Alison Weissbrot
Nov 14, 2020

BBDO CEO Andrew Robertson skills up agency during a pandemic

Despite the hecticness of COVID-19, BBDO doubled down on employee training on Facebook and Google remotely this year.

BBDO CEO Andrew Robertson skills up agency during a pandemic

Employee training may not have been a top of mind at many agencies this year.

While trying to figure out how to work effectively from home, agencies were scrambling to meet client requests, shifting account teams and dealing with the increased workload of a blended work from home life.

But a lot of learning happens on the job through apprenticeship, and employees were missing that piece of office life while working from home, said Andrew Robertson, president and CEO of BBDO Worldwide.

“You learn a lot of things from people doing their job around you,” he said. “We realized at the beginning of the pandemic, that would disappear.”

So BBDO made training a priority. In the spring, the agency began creating its first-ever global remote training and certification program in partnership with Facebook and Google.

“This was a good way to leverage our scale to let people develop their skills,” Robertson said.

Facebook adapted its Blueprint training program for advertisers into a custom learning syllabus for BBDO creatives and strategists, with eight modules and a final exam focused on developing effective campaigns on its platforms. So far, more than 1,000 employees have received certifications, making BBDO the first globally Blueprint certified network.

“It's no secret that we’ve compressed years of digital adoption into a few months: people are doing more online and businesses are racing to keep up," said Carolyn Everson, VP of global marketing solutions at Facebook, in a statement. Being the first agency Blueprint certified at the network level is "a testament to BBDO's deep commitment to helping businesses thrive amidst this rapid digital transformation."

Google, on the other hand, developed six virtual training sessions for BBDO centered on using insights and analytics throughout the creative planning process. So far, 3,000 people across 80 offices have completed the training, and the videos have been downloaded more than 14,000 times.

“It's been a fundamental shift in the way we've gone about developing and training our people,” Robertson said.

BBDO partnered with Facebook and Google because of their global reach. Agency offices generally take their own approach to development, but the goal was to execute this program at the network level so everyone could access it while working from home.

“Those are obviously two global platforms that all of our people around the world need to be masters of,” Robertson said.

In addition to developing skill sets, the program was also developed to boost morale. Employees are always asking for more professional development, and many we’re looking to get meaning and value out of their time locked down at home.

“What can we do to keep people engaged, develop their skills and help them feel greater reward out of this time?” Robertson said.

Although the program was optional, because it was virtual, BBDO was intentional about getting people to participate. Employees received calendar invites from their local CEO to set aside time to complete modules before they were due with relevant materials. That approach has led more than half of employees at the network completing each training session.

“It's been more systematic and focused, and we've learned a lot from doing it that way,” Robertson said.

One lesson was that while remote training has the benefits of scale, execution and presentation matter a lot. “I can't overstate the importance of designing a really good curriculum and really compelling content,” Robertson said. “This is not just a case of sticking some videos together.”

As we head back into some semblance of normalcy, BBDO will take its learnings from the program to adapt its approach to training globally. While there will always be a place for in-person training in small group settings, offering a broad virtual component is effective too.

“We've learned this is a really good way for us to scale knowledge and skill,” Robertson said. 

Campaign US

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