08 December 2021

AN INSIDERS’ VIEW OF A NEW KIND OF CREATIVE AGENCY the advertising trenches are not what they used to be

Submitted by Tebogo
AN INSIDERS’ VIEW OF A NEW KIND OF CREATIVE AGENCY the advertising trenches are not what they used to be

Johannesburg, December 2021 – ‘’2021 shook us all, but out of it Happy Friday was born, and we are taking our vibe and philosophy forward in 2022 – onwards and upwards to greater things,’’ says Craig Naicker, Group Managing Director at Happy Friday.

Earlier this year, former experiential brand agency CWDi was reinvented and rebranded as Happy Friday – a name born from the reimagining of the agency ethos, which, according to Happy Friday leadership, was in dire need of an overhaul. Thus, the traditional agency model gave way to a more people-centric approach, with a purpose-before-profit philosophy at its core. Key agency staff share their experiences, having worked in this agency reborn.

Happy Friday’s new collaborative, people-first model incorporates meeting-free Fridays; a four-and-a-half-day work week (with a view to working towards a four-day week); side hustle support; a no email or WhatsApp after 6pm rule; a Human Library (allowing staff with interesting perspectives to make themselves available for conversation or mentorship); 25 days annual leave, and the freedom to work from anywhere.

In a time of global change, Happy Friday has taken the lead in creating a new type of agency for the post-COVID world. Happy Friday’s Group Managing Director, Craig Naicker, explains, “You are only able to grow a sustainable business when you take care of the people within it. We hear so many leaders talking about leading with empathy. But what does that mean in practice? It is time for a hard refresh of the way we do things in our industry. And COVID has dramatically accelerated change.”

Annilishia Kleinsmith, Junior Account Manager says of the new structure, “Agency employees were tired of the ‘cut and paste’ attitude the industry had towards their staff and their personal time. The industry has glamourised being overworked and turned being tired into something to be proud of. This is unhealthy – not only for you but your family as well. At Happy Friday, we are recognised as people and not just flesh-like paper pushers”.

Louise Hunt, Account Director adds, “Management has had to take a huge leap of faith in us, the staff, trusting us more to take responsibility for our jobs and making sure we complete jobs in a timely manner, asking for help when we need it. These times have been challenging for all and knowing that management trusts us to do the right thing has been very rewarding”.

Carly Maree van Wyk, Account Executive enthuses, “Happy Friday is the idea of ending the toxic cycle of workers feeling and being overworked. It makes you feel as if your management understands that to deliver good work, you must have happy employees, and they need to feel as though they are considered”. 

Pippa Hudson, Creative Director adds, “The autonomy we have at Happy Friday is refreshing and inspiring. I love that we don’t need to be too corporate. Having fun with teammates and clients is part of the culture. It’s okay to be you and not to have to fill a mould”.

Gary Hartley, Senior Writer and Editor concurs, saying, “A change in the traditional (read archaic) way of working became increasingly clear, especially when the pandemic turned our lives upside down and chipped away at our already-fragile mental health states.

“We also know that the advertising industry is notorious for breeding toxic work environments in which employees are seen as workhorses and not people. We didn’t want to fall into that trap and decided to prioritise our happiness. Thankfully, we were not only given the space to share our thoughts and concerns, but we also played a crucial part in creating our people-centric agency”.

Simone Isaacs, Traffic and Social Media Manager, discusses how the Happy Friday working model contributes to the ideal work/life balance: “I think COVID has been the catalyst for this change. Companies around the globe have realised that we live in a world where working from home is possible, which allows for more flexibility and enables a better work/life balance.

The transparency and open-door policy from management truly creates a culture of trust, which is the foundation of all good relationships – personal or professional – and when you have trust, happiness will follow”.

At Happy Friday, agency culture has taken centre stage in what has arguably been a broken industry for many years. Work/life balance and mental health – commodities which many agency leaders may have previously ignored – have taken priority. This new way of working is designed to encourage stakeholderism among staff members, rather than a simple “production line” approach, which many industry insiders will agree, has been the norm in most large agencies to date. As the Happy Friday prototype unfolds and more staff buy in, will other agencies follow suit? It may well be in their best interests to pay attention.