If anyone understands the need to rearrange a work interview for childcare issues during the coronavirus crisis, it’s advertising chief Marc Nohr.
Homeschool hurdles meant I had to ask Nohr, group CEO of Miroma Agencies and chairman of the creative agency Fold7, if we could reschedule our chat. Of course, he completely understood. For one, Nohr, chair of London’s JW3 arts and culture centre, is a thoroughly amenable chap, and like many bosses, is having to support his teams in working remotely. What’s more, he has long been an advocate of flexible working. Before this pandemic changed the world of work, Nohr, one of the UK’s most recognised advertising authorities, was among a minority of senior business leaders working part-time.
Nohr, 51, who lives in West Hampstead with his wife, three sons and a very large dog, moved to a four-day week about two years ago. He was credited as being the first male chief executive of a large business to announce he did so, and in February, was a winner of the Timewise Power 50 – an annual list that honours men and women who have made a success of flexible working. “At the time there were still negative connotations around part-time work, particularly for a male CEO,” he reflects.
“This mass sociological experiment that we are all in [as a result of Covid-19] will have some positive benefits in being more empathetic towards the needs and strengths of flexible working. We will emerge from it with a different perspective nobody would have anticipated.”
‘Pre-corona’, Nohr would ensure that he worked one day from home. “I’m not one of those people that likes to be chained to my desk.” He would spend the time having JW3 meetings – he became chair, an unpaid role, in 2018 – or on his other commitments. He is a director of a Krav Maga school and mentors young businesses and CEOs. Any time out would be spent on exercise, walking his dog on Hampstead Heath and enjoying the arts, friends and family. But unsurprisingly, since the coronavirus took hold, it has been challenging. “I have tried to get head space for at least one day a week but for the rest of the week, it’s been unprecedented and completely full-on,” says Nohr, who has worked through at least two global recessions.
At the time of our call lockdown had just started and Nohr stressed the importance of switching off from work when we can. “We can’t be in fight or flight mode all the time.”
A member of Hampstead Synagogue, Dennington Park Road, Nohr tries to keep Shabbat. He has been advising his staff to take proper lunch breaks, and set a time to stop work each day. “There is a big physical and mental health aspect to all of this which will be absolutely vital. There are people who have very little resources and are coping with huge amounts of stress.”
Nohr has spent the best part of three decades working in the creative industries. The agencies he has led have won Agency of the Year awards, several times Sunday Times Top 100 Employer and more than 100 awards for creativity and effectiveness.
In 2001, he founded Kitcatt Nohr, one of the UK’s top agencies of the 2000s with clients including Waitrose, Lexus, Starbucks and Apple. In 2011, it was acquired by Publicis Groupe and merged with Digitas to form Kitcatt Nohr Digitas. Nohr left in 2013 and took some time off but returned two years later to become chief executive of the boutique global agency Fold7, which counts Carlsberg, Audible (Amazon), Diageo and Gumtree among its clients. When Marc Boyan’s Miroma bought a majority stake in Fold7 in 2019, Nohr became group CEO of Miroma agencies, staying on as chairman of Fold7.
How have the creative sectors been affected by the crisis? “For agencies there are two main factors – what marketing disciplines they represent, and how exposed they are to vulnerable sectors. At one end you have brands whose core product is very much in demand, such as Netflix, Zoom or Ocado/Tesco home delivery. But at the other end you have businesses that have effectively locked up shop.
“And there’s the general state of the economy with demand being down and anxiety being up. Companies are wanting to preserve their cashand not make too many commitments, and that will impact anyone operating in consumer markets.”
As for the UK economy’s prospects, Nohr says: “There are entire industries that are on their knees and who knows what they’ll be like when they’re able to trade again? Take the fashion industry; even when they can trade again there are billions of pounds of unsold clothes in warehouses and retailers will be doing massive discounting and dumping of that stock before they’re even able to launch the next season. That’s just one example of an industry that might be disrupted for the next year.”
Nohr’s mother, Evelyn, was a hidden child in France during the Holocaust and dedicated much of her life to charitable causes. He has a long history of advising in the third sector, including many of the Jewish charities and relished the opportunity to become a trustee of JW3 in 2011 and then chairman.
“For me it’s part of one continuum – the application of creative thinking in the charitable or commercial domain and that’s essentially is what I do, either at JW3, Miroma or Fold7. It’s the same job in different domains.”
Is it up to business leaders to be more philanthropic, especially now?
“I’m amazed that anyone who is given the opportunity to contribute their time or money to charity doesn’t take it. As individuals it’s a privilege to give and as Jews it’s an obligation, and it’s imperative that business leaders who have experience, resources and networks get involved. It’s one of the best things I have ever done.”