Some Staffers Don’t Want BBDO and Omnicom to Get a Pass as the ‘Poster Child for WFH’

By Erik Oster 

Reporting to you from AgencySpy Erik’s Kitchen …

BBDO has launched something called “BBDO Your Home.” It’s an effort seemingly embracing a move to most of the agency working remotely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Monday, Omnicom implemented a remote work policy across the holding company, except for “essential staff” (as defined by individual agency leadership).

The campaign features employees rebranding their home workspaces as BBDO offices. A bit silly, perhaps, but it would seem a well-intentioned effort to unite frazzled employees as they face unprecedented uncertainty and adjust to the work from home life.


“It is important that we continue to think of ourselves as one office. But, for right now, we are not just one big office space in Midtown Manhattan—we are made up of many unique people, places and spaces,” BBDO New York CEO Kirsten Flanik wrote in a note to the BBDO New York employees. “That’s why, with the help of all of you, we are launching ‘BBDO Your Home!'”

However, the initiative follows criticism on Fishbowl from self-described employees who felt BBDO wasn’t quick or enthusiastic enough about embracing employees working remotely.

Until Omnicom CEO John Wren‘s announcement on Sunday, Omnicom had been working under a policy of alternating which half of each office’s employees were designated to work remotely, with the intention of avoiding overcrowding.

A Fishbowl commenter shared, in part, an email for an unspecified BBDO office informing staff, “We will remain open because it’s the right thing to do for our clients and to keep the business moving.”

The commenter, identified as “BBDO 2,” claimed the email was sent as an “agency-wide email” for an unspecified office.

A representative for BBDO claims that this is not in line with BBDO New York’s response, which has been closely in line with Omnicom policy.

The email asserted that BBDO does “want each of you to feel safe and supported so that you can do your best work at the time our clients need it most” while informing employees, “We’re not going to have a formal 50/50 attendance policy after all.”

“We thought about it and looked at the data,” the email said, adding that the agency does “want to do our best to ‘flatten the curve so that we don’t overwhelm the health care system,'” but “on any given day in our agency, we have at least 20% of our team out on shoots and edits anyway.”

Employees with “a personal situation that makes you feel unsafe and want to WFH all week” were instructed to talk to their supervisor, as were those who wished to stagger their commute to avoid being on “a bus with lots of other people.”

“Each team should work with the head of their account or department to figure out who will WFH and who will come in and understand that for certain things, like pitches, we may ask that you be in the office,” the email continued.

It concluded with a call to “remain empathetic and understanding,” to “talk more than we ever have before and try to email less” and “make our clients love us now more than ever.”

Some self-described BBDO employees on Fishbowl responded by questioning whether employees were a priority for the agency.

“What about your employees and their families?” one self-described BBDO employee wrote on Fishbowl.

Another commenter, identified as “BBDO 3,” said that they were lucky to still have jobs and should focus on larger problems, like the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on small businesses, rather than “complaining  about how BBDO took three extra days to tell us we could WFH,”adding, “We’re all struggling, no need to divide us.” In response, another self-identified BBDO commenter replied that there was no division and that the agency’s staff was “all pretty united in our disgust over the way this was handled.”

Wren made the announcement of the policy change on Sunday, a day after Omnicom employees launched a petition asking the holding company to update its stance on remote work.

In light of the conversation around what some see as the delayed response of BBDO and Omnicom to transition to work from home, “BBDO Your Home” seems to have been met with a mixed response.

At least one self-described employee seemed to find it “pretty fun,” and others have clearly embraced the home office rebranding. Plus, the example above includes a home office cat, of which we are naturally quite fond. (Just look at it!) Some on Fishbowl were less inclined to give what they saw as an abrupt shift in tone regarding remote work a warm welcome, though.

A commenter identified as BBDO 1 simply said, “Gross.”

Another, BBDO 2, saw it as a “meaningless gesture” which was “trying too hard to make up for their earlier callous and utter lack of care for their employees,” adding that it “can’t undo their previous action.”

A senior copywriter commented, “They were dragged into doing the right thing, kicking and screaming, and now suddenly BBDO is the poster child for WFH?”
“BBDO has been and continues to be in full compliance with the Omnicom policies surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. We are taking a unified, collective response to this rapidly evolving global situation. All BBDOers are now on a full remote working model and have been since we received Omnicom’s communication on Sunday,” a BBDO representative said in a statement. “Essential staff are allowed in the office at the discretion of their supervisors on a case-by-case basis, but no one is mandated to go into the office right now.”