Isolation Log: Pandemic democratizes creativity as talent barriers are smashed

Good things are happening.

How are you doing today? What’s going on inside that noggin of yours? Be real with me. 

It’s been a bit of an emotional roller coaster in my head -- kind of like how it was when I went through puberty (which was around 16-years-old because I was "weirdly-late bloomer," my biology teacher once told four-foot-nine-inches-hairless-me and my entire class). Sometimes I wake up so anxious for no reason. Or short-tempered. Recently, though, I’ve been waking up raring to go, genuinely inspired by the conversations I’m having with you all.

You’re keeping me sane. Thank you. We hope Campaign US is helping you through your days in some way, shape or form, no matter how little.

I want to share a really positive trend that’s emerged among these chats with people from every corner of adland.

The short (four-foot-nine-inches) version is this: Virtual working has democratized creativity by offering more seats at the table for more diverse talent. Talent which couldn’t previously get to the table because it may be sitting far away from home in a San Francisco office.

Tim Ayers, North America CEO of Hogarth, WPP’s global production arm, said it best this week: "I think the biggest thing we’ve learnt is, you don’t need to know where I am, and I don’t need to know where you are.

"There’s always been this idea that we need to be together to get things done. What we’re seeing now is that it’s remarkable how -- not just from a work or creative perspective, but from an emotional and personal perspective -- we’ve all opened up a bit and we’re all making room for a much more collaborative experience. 

"Being able to do that is a big shift -- we’ve talked about it for years -- and I think that won’t go away. People will travel less. People will be able to source ideas from where they think the best pockets of talent exist regardless of physical space."

Bang on. 

There is no going back from this. The future of creativity is forcibly more diverse now. 

His sentiments are shared with so many other industry spoke Campaign US has spoken with in recent days/weeks/what year is this? Marla Kaplowitz, CEO and president at the 4A’s, is beating this drum hard. 

She recently told us: "If you remove the physical barrier of needing people to be in one location, you can have much greater diversity and inclusion. You can tap into people who are differently abled who maybe can’t get to an office very easily, part-time workers who have other needs but are incredibly valuable, you can increase your racial and ethnic diversity within your own team. It opens up a lot of possibilities. And because we had to rip the Bandaid off, we had to prove it fairly quickly."

And Stephanie Nadi Olson, founder and CEO at We Are Rosie, a remote network of 4,000 marketing pros who parachute in to power brands and agencies, said: "When we start to open up the way in which work happens, inclusion is a beautiful byproduct, it’s not something that you need to focus on or talk about on panels or something you’re measuring everyday -- it just happens. We have an incredible opportunity to build a much more inclusive marketing ecosystem at this moment.

"People are embracing a more human work-side to everything and I really hope that sticks with us -- and I think it will, because the cat’s out of my bag. We’re going to see happier people in the long term because it will give people the life and career that they want."

This type of thinking has already been put into practice when it comes to creative work getting produced amid COVID-19. 

This week, Pabst Blue Ribbon released a new campaign -- the first from AOR 72andSunny. It won the business months ago, well before isolation. The agency had planned to go big with a live-action music video. But that all changed come lockdown. That meant a pivot in direction. And that new direction meant partnering with 12 creators from a variety of disciplines ranging from graphic design to baking and even to interpretive dance. The final result was arguably way more creative than what was originally planned. 

Erwin Federizo, group creative director at 72andSunny Los Angeles, explained: "We originally planned on filming a live-action music video to accompany our newly created jingle, but with the shelter in place and all major film productions shutting down, my creative team quickly turned to a solution that ultimately allowed for more interesting, unexpected content. We invited a curated list of artists to visualize the lyrics, and we now have a montage of rad, unexpected expressions of creativity."

The same thing happened with Scotts Miracle-Gro, too. The brand’s entire spring portfolio had to be gutted and remade to land relevant amid coronavirus. And it did. Scotts, powered by agency partner VaynerMedia, became a top trending dance challenge on TikTok with "#DoTheScotts," pulling in celebrities and dancers including Jason Derulo (who’s makes surprisingly-entertaining content -- definitely give him a follow). 

Advertising’s new world is all things you keep hearing: Uncertain; scary; most-likely laced with more terrible economic decisions in the coming weeks. But it is also all the things you are not hearing: Brave; resilient; home of a new breed of heightened creativity powered by greater diversity enabled through flexible working. 

Increase decibels for the latter the next time your noggin’s noisy with negativity.

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