Juan José Posada has the enormous challenge of creatively leading an entire network in Latin America, but he is no stranger to challenges. His role as Executive Creative Director of Geometry LATAM, puts him today in a place of relevance, with his decisions making the difference with clients navigating the communication challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the following interview with LatinSpots, Posada gives us his vision of the crisis, emphasizing the role of the creative industry and how brands should react.
How are you working in Geometry Latam?
Fortunately, we were one of the first industries to move to a remote work set-up. As a business, we are very fortunate to not have to depend on raw materials, heavy machinery, plants or factories. We are an industry whose raw material are the ideas, information, the talent of people and this is what has enabled us, under advisement from WPP, to begin work remotely at the start of this all. This is a company committed to its people, and they put us safe long before governments set off the alarms. In just one day, the IT, human resources, and administrative people coordinated everything, and by the next day 100% of Geometry was working from home. A titanic task, but one that put our well-being above all else, and from a business perspective we’ve never been so busy. We will later see how the numbers are doing, but what I am sure of is that we now have busier days without doubt. This has brought many difficulties, but also many learnings. We have been awakened by a much more human side. Now, unlike that famous BBC video where the interviewee’s son enters the study and the mother crawls to get the son off camera in a situation as stressful as it was uncomfortable. There is no longer shame in this happening, we are all sons, parents, roommates, we all now lead a life so parallel to work that it became a single highway.
What are clients asking you today?
In general, I love to see how we’ve returned to being consultants. No one wants to make mistakes in this juncture and it is where our experience as communication experts gained value again. I see more clients asking, more decisions being made together, and overall we are collaborating more seamlessly as partners. It seems that the frenzy of advertising where only the lowest cost prevailed is being replaced by the notion that cheap can become very expensive and our work is on the rise.
We see some very affected industries, which will have to reinvent themselves or they will come out very beaten like those related to tourism. Others, on the contrary, cannot cope, it depends a lot on the country and the industry.
This is changing day by day, proof of it is that several presidents one day say “A” and the next day “B”. The important thing is to be very close to our clients to help them navigate those changes as they happen. We’ve been able to learn, adapt and creatively solve problems for our clients. We are open for business today more than ever.
What do you think advertisers should do today at this difficult time in terms of communication and advertising?
The best thing that we can do as individuals is to try as much as possible to move the economy, to support as many industries as we can. My only recommendation for brands would be not to take advantage of the situation to sell openly, unless it is being done from a very empathetic place for consumers, acting accordingly to current times, improving what would be the daily offer for them. Any action by brands is being analyzed more critically than ever. Likewise, the brands that do it correctly will be rewarded in the long term. Those that can continue with all of their business plans drawn up and are not altered by the current situation, go on. Those who have to postpone, that after this, as much as possible, resume as quickly and as strongly as possible. Staying static is going to be a mistake.
Do you consider that companies should allocate part of their resources in concrete aid towards society to contribute to the emergency?
Let's say that it depends on the reality of the country in question. The first brand I saw doing something spot on in this juncture of COVID-19 was LVMH, who decided to use the alcohol of their perfumes to instead produce antibacterial gel and give it to French hospitals, since their health system was falling apart and they were not able to contain infected people and protect those who were not. There has been a lot of talk that this pandemic in many places should be treated as "wartime", which opens your eyes to a very different reality, one that we had not lived before: Without customers, who are you going to sell to tomorrow? It is a unique opportunity for brands that claim to have a purpose, to demonstrate it, and agencies are here to help them succeed at it and have a long lasting impact.
What do you think is the role of advertising and communication in this world crisis today?
We should and can create from empathy, from optimism, from celebrating what popular culture is generating, such as going out onto the balconies to participate in collective expressions and generating new forms of social distancing. We also have a platform of video conferencing that is now more human and less stiff, we must use it to get our message out there, while in the background children are running and playing, dogs are barking and it’s OK to be in shorts.
Advertising has a chance to be entertaining again.
Do you consider that what is happening is going to change our societies?
Without a doubt, the world will not be the same again, but I believe and I hope that it’s for the better. It's impossible not to take note of the negative, but specifically look at the positive of what could and will be. This has shown us how fragile we are and all of that we are doing wrong as humanity, but it’s also shown us how easy we can adapt. Our industry is demonstrating that in general terms you can work remotely, prioritizing results over physical presence. Governments have proven that first things first, that without lives there is no economy, it has also been shown that nature heals quickly if we give it a break, that perhaps many things can be done without taking a car or plane, that we are visitors in this world and we must make the most of our family, friends and colleagues. It has been shown that we lack of true global leaders, that the president of a small nation can be much wiser than that of a great power. But it is also clear that there are new tools to overcome difficulties, that there is e-commerce, that there are delivery services, that commerce takes other strengths and that brands are better, when they use their agencies wisely.
Do you think that humanity can emerge stronger from this global challenge?
The world will never be the same. We have the opportunity to be better, have you realized the importance of sport in our lives, for example? Have you realized that we now value walking freely more highly? Have you realized how much we miss our friends, family and even those strangers that pass by? Life has been rethought, brands that say today I will not produce beer, today I will produce anti-bacterial gel, or I will not produce cars, I will produce artificial respirators, I will not produce a spring-autumn collection, I will rather produce masks and give them away. All of this shows us what I already mentioned earlier and that we had lost: Empathy.
What is the opportunity for the creative industry?
As an industry we have an opportunity and a challenge. Many have fallen into the trap of producing ‘creative sparks’, we saw a thousand spaced logos to indicate social distancing. It wasn't bad, it was a way for brands to join the conversation, but who did they really help with that? Many, on the other hand, walked the talk and showed what their brand’s purpose is all about. I think that the real acid test is if next year no idea created for the conjuncture of COVID is allowed to be entered into festivals. Or better yet, that each agency self-censored itself and said: I am going to think for this problem, and whatever comes out, I will not post it, I will not brag about it, I will not celebrate it, I will simply do it responsibly as a patron, like someone that does not need recognition for his work, only then, I believe that victory will be successful, we will earn more respect than medals.
These ideas, these thoughts, given the current changing circumstances, have an expiration date. By the time this article is published, it will surely be obsolete. Or maybe not.
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