Why coronavirus' impact might be the brief the creative industry was made to tackle

Constraints focus the mind and provide fertile ground for creativity.

We are experiencing a moment of unprecedented constraints. Travel restrictions. Work from home mandates. Event cancellations. Social distancing and self-quarantines.

But a single quote not only calmed my growing anxiety but provided inspiration for our current reality – Constraints focus the mind and provide fertile ground for creativity – from a post published by Sequoia, and it reminded me to look around and take stock of the brain trust that resides in this industry I love.

This is the most creative industry in the world. We tackle big problems every day – our lives are spent in search of big ideas and innovative strategies. Here’s a thought: why don’t we roll up our sleeves and channel our creative energy into elevating … and reimagining … our practices and pursuits?

Case in point. Most of us will be traveling less for a while – even to the office. We’ll have to deal with that in different ways. Innovative comrades, let’s think about this:

1) Better, smarter virtual meetings anyone?  How do we make web chat more interactive? How can the average Skype call be reinvented as something far more dynamic? We have been embracing the transformative power of tech and software to tell our own stories but leaning on PowerPoint presentations in conference rooms to bring them to life. Let’s reinvent the sleepy webinar as something more visual and truly interactive.

2) Can we unleash the potential of small gatherings? Travel limitations and fewer in-person meetings can open up new opportunities for more local, customized events. They won’t replace the large-scale, elbow-to-elbow industry events like Cannes Lions or CES. Those human interactions can have an extraordinary impact on business. But finding temporary alternatives will surface new formats that might breathe new life into the type of programming, workshopping and socializing we already know and love on the Croisette, the Strip and 6th Street. And imagine the reinvigoration of industry tentpoles once the pendulum ultimately swings back to live events.

3) How can those ever-important ad hoc networking moments when we’re all gathered be recreated in a digital world? Perhaps this is VR’s long-awaited moment in the sun. We’ve all been waiting – desperately and impatiently – for virtual reality to finally arrive. If there ever was a time for the best minds in the VR field to collectively bring the face-to-face virtual meeting or virtual conference to life, now is the opportune time. Think of what we could unlock if someone cracked the code on making VR meetings as intimate and engaging as a one-on-one with a client, or lunch with someone in your network. This could boost the marketing business through a complicated episode and jump start a powerful new medium in the process.

4) Narratives are going to get sharper. As we navigate the constraints of this pandemic, sellers are going to feel some pressure. Here’s the upside: this will stretch us to sell without relying on a last-second Facetime, raw charisma or pandering. Message tracks will have to be as precise as they are compelling as we reteach ourselves to deliver a riveting message on the phone, in the moment.

Lastly, while we may not be able to steady the financial market’s wild ride, we can still prove the value of marketing. Our skills are more vital than ever. Back to that Sequoia piece – it suggests that companies might want to reign in customer acquisition spending – and "might even want to consider raising the bar on ROI for marketing spend." Challenge accepted. We can raise the bar and prove to our clients that we’re too vital to downsize.

Nobody can predict with confidence where this episode is going to take us. Or if things will calm down by the fall, or next year. We’re dealing with a new normal – for the unforeseeable future. But we can do this. We steered our clients through the post 9/11 entropy. We survived the 2008 recession. We can pull each other through coronavirus. The innovations we make today could become the new normal rather than a mere stopgap measure to our current situation.

We just have to believe in ourselves and the innovative tenacity of this creative industry we’re part of.

Lena Petersen is the chief brand officer and managing director of MediaLink.

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