Embracing a new reality: 4 creative leaders on how agencies are ideating and creating in isolation

Phil Dabrowski, Anton Reyniers / August 2020

Creativity thrives under constraint, with creatives responding to shifting situations and fluctuating timelines. As APAC moves to a digital-first work environment, the creative process is also adjusting to better reflect our new reality.

We recently spoke with several agency leaders about how they’re adapting their approaches to client work, where they’re finding inspiration while working in isolation, and what advice they have for other creatives and brand marketers. These are their thoughts.

1. Think digital first, and double down on quick turnaround production


I see the COVID-19 crisis having a lasting impact on the way we work in two broad areas. The first is that our strategists and creatives across the industry will increasingly think digital first. They’ve done it for months now, and that’s enough to drive a permanent behavior change. The second is that we will become more comfortable as an industry with in-house, low-cost, quick turnaround production for digital assets. We’ve seen it work. Clients have seen it work. And I think that will have a lasting impact on clients and agencies alike.

Also, there is always a role for levity and humor. Making someone smile or laugh is perhaps even more important, even more precious, when times are tough. As long as we are not insensitive, consumers will always appreciate brands that make them smile.

2. Use the isolation to allow yourself deeper inspirations


Creatives live in a state of flux every day, working on different briefs, different brands and products, with different teams and partners. In a way, this period of isolation is just another change in our creative lives. This forced isolation has presented an opportunity and mind space for deeper thinking. The ideation process requires an uninterrupted block of time to get into the “flow”, and space in your mind allows different ideas to be entertained and played with.

In the office setting, the interruptions during a workday (especially in an open office) can be quite disruptive to the thinking process. It breaks the flow. But now, when teams need to get together and share ideas, albeit online, I find the time is no longer an interruption but much more welcomed.

Inspiration has moved online, too. Places where you would conventionally go to be inspired, like exhibitions and museums, theaters, and clubs, are closed, but we’ve seen how these venues have transported their content online. VR museum visits, for example, have opened up a whole new world to visitors stuck at home.

3. No better time to try new approaches


There’s no better time than now to try new approaches. We created new ways to seek out ideas and new ways of making things work. It’s always fascinating to see the ingenuity that comes out of challenging circumstances. Creativity will always find a way.

There’s also an opportunity to be a lot more agile and more self-sufficient. People with multiple skills in ideating and creating will have an advantage, and agencies that embrace speed and agility will do well in the new world.

Working leaner, faster, and more agile with a lot less resources are some principles that will remain. Some say there’s gonna be a compromise to craft with these principles in place. I disagree. Fast crafting can still be effective if the ways we curate talent to work on them and the ways we collaborate are different.

4. Technology is helping us create at speed


Work can no longer be created in a vacuum and take eight months to be developed. If you have an idea and smartphone, you can create. We have created brand films in seven days from concept to execution using our agency as both the director and the talent. We have controlled shoots remotely. And we have started to behave more like a publisher with the speed at which we are creating work and responding to our clients’ needs. I think creating has been democratized in many ways, and technology has helped us to do this. Technology used to be accused of disconnecting us, yet we are now using it to connect to our friends, family, and work. I am so inspired by all the creative uses of tech I am seeing.

Embracing a new reality: How 5 agency leaders are rethinking brand strategy now and for the future