How did we get here? This is a question that I hear and repeat to myself more and more often. Like lovers who become strangers in one night, so people found themselves in an unrecognizable world in one year. Nothing was the same as before, the world we knew came to an end completely suddenly. Veljko Golubovic, Executive Creative Director at New Moment (RS) shares his thoughts on the impact of corona on the creative field.
At the height of the pandemic, a big problem arose in the world of advertising – all the campaigns looked terribly similar to each other. With universal insight came uniform ideas. Doctors were superheroes, salespeople were ordinary heroes, consumers were asked to stay home and keep their distance, companies were agile and continued to work from home via the internet, we were all one in the fight against the invisible enemy. It was clear why no one needs such a world, a world in which there is no diversity, differences and uniqueness. Globalization makes sense when it comes to connectivity, but if its end result is uniformity then it is not a happy ending story.
After a year, it turned out that agency business largely depends on the client’s willingness to adapt to the new situation, the digital potential and agility of the company, as well as their business strategy – whether to wait for the storm to subside or be enterprising and bold. In the beginning, most of them acted cautiously, with the idea that in two or three months everything would be finished and they would return to the old way. As the crisis continued, everyone became aware that they could not wait any longer and began to adjust. It is now clear that the epidemic is setting new norms, that old plans are no longer valid, that new rules are being formed and that there is no going back to the old. The planet won’t spin backwards, that’s for sure.
The creative response was quite clear and performed in the most direct way. The global problem has caused almost all agencies to receive the same briefings. Even at the very beginning, the United Nations called on creative directors from all over the world to voluntarily monitor the work of UN-certified agencies, to help make pandemic awareness campaigns as effective as possible. And it was both a pleasure and an obligation to work on it. Solidarity has proved crucial in such circumstances. Creativity is placed in the service of humanity and health protection. Consciously or not, advertising changed the world: it introduced social distance, told people to stay at home, celebrated doctors, created surrogates for real life, laid the foundations for a new normalcy and was among the first to step into the Covid19 zone.
Last year, telco companies stood out, Telenor and VIP gave the best communication projects, and I think that will continue next year. PR and Digital agencies have finally got the status they deserve, and that’s where I expect things to get creative. The PSA print campaign with the doctors was the creative finale of a long conceptual process, which was preceded by different variants with doctors, heroes and superheroes. Even Hollywood would be satisfied with such a commitment to the idea.
There were three phases in communication. The first phase was the protection phase when the virus appeared, the second phase was the distancing phase, and only then when the vaccines appeared did the vaccination phase come. The vaccination went fantastic at the beginning and there was no need for a strong campaign. It was only when everyone in the trial phase, for different reasons, got their vaccine, that the plateau was reached, and the need arose for a real campaign at the national level that would attract new people. Messages “I got vaccinated. Get vaccinated too!” and “Get vaccinated!” made the same mistake – they overlooked cultural insight that the imperative as a tone of address is not suitable for the Balkan mentality because it creates resistance. So the effect of these campaigns is completely negligible.
The crisis of 2008 was a financial crisis with its economic and social consequences, but it was not even close to the crisis of 2020. 2020 is an existential crisis in the true sense – social isolation, illness, death, loss of freedom, severance of contact, all this has become an integral part of life and thus work. Maintaining sobriety and professionalism was key. When everything breaks down day by day, then you have to focus and find sources of strength. Churchill said a long time ago “if you walk through hell, just keep going”, so that’s the way to think. We go on, we must not stop. Everything was unknown and fear dominated at all levels. Of course, marketing budgets were the first to be hit again, but this time many communication channels were stopped. In 2008 promotions and events were given priority, in 2020 they completely disappeared.
Most of all they are trying to find out the best examples, to take advice and to apply the best practice. Serbia is a place of constant crisis for the last 30 years, so we are kind of a level pro when it comes to “how to survive” circumstances. That is why we were the only country in the world that had Chinese, Russian and Western vaccines at the same time and also gave opportunity to foreign citizens to get vaccinated. We know we are going to survive, and so the brands. We just don’t know the price we will have to pay at the end.
In 2020, yet another one creative massacre happened on a global scale, as every time a crisis hits the big door. Similar to 2008, the world’s greatest creatives were the first to be hit. Overnight, hundreds of them changed their professional status, but for the first time in history, they were ready for that turnaround and organized very quickly. Even international networks have been created, composed of experienced creatives and their newly opened creative agencies. And this is a very interesting situation: on the one hand you now have large capital and large companies, and on the other their future choice of partners – communication giants without top creatives or a creative network with top creatives. Sounds like you have to choose between “doing things right” and “do the right thing”.
The crisis is great, and it does not seem to me that with the disappearance of the virus, the problems that civilization has fallen into will disappear. Another silent pandemic is spreading across the planet, and its true dimensions will be seen only after the corona virus leaves the scene. It is, of course, mental health, because such a long exposure to danger, state of anxiety, isolation, interruption of social interactions, abolition of culture, lack of opportunity to renew your mental energy and much more, all this brings us a huge wave that destroys human beings. Everyone has declared the epidemic a “war against the invisible enemy”, and war awakens in man both the worst and the best. That is why we should act preventively as soon as possible, not wait for the epidemic to stop, but everyone as much as they can at this moment. Solidarity, knowledge, responsibility and, above all, humanity should become our principles so that we can move forward. The world is changing and now we have the opportunity to finally catch up. The global “reset” is ahead of us, which means that a new beginning is coming for everyone. So why not come ready to start this time.
Only the adaptable will survive, or to put it better – the adaptable will have the best position at the starting line. Now is not the time for long-term plans, there are no conditions for that. More important than that is to be flexible, adaptable, agile and ready to change the plan. Things change on a weekly basis, stable periods are very short to guarantee the success of fixed plans. Change is the key word at the moment, and it would not be good to cling to just one vision or stand still. There is no archiving either, everything is in play. It’s just a question of when what needs to be done, what is the right moment for the right thing. It is also important to keep in mind the changes that are happening in the markets, especially those that are happening in the minds of consumers. And our industry needs to change, it is not immune to this virus either.
A few months ago, a great deal of market research was done in the world when it comes to changes in consumer behavior and expectations, when it comes to changes in shopping habits, brand perception, attitudes and values that now dominate in the minds of customers. The problem is that these research did not reach our market and that a very small number of us were informed about them and referred to them. There are comments that these are big markets that have nothing to do with ours, but then it is overlooked that for the first time you have a global problem that is the same wherever you are and that is why for the first time we have global insight, a universal truth that applies in every corner of the planet. The sooner advertisers accept the changes in people’s minds and understand their new role in their lives, the sooner they will adjust and start raising sales. It should be understood that old plans and approaches are no longer valid and that the time has come to work in a new way.
Veljko Golubovic, Executive Creative Director at New Moment (RS)