The story of our future

No one could have predicted what would transpire in this catastrophic year. But thinking of the future gave this media and marketing solutions firm the ability to quickly adapt, innovate and create positive change amid the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic.

IPG Mediabrands is the youngest, fastest-growing media and marketing solutions group in the country. Each day, we look at “todays” and predict the future. We have to because we need to bring our clients there, to navigate the future with them.  

Did we predict what will happen in 2020? Obviously, no one could have imagined the events of this extremely historic year. But you might say, we’ve been dress-rehearsing for COVID-19 since we founded Mediabrands five years ago.

When we started, I never thought of a five-year business plan — but I always thought of the future. Back then, the future was the next day. We would literally knock on offices and closed doors to offer our services.  Each day came with a little good, mostly it came with a lot of challenges — but at the end of each day, came the part where I thought of tomorrow. I anticipated tomorrow based on what I learned today.

Thinking of the future drives improvement, innovation, and positive change.  This is our story at IPG Mediabrands. We are proud to say we are different by design and even prouder to show the world what we’ve achieved because of it.  

We are a global point of excellence for advanced data analytics, insights and strategy and digital, housing global and regional hubs in the Philippines. These are all the result of thinking about what clients will need in the future. The future to us then was to broaden our opportunity space, looking beyond our shores and exploring the world. 

As employee No. 1 scoping opportunities, I did not have an office and was comfortable working from a bag, conducting meetings in borrowed or shared spaces. Thus, it was easy to make working from home (WFH) one of our first policies. We planned for it not because we knew a pandemic was coming, but because it simply made good business sense to always be flexible, no matter the situation. 

So when the lockdown happened, the transition was smoother for us than probably most companies. Before COVID-19, we were set to expand our office space by 30 percent. We cancelled that plan and even decided to give back some of our old space. Working from home at scale works for us and we do not see ourselves going back to our previous working arrangement as we now try to imagine and plan what our future office space will be like.

A crisis brings out new reserves of strengths, new levels of bravery, new talents you didn't know you had. “Unexpecteds” will always happen, embrace them and thrive in the unpredictability of life. To love the unexpected is to grow happily as a person and as a business.

As Mediabrands grew, challenges came, some unexpected. We were in a constant state of shock by discovery, happiness at growing and also worrying. The shock of growing fast was good, the happiness of having new clients was good. But worrying was bad.  So instead of worrying, I somehow started a culture of loving the unexpected.  

The unexpected and the future are completely and inextricably linked. Every single day is a new future of “unexpecteds.” We have been affected by the outbreak for more than 150 days now and each and every one of those 150+ days was a single future point that was unexpected.  

The pandemic was unexpected but it brought new opportunities that accelerated innovations and fueled new business pivots for companies, including our own. A crisis brings out new reserves of strengths, new levels of bravery, new talents you didn't know you had. “Unexpecteds” will always happen, embrace them and thrive in the unpredictability of life.  To love the unexpected is to grow happily as a person and as a business.

We are infinitely smaller than the top 1,000 corporations. And like them, we have been hit as well. The virus has hit us in more than 150 ways, the number of individuals with families in our organization. Every employee is a life, a family, a singular story of coping, of fears and anxieties. Some of their fears are not in our control; fear in the safety of their community, not trusting the health of public transport, fear of their children missing out on school, on life.  

But still, we do our best to support their total well-being. The simple act of wishing people to “stay safe” after every e-mail or Viber note seems more personal and has taken on a new and deeper meaning.  

Our company is made up of diverse individuals with diverse talents. I am a senior citizen but our youngest employee barely left college when the community quarantine began, we have artists and scientists. 

Our informal support groups are just as diverse — parents sharing tips on online education, “e-numans” on Fridays, yoga and counselling for those experiencing mental stress, a daily online rosary for titas like me and “coffee with the CEO” for the newest members of the team, continued, albeit virtually. These are some of the actions we do to let off steam, but have now become essential ways of connecting. 

Looking back might indeed be looking forward because reviewing everything that made us successful, nimble, agile are also the same things that are making us survive the “Qs” we’re going through.

As a woman leading a very young and active company, I have used my personal fundamental values as guiding points to building a culture that has made us one of the most awarded groups in our industry. Among these values is hope for a better tomorrow.  We grew our business by first hoping and then giving hope great support — of better people, better tools, better culture. 

 I believe that in business as in life, the words you use to communicate and describe your actions reflect everything about you — your values, how you were brought up, how you look at people. So more than processes, structures and tools, it is the fundamental values we live by that have carried us this far and I believe will carry us through to whatever the future brings.  

A “new normal” future that we will all find hope and joy together.


Edited by Rica Delfinado

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