Serviceplan New York encourages time off as an essential part of fostering creativity

Hours worked are not an accurate predictor of employee productivity. Across Europe, it’s culturally accepted and even preached that summer months of July and August are reserved for holidays. People across industries and career levels take weeks off at a time to press reset and come back refreshed for the busiest months of the year. This cultural norm exists partly due to policy – paid annual leave is a legal requirement for employers in nearly every country across Europe. Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium offer 30 days per year.

Meanwhile, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not provide this legal guarantee. a quarter of Americans (primarily middle and lower class workers) go without any paid time off all year. Private sector workers average only 16 days of annual leave per year, half that of their European counterparts. Attitudes towards productivity between the two economies also vary greatly. Americans take pride in the idea of hard work, while Europeans place more value on balance as a part of productivity.

So what are the indicators for productivity? 

It’s logical to look for productivity gaps between the two economies, given the significant differences in hours worked annually. However, according to data from the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the most productive countries (as GDP per capita) are Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland. The United States comes in at number six on the list, with Germany close behind in 11th place.

The data also expressed a negative correlation between hours of work and productivity, meaning the less hours worked produced higher GDP per capita. However, this is mainly a trend in non-Wesetern countries that may be less developed and have less access to technology. What’s interesting is that American workers put in more hours per week – 33.6 – than the European countries at the top of the list.

The above analysis is all to say that hours worked is not a clear and accurate measure of success. Employee trust and satisfaction are important considerations as well. A study conducted by the University of Warwick found that happy employees were 12 percent more productive, while dissatisfied workers proved 10 percent less productive. If employees feel bored or undervalued, it greatly affects their performance. 

Employee satisfaction is the answer

When companies create an environment of trust, productivity comes naturally without the need for rigid policies around hours and time off. The Serviceplan Group House of Communication allows for unlimited vacation days – an unusual but not unheard of policy. We believe that the trust created among our multilayer, integrated teams allows for the seamless completion of work as well as work-life balance. By giving our employees a sense of agency in their working lives, we’ve seen both productivity and creativity flourish.

Sources: Center for Economic Policy and Research, International Monetary Fund, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 

Serviceplan New York slowly begins reopening its House of Communication to allow for a mix of remote and office work.

In the wake of a global pandemic that is showing no signs of slowing, companies are forced with difficult decisions around their work from home policies. While offices are permitted to open in many regions, companies are fearful of the risks still posed to employees during long commutes on public transit and in close office quarters. With this in mind, mixed office and remote work will be the new normal for the foreseeable future.

Productivity hasn’t suffered – yet

In a survey conducted by YouGov in partnership with USA Today and LinkedIn, 54% of respondents reported that working from home created a positive effect on their productivity, mainly due to fewer meetings and no commute. However, 51% of employees reported feeling lonely at home. While productivity may remain stable in the short-term, it is difficult to say how long this will last.

Employees are working off the knowledge and intrapersonal relationships that were built in the office and growing these relationships while isolated at home is a significant challenge. While video conferencing can make up for some lack of physical connection, true innovation, collaboration, and fulfillment that vibrant office culture provides will be difficult to replicate virtually on a permanent basis.

Employers should be aware of the mental health toll

The associated mental health toll will also begin to take an effect on employees, regardless of their living situation. For those who are working in their homes alone, feelings of loneliness and isolation are surely increasing. The same study reported that, to combat loneliness, 49% of respondents are reaching out to friends and family via phone during the day or spending more time on social media – measures that are generally considered counterproductive.

On the flip side, those with children who are no longer able to attend day care or school are presented with constant distractions during the day, making deep focus difficult to achieve. 23% of survey respondents are sharing workspace with a spouse or partner, and 14% are sharing it with children engaged in online learning, which requires near constant parental engagement.

People are empowered by choice

Work from home policies are incredibly valuable in normal times. When you empower a hardworking employee with the choice to create a flexible work schedule that suits their needs, the benefits are clear. However, the operative word is choice – which has been removed in the current setting. Without choice, the benefits of empowerment and independence achieved through flexible work are not quite the same.

The House of Communication

The US House of Communication office space on 102 Madison Avenue, New York, New York

For Serviceplan Group, the House of Communication setting has always been central to the way we work and communicate. Integration and innovation are core to our company culture, and to the services we provide. While we have found ways to utilize technology and foster communication and teamwork in this remote setting, we are excited to begin a slow, safe reopening of our House of Communication to be with our colleagues again.

The benefits derived from a vibrant and encouraging workplace cannot be understated. We are human beings first and employees second, requiring human connection to be satisfied in anything we do. Going forward, we will be armed with new experiences from both the physical and virtual working world, better preparing us to tackle any project, anywhere in the world, with any team. Being flexible and responsive to our employees and clients remains at the heart of what we do, no matter where we sit.

by Madison Rhyner, US House of Communication, New York

Three leading industry talents gathered for our recent seminar in Cannes, France to share their insights on the human condition through the lens of their creative work: Kentaro Kimura of Hakuhodo from Tokyo, Cristina de Balanzó of Walnut Unlimited (part of the Unlimited Group) from London and Alexander Schill of Serviceplan Group from Munich. The session was moderated by Ayami Nakao from Hakuhodo Inc.

In January this year Serviceplan Group announced the forming of partnerships with the Unlimited Group and Hakuhodo Inc., and the Cannes event was an ideal chance for representatives from each firm to showcase their combined synergy.

In opening the discussion, moderator Ayami commented that, depending on which media you are reading or who you are talking to, “We can either be super-proud or super-depressed over how we’re doing as humans today.” This set the scene for the session, with each panelist offering their take on human emotions, behavior and tendencies through their stories.

Before handing off to the panelists, Ayami explained that the speakers were not simply going to beautify humans, but would also explore our “somehow fickle, superficial and seemingly selfish” aspects.

Connection is the key

First up was Alex, who asked the intriguing question, “How do humans use technology to stay human?”. Noting that we have always been social creatures, he explained that technology means we can reach out to others at any time, and that staying connected is clearly important for brands. However, he then revealed the sobering statistic that 70% of websites are not accessible to the visually impaired, effectively cutting off some 285 million people around the world.

Alex raised the idea that accessibility is a human right, and that being connected is “the strongest currency we have for the future”. He added that even when we disconnect from the digital world, it is to reconnect in another sphere, such as nature, so the basic premise is still actually about connection.

He pointed out that not all advances in technology are necessarily helpful for individuals coping with challenges, citing the example of a friend with impaired vision and her new coffee maker. Although superior in technology to her old one, the new model featured a digital display, effectively rendering it impossible to use.

“We should look at technology as something that can help us overcome our limitations. Connection is our access to everything”, Alex said.

The audience were then shown an example of these concepts in action, in a campaign video for Korean firm Dot Incorporation, which makes innovative products for the visually impaired through “bringing tactile communication to visualization”. The Dot Watch is the world’s first Braille smart watch, transmitting information in real time, while the Dot Mini can access any digital media and translate it into Braille, allowing reading and listening in synergy. The Serviceplan Group has not only been a partner in developing these products, but is also one of Dot Incorporation’s shareholders.

An emotional business

Cristina then took center stage, and shared her insights on how we connect through our emotions. She opened with an interesting observation: While the advertising industry tends to think that we change people’s behavior though positive emotions, “it is actually sometimes negative emotions—sadness, anger, disappointment—that can be quite engaging and very effective at driving behavior”.

The audience were treated to a video from the award-winning “Boys Don’t Cry” campaign for Unilever’s Lynx, a line of men’s grooming products. In the video, young men between the ages of 16 and 25 take viewers on an emotional journey as they talk about men crying and revealing their vulnerable side.

Cristina pointed out that the execution of the emotion in this campaign was “authentic and genuine—even emotionally pornographic”, and added that the climax was when the message and the brand are delivered. She also asked the audience to consider how emotion overrides information in the context of the video.

According to Cristina, it is important to deliver a rational message combined with the right emotion. Drawing on studies of brain science, Cristina noted, “Emotion can be the gatekeeper of rational decisions”.

She urged industry professionals to keep their message simple. “These brains have much better things to do than decode your communications!”, she commented. “Communication is about feelings, and not only information.”

In closing her presentation, Cristina advocated for brands to create a closer relationship with their audience by building empathy.

What’s your desire?

The final speaker was Kentaro, who discussed how human desire drives our actions. “Desires can be positive and negative. On the one hand I can be an angel, and on the other hand, a devil, driven by desires”, he quipped. “And sometimes we are both!”

Using the familiar context of feeling hungry and wanting to go out for dinner, Kentaro pointed out that most people check online sites to find a popular restaurant. Hakuhodo Kettle, however, turned this concept on its head with their Red Restaurants List campaign—a gourmet guide that preserves “endangered restaurants” and local food culture. The work won a Bronze Lion this year.

The audience were shown a video set in Takasaki, a small Japanese city where an aging population and a decline in customers have led to many owner-operated restaurants closing. The Red Restaurants List specifically highlights eateries with aging proprietors, no successor, and most importantly, great food. The highly successful campaign has attracted new customers to Takasaki, and the concept has since spread to other regions in Japan.

Telling it like it is

Kentaro went on to explain how the “the story creates the desire” in this case: People want to play a part in the story of saving a local establishment, whether from a desire to be heroic, out of curiosity to try a new eatery, or even perhaps to “travel back in time” to try nostalgic dishes. “Our role in the age of AI is to create stories that drive people to think and act on positive desires”, he said.

Although people are sometimes considered “pathetic creatures”, who are driven by our desires, Kentaro suggested changing the narrative to “lovable creatures” who are moved by positive stories.

In closing the session, Ayami reiterated the panel’s desire to “take a deep dive beyond stereotypes” while telling their creative stories, and how they have been able to unearth some universal truths in the process. “We were thinking of timeless truths that have stood up throughout history. What is to be trusted, what is real?” she said. No doubt the audience were left pondering these questions after the session. At the end of the day, we are only human.

From left to right: Kentaro Kimura, Cristina de Balanzó, Alex Schill, Ayami Nakao


This article has been published first by Hakuhodo – see the original article here.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

In the past, it was enough to make your purchases in the organic shop around the corner to be considered sustainably minded by most of your acquaintances. Today, an organic lifestyle encompasses much more. Our lives are becoming 360° organic. It is not just our food that is organic or fair trade but our clothing, cosmetics and so much more. Our social thinking is becoming increasingly sustainable after such events as nuclear phase-out, the diesel scandal and Hambacher Forest. Instead of plastic bags, we bring our own cloth bags with us when we go shopping. We use apps that can automatically send emails to brands if their products are too plastic-heavy.

People are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on how sustainable brands are. However, this doesn’t just affect product design and ingredients. We as designers also have to think about sustainable packaging. As communications experts, we should not only take this into consideration in the design of a campaign and the messages we communicate, but also in the selection of locations, influencers, service providers and everything that surrounds them. If we think in this way, 360° organic, it is not only good for our planet, but also for our customers.


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

The established stars of the digital economy Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google have a common problem: they lose their shine. Customers, employees and the stock market alike become disenchanted. Apple’s innovative powers fades. For many years, the latest model was a must-have. Today, the internet is full of posts on topics such as ‘Why I renounce the iPhone X – and reach for the iPhone 8 Plus’. In regard to voice technology, a key area for the future, Apple’s Siri is lagging behind the competition. Today, the Apple brand primarily stands for expensive. It has changed from a love brand to a luxury label.

When it comes to Facebook, we associate it with false positives, fake accounts, data leaks, bad excuses and miserable crisis PR. The platform also has a further problem: it is becoming a senior hot-spot. For example, 70% of the over-60 silversurfer generation are on Facebook. In the 14- to 19-year-old age group, there are far fewer users; Facebook has lost its sexiness.

The streaming pioneer Netflix is also facing hard times: Disney+, Hulu, Twitch and other competitors are quickly making Netflix look old. If the ‘mouse company’ manages to take over media giant Fox Entertainment as planned and even enter the streaming business, the cards of this poker game are set for a shuffle.

Search engine giant Google’s employees are rebelling. Recently, the workforce has resigned in protest against sexism and racism in the workplace. Earlier, more than 1,000 Google employees protested plans to return to China with a censored search engine. This came after employee protests already stopped a project that involved supplying the Pentagon with artificial intelligence for the analysis of military videos. For a company that has the reputation of being one of the best employers in the world, this seemed a lot of trouble over such a small amount of time.

The fact that things have changed has been proven by a software dinosaur from the last millennium: Microsoft. For a long time, it seemed as though the soul of this software company was long gone. Genuine innovations were a scare commodity. However, under Satya Nadella, Microsoft has consistently reinvented itself. He has broken old habits, turned Microsoft around, uploaded the business to the cloud and acquired smart companies such as Skype and LinkedIn. Microsoft boss Nadalla provides a clear definition of courage. At the World Economic Forum in Davos he talked about the third world, recommended that his own government in Washington should imitate the European General Data Protection Regulation and called for international rules regarding the use of artificial intelligence. The call for regulation – a breach of taboo for corporate America.

Thus, for me, the trend of 2019 is learning from Microsoft. Courage to think completely new again; courage to completely rethink ourselves; courage to embrace a clear attitude. I think in the year 2019, Facebook, Apple and co. will follow this path and reinvent themselves.


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

In 2019, brands will look for an occasion to be associated with – an occasion that will accompany their communication activities during the whole year; like social occasions that respond to CSR plans and that their clients and followers are interested in. Social marketing is “in”, but brands shouldn’t risk falling prey to opportunism and being associated with movements just because they are a hot topic like feminism or environmentalism. If the principles of these movements aren’t in the DNA of the brand, they shouldn’t be associated with them.

Brands that represent products which strike a chord with their values will be the ones to triumph in 2019 and technology will consequently play an important role. The consumer has evolved from a simple buyer of a product to a conscious consumer, who stands up for his principles and wants to bring about change as result of his purchases.


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

When we talk about putting the consumer first, who are we thinking about? About figures from a PowerPoint presentation based on statistics and studies or about real people? No matter how hard we try, no pre-test can be as reliable as asking your mum whether she understands the campaign. If we want people to buy a certain product, there is no longer any use in explaining what makes it special or in striking a note that appeals to emotions.

We must tell them how this product will make their lives easier, speaking their language and taking real peoples’ insights into account. And since everyone is different, we will have to create a variety of messages that go much deeper than an A/B test. The automatization of messages and creativity – thanks to user data and artificial intelligence – will allow us to launch multiple creative pieces to hyper-segmented audiences, measure results and optimise processes along the way. Thus, even my mum could receive a message that is adapted to her needs and emotions. And perhaps, with a little luck, she’ll understand a little bit better what I am doing.


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.

In an interview on the AME Awards blog, Alexander Schill and Alessandro Panella talk about creative and effective work at Serviceplan, finding innovative solutions, the importance of creative competitions and crazytivity.

2019 is already knocking on the door – new year, new trends. At the end of the year, we asked the Serviceplan Group experts about their personal trends for 2019. What’s coming next alongside influencer marketing, new work and sustainability? The communication professionals give their verdict here. Happy reading!

Of the verbal gems that turned up in the communication sector in 2018, ‘new work’ was one of the shiniest. No event and no convention passed by without evoking the concept of new work and its associated agile techniques. Across the country, countless self-proclaimed prophets and sometimes shamanic change consultants heralded the end of all work days. In the new year, it will be important to stop firing off new work as a buzzword and to use the momentum of its concept instead (because it is much more than just a word) to finally get its inherent horsepower on the road.

Anyone who only understands new work as desk sharing and the Vitralisation (with which Vitra has perfectly understood the new work concept) of office landscapes is falling short; indeed, people are underestimating new work as a profitability doctrine and should urgently read Fritjof Bergmann, whose concept actually dictates that without meaningful, collaborative and responsible work, we will be able to inspire fewer and fewer colleagues and customers in the future. The decentralisation and democratisation of the nature and structure of work is a necessary and consistent response to the increasing complexity and increasing pace of work processes due to rapid digitisation across all areas of society. New work is increasingly demanded by customers, guaranteeing faster decisions and results as well as increased processor proximity rather than silo thinking. New work increases innovation strength through interdisciplinary teams as well as participatory formats, thus becoming a true business asset. Only in this way can the competitive capacity of a company in the communications industry be secured in the long term.

The prerequisite is the recognition that the introduction of agile methods places considerable demands on colleagues and executives alike with regard to role and self-understanding, organisational processes, maintaining customer relationships, designing work environments, leadership behaviour and self-discipline. This includes changing the mindset of everyone involved – from juniors to managers. For colleagues, it is a question of a shift towards more self-initiative and personal responsibility. For the management, it means a new understanding of leadership that is defined in terms of enabling and supporting.

And when there is still the awareness that new work and agile methods cannot be top-downed by a company but instead that its establishment is an organic process based on prototyping and deep understanding of different business models – that there is not just one form of new work, but infinite facets of it – then you have left the buzzwording phase behind and the question can once again be asked: which verbal gem would we prefer to keep polishing?


This article is part of the Trends 2019 series of the Serviceplan Group.