For Fast Company's Shape of Tomorrow series, we ask executives to share their insider perspective on how the COVID-19 era is changing their industries. Here is what has been lost in the new world order – and what could be gained.
Colleen DeCourcy, Copresident and Chief Creative Officer at Wieden + Kennedy heads the creative department of the world's largest independent advertising agency, which works for major customers such as Nike, Ford, McDonalds, KFC, Uber and others.
We've already talked about the death of irony, but I think this could be the death of the shit. What did (a campaign or ad) do? What did it do for the brand? What did it do for people?
We've already talked about the death of irony, but I think this could be the death of the shit. What did (a campaign or ad) do? What did it do for the brand? What did it do for people? "
Weiden + Kennedys Colleen DeCourcy
Entire companies are being wiped off, people encounter roadblocks that they simply couldn't see coming. It makes (agencies) vulnerable to their business problems.
Customers' business problems are often bigger than what advertising can fix. What I think the optimistic part of it is, the longer it takes, the more people will be wiped from brand preference in many cases. This special brand of toothpaste will be less important to me than just toothpaste. I think if people go outside again, brands will prove themselves again, introduce themselves again and explain again why they should be preferred. So I hope, but I think our customers will need us more than ever. . .
(Wieden + Kennedy co-founder Dan) Wieden had many famous sayings. When I joined the company, I learned that I think I have just started to understand that chaos is the only thing that, frankly, wants you to grow. I'm holding onto that right now.
Steve Stoute, The founder and CEO of Translation has worked with major brands and sports leagues such as the NFL, Brooklyn Nets, Anheuser-Busch and State Farm. The translation was typed in January to lead a rebranding of the New York Knicks. Stoute and Translation were part of the team behind State Farm's clever ESPN ad during the April Last Dance document.
Brands have tried to use the humble hype that basically says, "We feel sorry for you, so we buy this product." There was a separation between the need for what this product is and actual consumer sentiment. So there are many brands that have been slapped for it. Then there are brands that have done a good job of saying, "We understand you, we are with you and we are not currently trying to sell you anything, we just want to get involved." I think that's the job that impressed me the most. Brands with good intentions. You sell something with a discount that you need. They speak to you in a way that is sensitive to what you are going through.
Let's only deal with brass nails. We have no idea when the (NBA) season will start. We have no idea when the work (which we do for them) has to start. It is difficult to compile a cadence (for our work) without a calendar. As a marketer, these things are critical to a market launch strategy. It is completely unknown.
Let's only deal with brass nails. We have no idea when the (NBA) season will start. "
Steve Stoute, Founder and CEO of Translation But when the sport returns, the appreciation of your hometown team, your hometown hero and the game itself will be tremendous. And I will lean on it. I guarantee you, no matter what the Knicks' record was before the pandemic or how you felt about the team before the pandemic, you will be as excited as ever when you meet this dish again. The dynamism and commitment of this excitement is an opportunity for marketers like me.
Margaret Johnson, The partner and chief creative officer at Goodby Silverstein + Partners heads the creative department of the award-winning San Francisco agency, which works for major brands such as Doritos, Pepsi, BMW, Golden State Warriors, HP, Panera Bread and others.
We had just shot a commercial for Panera's coffee subscription before the whole COVID thing arrived. It was a big LA production with a lot of people. Now our approach might not be on the other end of the spectrum. We make the drivers shoot themselves on their delivery routes (for upcoming Panera spots) with their cell phones, send us the settings via SMS and then send back notes and instructions on how to do it differently. At first glance, everything seems so strange, but you adapt quickly. I think people who haven't really embraced this new world will get into big trouble.
I can't even imagine that you'd spend so much money now to send eight people out for a shoot outside of the country. You can see recordings online just as easily. I think it will have a big impact not only on production but also on business in general, to be honest. Are you going to send five people to fly business class to New York for a one-hour meeting? That doesn't seem to be a good use of money.
Jaime Robinson, The co-founder and chief creative officer of JOAN Creative has created work for customers such as Google, Netflix, Pillsbury, Youtube, Fiber One and SafeAuto.
We all had the wind out of us together. We've all seen the compilation of all the ads that look the same, and I have to say we created one too. We made one that was more on the nose with: “In these difficult times. . We wanted to make it a bit funnier and cheekier, but the first few weeks were about reaction and despair.
I think we are now around a corner and there is a general feeling of creative optimism. Of course, this is a terrible time for many people, but in the context of this industry, I think this could be a moment of unprecedented creativity. The ideas that our creatives and strategists bring in were great.
It is also a kind of wild west. All channels, the gatekeepers, have been tossed aside, and you'll see things in entertainment like John Krasinski, who replaced Ellen as America's favorite show host. Could he have done that six months ago? Probably not. He used his creativity to write a good show that was charming and up to date. . .
We're trying to ask ourselves what we can do now where we couldn't before. Depending on how long this takes, Hollywood's pipeline will be pretty empty. This could be an opportunity for brands to think about how they can create entertainment. We share ideas for this with our customers and they were incredibly receptive to it.
They always want a brand to serve their audience. Sometimes that's useful, sometimes it's a business innovation that brings relief, and sometimes it's about entertaining people. With the brands we work with, we find that everyone has achieved this first success and is now getting up again.
Troy Ruhanen, The TBWA Worldwide CEO (with 11,300 employees in 275 offices in 95 countries) has a customer list that includes Apple, Adidas, Gatorade, Nissan and Mountain Dew, among others.
We have this platform called "Next" where we see what's going on over the horizon for three years and I think some of these things have really accelerated. Before it could add one more thing (customers). Now it's more of a necessity. Take something like conversation marketing – everything that has to do with voice or AI chatbots. That really increased during this time, as companies had to rely more on their virtual services than before. Now it is quite convenient for the customer to do this exchange with a chatbot to get the service levels they previously had in a store.
There has been a lot of talk about purpose-built brands in recent years, but I think values and behavior are much more important these days. You are connected, but a lot of people have put out pithy words and manifestos, and right now that's much less important than your behavior. We'll see that some trends emerge, be it in terms of cleanliness or something else, but there will be measures to show that you are making fun of the consumer, and it will be shared and acknowledged that you are to behave in a way that is in the interest of the consumer.
David Droga, The founder and chairman of Droga5 (part of Accenture Interactive) established the agency as a leading creative business with innovative work for brands like Under Armor, Android, HBO, the New York Times and others. In April the agency created the “Never Lost” Facebook ad in just six days.
We are fortunate that we are in an industry that is mobile, in the sense that the majority of our creations and productions are in thinking and that you can do this in quarantine. We do not have a factory hall with presses, robots and laboratories.
Our job is to help our customers find out where they fit into all of this. "
David Droga from Droga5
Every week felt like a month in terms of our reactions, customer reactions and consumer reactions. Our job is to help our customers find out where they fit into all of this. You saw that every brand brought out something about how it understands the difficult times. That is fine and appropriate, but it will eventually expire. What are you doing now?
Our industry is always one of the first to experience a downturn because people don't want to spend on marketing and communication. Almost every agency has had layoffs – 10%, 15% of its employees – and it's heartbreaking. Everyone is a little nervous. I am optimistic. Our job is to offer our customers added value, accuracy, creative thinking and problem solving without losing their nerve. Just because some people do it now in their pajama pants and a six-year-old runs in the background doesn't change their ability to think great and perform well.
More from the Shape of Tomorrow series by Fast Company:
This article was written by Fast Company's Jeff Beer and is licensed under the NewsCred publishing network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
Originally published May 27, 2020 at 7:16 p.m.