How coronavirus issue is going to influence creative advertising business, why pandemic is an invitation to systemic change in the near future, what might become the main factor of project effectiveness in 2020 and what is the role of creativity in these strange and difficult times, what people will be awaiting from brands and what brands should do to be both commercially effective and socially valuable? Get the answers to these and other questions in the interview with Teodora Migdalovici, Founder of LoveAndLobby from Romania, Change for Good jury member and speaker of White Square 2020.
Beauty hunter. Troublemaker. Explorer. Polymath. Sometimes a muse, very often an alchemist. For everything else, one can join me on social media to see first-hand what’s all about or if time is galore, to dig on www.loveandlobby.com, www.thealternativeschool.com & www.mealchemy.com.
How coronavirus issue is going to influence creative advertising business?
Few years ago I’ve attended a Platon seminar. You know, Platon Antoniou, the remarkable portrait photographer of worldwide leaders, whistleblowers and people struggling with unimaginable life challenges. During the talk, he was telling the backstage story of his black and white memorable pictures. His father, Jim Antoniou, a Greek architect, used to draw using black ink, resuming everything to a bold, no-distraction key. No digital fantasy back then, only perspective, good eyes, good hand and black ink. Also, little to no place for error. That, alongside the memories of his childhood Greek islands’ white houses, marked his imagery and disciplined his retina. Everything was distilled to fundamentals.
I think we are living in times where the entire planet - the communication industry following the trend – has to function upon the same equation: reduction to essential.
Both as human beings and professionals, we are facing the simplification challenge. Our reality looks like a Marie Kondo forced declutter seminar, making space for work that really matters and setting our radar for people that uplift, make a difference and bring meaning leading to results. Anything else is irrelevant. Keeping this, forgetting about the rest. It’s a paradoxical time: while making stocks and pilling up goods and toilet paper, even the most agnostic and non-spiritual beings are examining their lives, trying to put everything under perspective, searching for a deeper sense and for the right directions. The creative industry makes no exception. There is no time left for business as usual, postponing and procrastination, it’s innovation by force. Tectonic plates of all disciplines and specializations are shifting – new continents are arising, some mountains will end up at the bottom of the ocean and where was once tundra, we might see a lush, luxurious vegetation being brought to life. It’s the time of design and product design as king, the time of the coders and makers, of digital solutions and anything mobile. A new working format is arising and I think it will be here to stay for most of us. A new look at the costs and resources through lucid lenses is here. What once was at the periphery, in a matter of weeks became mainstream. The dinosaurs might die, but it means small mammals and eventually human kind will rise (again and for better).
What about the future of brands?
What in the recent years was nice to have – a kindfulness approach, where good thoughts, good words and good deeds would define the contemporary brand’s DNA - today is becoming and a must-have. Regardless of category, being a brand of social resonance, receptive of people’s struggles and realities, while also keeping an eye on the business is the new black. The change is keeping his foot on the acceleration while no brakes are available. Corporations need entrepreneurial skills – flexibility, agility, fast reactions to context, anticipation instincts, actions rather than reactions. Entrepreneurs need - in reverse - a lucid, down to earth, practical approach, while being consistent with their truth. Disciplined by this micron-size virus, everyone is facing the inner demons, worst fears and needs to overcome them, while taking into consideration “the other”. Never before our interdependence in all aspects of our life texture – vertical and horizontal, individual and systemic – wasn’t as obvious as it is today. We are condemned to forced innovation and we are running out of time. It’s literally now or never.
Consumers are cluttering and decluttering in the same time and so do brands.
Everything that seem unnecessary is putting aside and the empty space left is soon replaced by new approaches, technologies and people up to the challenge.
What about the human resources of the creative industry and beyond?
I like to look at the corona metaphorical aspect: let’s recall what a virus does to a computer?
After the 2008 crisis, if I am not mistaken, I think it was Eric Schmidt – then still with google - who said: “this is not a restart, this is a reset”. Whomever said it then, can say it again, because the formula fits 2020 perfectly. Here is why: this unprecedented challenge will show, like never before, who is fit to be a leader and who’s a phony. Who was mimicking competency and who is able to deliver solutions for real? Who are the experts, the innovators and the creators and who are just walking business cards with sounding positions, impressive ego, but nothing substantial to put into the world? Many emperors will go naked and everyone will see and shout it out loud, not kids only.
Just like in the Exodus times, when Moses was parting the waters to conduct his people out of slavery, Corona is splitting the sea of competent versus the pretenders, hypocrites and counterfeits. For anyone willing to see the difference, there is such a dramatic, clear road between the two. With very few tools left to impress others through external accessories, all of us reduced to a pajama and a screen, we are asked to come up with solutions, new systems, new functional formats. Not much time will pass until we will be able to see who is a creator, who is a creative and who is a make-believe; who is a trendsetter, a supporter or a copy-cat? What a paradox – a sickness was necessary to clean, both metaphorically and physically, entire professional blocks otherwise complacent with the egocentric mediocrities and reset the standards of what a healthy working ecosystem actually is. Not a single one stone is left unturned by the Corona ravishing consequences: entire structures are put under scrutiny, once and for all. And that, ultimately, is a good thing.
So you are saying this is an invitation to systemic change?
Absolutely. Look at the fails of the Western political class, the one we were expecting the most from – their incapacity to take decisions and stick to them, their inconsistent and contradictory talks – what a shameful display of inconsistence, from France, to UK and the States, costing lives and jobs alike. Look at the non-communitarian ways the EU forefront leaders managed the crisis, by blocking exports, keeping essential medical and safety goods for themselves only, then reconsidering, after a while. Do we call this a functional mechanism? Is that leadership? In face of crisis that is what world’s most powerful, respected entities could come up with? Isn’t it obvious this model needs a reboot? That neither Western nor Eastern political class owned the competence-crown all along…that they were, both, just poorly simulating in the “I know what I am doing” game and when the reality hit hard, they all proved a standard novice level to say the least? Isn’t it obvious that we need a concentrated injection of competence and a fully functional heart-set at every single layer of society and a different kind of species in charge with social experiments? We live in times where what we do as people and brands (both commercial brands and country brands) is the only publicity at hand and it will stick with us for a very long time. The luxury of playing nice is gone, we only have to do the right thing or #stayhome indefinitely. In the very same time, individual entrepreneurship groups activated themselves like never before and managed to materialize solutions, good or improvable, with an incredible speed. Also, look at how brands responded – some in a decorative way, others in on an admirable activist frequency. It’s the rise of new world out there and I can only hope the good ones will prevail not only in the corona times, but especially after it.
If you are to make a radiography of the near future, how it will look like?
Huge trunks of society are passing now a live exam – proving what they are made of, upon a very expensive price to pay: lives, the economy or both. We live in “life and death” situations, both related to the economy and the people’s very existence. The hierarchy of our priorities is crystal clear: no one wants to die of the virus nor of hunger. And this is setting pretty much the agenda for brands, people, political class, entrepreneurs, the safety & health industry, the tech & the product design. Disruption used to be the TBWA trade mark. Now is a society gear. Pressure, tight briefs, unexpected scenarios – everything that happened in a design thinking strategy sprint now evolved at society scale. And this is not a drill. For the creative industry only good things can come out from the Covid. Our community is challenged by all the constraints combined, like never before in its existence and it will find its voice as such. What is a diamond, if not carbon under enormous pressure? Ironically, the virus emerged randomly in China. But aren’t the Chinese saying: “where there is crisis, there is opportunity”?
Last year, Venice biennale prophetically launched under the slogan: “May you live in interesting times”. While Chinese, where originally emerged the expression, look at it as a diplomatic curse, the Westerners treated as a blessing. With those world power’s magnetic poles shifting, from rigid, ego-driven structures, to the rising of micro- cultures defined by applied empathy, doubled by practical, solution-oriented kind of intelligentsia, the creative industry will have its last word on the topic.
What, in your opinion, might become the main factor of project effectiveness in 2020?
The “getting things done” mentality, forgetting old school books on how we should operate. Also, flexibility, ability to look at the bigger pictures and get inspired by disciplines and industries that weren’t normally under scrutiny and definitely following the Kindful brands mantras. I have a two days training & workshop on this, so if you want to know more, just PM over social media. I am online, alive and kicking.
What people will be awaiting from brands and what brands should do to be both commercially effective and socially valuable?
2 months ago, I was invited at the Customer Experience Forum. I delivered what I like to call – a FLAT presentation, flat as in music, half-tone down. During my presentation, I invited the audience to get down from their aseptic, palace-like tower offices and get out, just like Gautama once did, but since He is the one and only, not to repeat the Budha path, necessarily. Story says, when Prince Siddhartha went out of his father’s palace, he saw a sick man, an old man, a poor man and an ascet. Impressed by the last, he left the world to look for enlightenment. My recommendation for the audience was to be inspired, moved and motivated also by the sick, the old and the poor and I came up with some memorable examples of campaigns and brands from less prosperous regions of the world, proving how empathy towards those that are not necessarily young, rich and sexy, could lead to genuine communication and memorable results, resisting both the taste of time and the KPI’s exigency. It is incredible how, not even 2 months after, brands are facing this fundamental challenge: to look people in the eyes, including those sick, poor, old, vulnerable, at risk and do something. What they should do? Everything that is necessary to prove themselves worthy of the consumers’ interest, love, money and fidelity. Adapt and prove they live in the same reality, challenge themselves, their modus operandi, their business as usual. Do you want my absolute best practice example? LVMH converting its perfume factories to make sanitizer –it has all the ingredients: purpose, long-term business sense, empathy, lucid, incredibly fast reaction, a shift benefiting all – employees, people and long-term users. Pretty similar mechanics happened with several distilleries in the US, like Eight Oaks Farm, in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania. Hats off to all.
What is the role of creativity in these strange and difficult times?
To prove itself worth it of its problem-solver reputation, gained after the 2008 financial crisis.
I think Anselmo Ramos said at some point, in a post “It’s a pandemic, not a brief”. And at the beginning I resonated with this invitation to common sense. But then again, precisely because it’s a pandemic, it should become a brief. That’s the new common sense. What are you making out of it, it’s an entirely different thing and it shows if your job is to decorate and wrap up or if your job is to invent, produce, design and put something new and useful into the world, whilst helping business in the process. Having no action or reaction during corona times, just laying people off, closing the doors, sleeping or / and functioning on hope marketing would be the worst thing to do. For all those desperate to prove themselves in international creative competitions and entering fake work on ghostly briefs in the hope to win a grand prix for good, here is their lifetime opportunity: at last an unescapable chance to prove their intelligence and creative balls, while literally saving lives. Do you remember those comments: “come on, this is communication, not heart / brain surgery”. Well, there are very few moments in the marketing and communication industry’s lifetime when being truly creative serves as an equivalent to the medical profession. This is one of them. I expect amazing solutions from the design/ product design / mobile creativity and e-commerce guilds, as much as from the FMCG / health & safety ones.
What can you advise the industry in terms of how not to lose professional enthusiasm, how to stay inspired and inspire people around?
Follow the Chinese: look for the opportunity where the crisis lies. That’s the best possible time for a creative soul to thrive and prove its worth – he / she should be the one giving hope, inspiration and enthusiasm, not looking for them. Are we domestic office animals, comfortable in our lives and disturbed by change or fierce unicorns that nurture out of it?