
Just before the pandemic hit, the industry had started to recognise this impact, with the Advertising Association launching two climate action groups to address the industry’s carbon footprint and ask businesses what they are doing to help reduce it.
One of the group’s three self-stated objectives is “the development of options for more ambitious collective action by the industry, particularly in encouraging an increasing presence of more sustainable products, services, messaging and behaviours in advertising.”
Praising one thing, rewarding another
But whether the objectives of these groups will be realised remains to be seen. After all, while companies may aim in theory to target lower emissions, it is difficult for them to do so if the incentives aren’t there to make it financially viable.
In other words, it will be hard for businesses to reduce emissions if it costs them to do so. Many may be concerned about what the alternatives are, and if a reduction in travel will lead to talent shortfalls in certain regions.
But take the the last few months for example. We’ve seen brands produce some great (and, admittedly, not so great) virtual ads. And this is despite widespread travel restrictions affecting the entire globe. We can attribute this to the new trend of hiring global teams. Rather than shipping talent within an organisation to where it is needed, companies are realising they can hire local talent on a temporary basis. Not only does this navigate travel restrictions, it is usually cheaper, avoids travel stress for employees, and reduces carbon emissions. What this means is that these action groups may prove unnecessary in future, as the industry slowly learns that all those international flights may not be so essential after all.
Instead of the logistical challenge of getting your team to a remote location with the necessary resources, hosting them abroad for the duration of the project, then returning them all home – a localised team can be a straightforward solution.
On top of that there are, in fact, many benefits that come from working with local teams. In particular, there’s a massively enhanced level of local knowledge, which can be especially impactful for advertising where cultural barriers can limit ideas. Better still, it is environmentally conscious and allows your team to remain in a fixed location, which is especially important for the present moment where travel safety and restrictions are still unclear.
It’s also never been easier to hire talent from overseas and manage them remotely – in fact, platforms such as Fiverr have been designed to make the whole process simple, intuitive, and easy to understand.
The industry’s combination of high-fliers and heavy international logistics makes it a big hitter when it comes to global carbon emissions. And this doesn’t consider the health impact on workers or the financial burden of travel for companies. The pandemic has given us all a glimpse of the types of agile solutions talented creatives can pull off – and hiring local experts is a big part of that.
Of course, hiring local will never be a catch-all for every campaign. Global travel will come back eventually and there will always be times when it’s necessary and useful.
But bringing in local talent and working with them remotely is a smart solution for the short term – and could have real, tangible benefits for physical health, mental wellbeing, and the bottom line, in future.
So when you’re planning your next marketing campaign, think about whether you need to bring a crew to an overseas location or, if there might, in fact, already be one there waiting for your brief.