How is business continuing for the industry now working from home is the new normal? Source talks to Natalie Harvey, executive director licensing and merchandising, about how Acamar has adapted.
With the licensing industry now working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, Source talks to key licensors, licensees and agents to find out how they are keeping business going.
Today: Natalie Harvey, executive director, licensing and merchandising, Acamar Films
How is the team’s day now structured, with everyone working from home? Could you provide a rough timeline of your day?
While it is an unprecedented and unusual period, our approach is ‘business as usual’ within the boundaries of what we are dealing with on a daily and weekly basis. We are still keeping all meetings (converting the physical ones into video conferences), although many of our meetings with agents were already using Zoom, and moving ahead on our various workstreams.
On top of this we are, of course, assessing the situation’s impact on our business and on our partners all the time. We have a close relationship with our agents, licensees and retail partners and feel we’re very much in this together. The benefit of being an independent and smaller company is that we can be agile.
How is the communication with licensees and retailers continuing? How important is it to continue keeping these lines of communication open during this time?
We have been in regular contact with our agents, licensees and retailers but of course many of them are down to a skeleton team. Being in touch both from a business and also personal perspective has been really important with the relationships we have. We cannot forget however that despite the situation we face, we need to continue to plan ahead so communication is everything. We have continued retail meetings via Zoom where we can, creative meetings, and of course licensee and agent meetings. We understand it’s a difficult time and everyone is adapting in different ways.
It’s our job as a licensor to support our partners and we are encouraging Bingsters and their grown-ups to continue enjoying content on the BBC iPlayer, our Bing: Watch, Play, Learn app, and through books, our website, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. This goes beyond the UK and has also been applied to other European territories.
Which projects are you able to move forward on right now?
We are so pleased to have been able to close some deals during this period, but there are some categories of the business which are clearly affected such as experiential given theme parks are temporarily closed.
Being a content-first business focused on our audience, we need to continue delivering. At the start of April we launched a ‘Staying at Home Together’ initiative across our social media channels and websites in the UK, Italy, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands. We want to help families keep their young children engaged and entertained and it’s been a real success, both with our audience and our partners. Our in-house production and creative teams have been able to work quickly to develop and provide our partners with new branded video content and digital assets to use on their own platforms and channels. Retailers and experiential partners in particular have been delighted and grateful for the quick turnaround support which enables them to keep close to their own customers.
What piece of advice would you give about how best to continue to feel like a team while WFH? How are you keeping up morale?
Everyone is affected both in their personal life and at work. We have a strong, positive company culture and it’s proven beneficial during this time of uncertainty. We have a WhatsApp team set up for the more instant exchanges you would have in the office, but also to lighten the mood with fun quotes and videos, and we have a weekly ‘Zoom town hall’ with the whole business to keep in touch with the wider teams every Friday.
Working from home is not a new concept. It’s been evolving for some time and I think if you structure your day to make sure you also exercise and take some breaks too, and even dress for the occasion as if going to a meeting or the office, I do believe it contributes to everyone’s well-being.
Best thing about WFH?
It’s challenging us in a positive way to think about approaching communication, technology and meetings differently as well as taking the time to think and plan more clearly without as many interruptions. Equally, from talking to so many people, it has transformed family lives in terms of spending more quality time together.
What’s the one thing you’ve discovered about each team member since WFH that you didn’t know before?
Apart from admiring everyone’s homes and pets, it just reaffirms how brilliant the team are. There has been a real sense of togetherness, cooperation and flexibility which I am extremely proud of especially as everyone has their own individual circumstances to juggle.
If you have children, how are you managing keeping them entertained/educated while you work?
Schools and fellow parents have been very helpful circulating resources and tools to keep children busy. Working from home with a child, especially for a prolonged period, is a new experience and at Acamar Films we’re all committed to making this work. Bing is important to so many preschoolers’ lives and we need to serve our audience during this time of uncertainty and need for content.
What advice would you give to people in the business who are worried about the future?
My advice would be that if we were to focus too much on the negative of course, we would not have a future. Digital technology, however advanced, will never replace the all-important human contact and interaction. This is what helps form solid relationships which last a lifetime and which contribute massively to our overall well-being. ‘We will meet again’ as the infamous song goes, and we have to hold on to that.
We also need to think differently and look within at ways to improve and change things, and at the same time keep communicating and support each other. The quote which has resonated with me is that from Benjamin Franklin: “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking”.