When COVID-19 was still just a blip on the radar, we talked to Dave Benton – the founder and creative director of Metajive. As with most agencies, you’ve likely experienced Metajive’s work even if you haven’t heard of them. Benton and his team boast a portfolio full of attention-grabbing branded projects for Nike, Lyft, Bank of America, and plenty others.
In that January interview, we asked Benton to make some predictions for what 2020 would look like for agencies.
And they were good predictions.
But a week or two later, everything changed. The world entered pandemic mode.
At the end of our discussion, Benton had provided some surf-inspired perspective for dealing with the agency seascape’s general volatility: “In an industry that knows nothing but change, being prepared to ride the next wave just means watching your surroundings and knowing what to paddle for and what to wait out.”
That seemed like the perfect starting point to reach out now, at the end of 2020, and see how Metajive adapted to the shifting waters.
This has been a wild year, especially for agencies. What did you see in your surroundings that guided you on how to move forward?
At the end of March, I think every email we got ended with “we are all in this together.” In many cases, it was just something timely to say. But in many cases, it was really authentic. This unifying statement reminded me – both for myself and our role as a company – to be human. All our partners are humans finding our way through a time of stress and uncertainty. So we all needed a little more grace.
We’ve talked to agencies who saw relatively little change, and some who had to undergo radical shifts. How did the landscape of your own work shift over the course of the year?
A better question is what didn’t change at Metajive this year? At the end of March, we lost 50% of our previous year’s revenue. And yet we’re ending with our biggest year ever.
We had staff changes, client changes, process changes, software changes … I couldn’t have bet more wrong on anything or anyone. But I have been most pleasantly surprised at our younger staff, who really grew through this time and stepped up to play bigger roles.
If you could time travel back and give your younger 2020 self advice, what would it be?
“You got this.” Because if I told myself “it’s all going to be okay,” I wouldn’t have believed me. What else is there, than to just know you have what it takes to get through periods of change?
Hopefully, I wouldhave also told myself to go all in on my team … and on Amazon stock.
Right now, the future looks incredibly uncertain, with both bad omens and promising signs. Based on your experiences this year, what things are you planning to “paddle for” versus “wait out” as you look forward to 2021?
I only have one speed, so we are paddling straight ahead. You have to get through the breakers to get the ride of your life.
We have spent an incredible amount of time buttoning up our process, implementing some incredible tools, and fulfilling the goals we set in 2019. In our business, the only thing we can do is serve our clients the best we can and work with them to make sure everything we make is the best thing for their business.
I don’t know if anyone will be back in the office this year, and that has different pros and cons for every one of our employees individually. So we are looking at ways to let everyone thrive on their terms. I can’t wait to have the team back in the office, to have kickoffs in person with our clients. But we need to wait until it is safe for everyone.
There’s definitely reason to be hopeful though, so let’s wrap up on a definite positive note. What are you most thankful for this year?
As cliché as it is, #GRATITUDE is the word I have on my mind every day.
My new routine started with late night “headspace runs” with the Nike Running Club app and progressed to my (almost) “daily calm” meditation, “gratitude checks” and “feeling check-ins” in the Calm app.
At work, we added “one thing everyone is grateful for” in our team status. The more basic you go, the more impactful your appreciation is. A roof over my head, clean water, and a healthy family. It’s so basic, but it’s so powerful when you realize not everyone has that. It really puts everything in perspective.
Beyond that, I have been surfing with my best friend – since I was 13 – a few days a week. And I taught my 4-year-old daughter how to ride a skateboard. Being home for 10 months straight after 3 years of non-stop travel has been great.
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